With Apple announcing recent changes for their latest iOS Spotlight Search and iPadOS 14 (Beta) along with increased crawl rates being seen from Apple’s Bots, this could be a strong indication that Apple are slowly maneuvering ahead of the launch an Apple search engine.
Google is Currently the Default Search Engine for Most Apple Device Users
It has been widely known that Google has an agreement with Apple to be the default search engine for Apple iOS users. This is thought to currently be worth somewhere in the region of $8-12 billion a year to Apple based on other reports. The agreement means that when users use Safari on an iPhone, iPad or Mac device they will by default search using Google. This can of course be changed in the Safari preferences; however, most users don’t know how to do this or choose not to change it as Google tends to produce relevant search results.
Despite this being very profitable for Apple, competition laws in the UK and EU mean that there the agreement between Apple and Google could soon come to an end. The European Union has already targeted Google for being anti-competition and their regulators could do the same with Apple, perhaps even forcing them to remove Google as the default engine.
What is the Evidence to Suggest that Apple are Developing a New Search Engine
Due to the potential pressure and even legal implication of keeping Google as well as the advancements made with Siri and iCloud there is now more reason than ever for Apple to develop a search engine. Here is a list of the reasons
1) Apple Already Have Lots of Money
Apple are currently one of the world’s richest and most highly valued companies. Even though $8-12 billion from Google is a lot, to a company such as Apple this represents a very small percentage of their annual total operating profits and they could choose to make this up elsewhere.
2) Apple’s Spotlight Search is Not Showing Google Results
Perhaps the biggest indicator of their future intent are their present Spotlight search results for iOS and iPadOS 14 users! These results are no longer showing Google results at all.
3) Applebot Crawl Rates Have Seen a Big Increase
After checking our own server logs, we can see that Applebot has massively increased its crawl rate on our servers daily which has rarely happened before.
We’ve also asked other partners we know who also host websites and they have seen the same increased daily activity where previously there were much lower crawl rates.
4) Apple Have Updated Their Applebot Crawler Page Content
Apple have made a lot of updates to their Applebot support page content.
In July 2020, Apple published a significant update to its information about Applebot on the Applebot support page. These changes include the following:
- Updates on Applebot user agents.
- Updates on robots.txt rules.
- More details on the Applebot user agent.
- Information on how pages are rendered similarly to Google.
- Additional information about search factors that affect how websites rank on search results.
- Information on how webmasters can identify and verify Applebot traffic.
How Will a New Apple Search Engine Work
If Apple do develop and launch a new search engine it is most likely to integrate into their existing Siri and Spotlight products. This could mean a different user experience for the user.
In-line with the job specifications for Apple’s search engineer job listings it’s thought that an Apple search engine will be a lot more personalized and integrated.
For now, we predict that it could work in a similar way to Google’s Google Assistant for Android OS. Initially is may have no adverts and they may consider making it completely private with no search data being tracked. This will also appeal to those who object to Google’s collection of search data and advertising-focused search platform (Google Search Advertising).
What are the Benefits for Apple
Despite perhaps not making advertising revenue from agency and corporate advertisers, Apple could also use search result listings to promote its own services more; this would also mean bringing users away from Google and other competitor’s services and products.
In addition, Apple has approximately 1.4 billion devices around the world; so, a shift to its own integrated search engine would surely weaken Google’s global monopoly for search and this in turn could damage Google’s profits from advertising revenue and the sale of data.
Existing Apple users are already very loyal to Apple and a deeper more integrated search would also mean they secure loyal searchers for years to come; so conversely there would be an even greater pull towards Apple products because people will want to use their search (providing results are relevant and useful).
App Developers will also potentially be able to pay and further promote newly developed apps within search results – this would also boost Apple’s revenues and help plug the revenue gap from any previous Google search agreement revenues lost.
What Are the Implications for SEO and Search Engine Marketing
Search engine marketers who currently optmise for Google, Bing, Yahoo and other search engines will be forced to seriously adapt their strategies to try and appeal to the Apple search algorithm.
Tactics may well remain the same but there may be greater emphasis on content and language semantics used and less focus on backlinks and offsite factors.
Companies with existing Apple mobile applications or who are already integrating with iCloud and other Apple products may also have some favorability over those who do not.
Contact Us for Help in Preparing for Apple’s New Search Engine
Although everything discussed in this article is currently speculative, it seems that within the next 2-5 years there is a high probability that Apple will launch a search engine. It’s vital for businesses to plan and to stay ahead of the competition by positioning themselves well now as well as to plan for a future where Google’s may not be the dominant search engine.
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