Apple and Google have been rivals for years, even though until recently, they haven’t had much reason to compete with each other. Google was all about its search engine and relate online products, while Apple was more focused on its devices. When Google got into the device game and started expanding its empire into physical territory, Apple forged a similar expansion into the world of software products and services.
Nevertheless, until recently, the two tech giants have more or less respected each other’s territory. Rather than directly confronting Google the way it did Microsoft (with those Mac vs. PC ads), Apple has remained focused on interior development. Now, the release of a handful of new products and revisions to older systems suggests that Apple might be readying a direct attack on Google—or at least preparing some direct competition.
Apple Maps has always played second-fiddle to Google Maps, which has been the dominant force in search-based directions and navigation. However, beginning in 2014, Apple has invested heavily in its Maps features. Back when it was originally launched with iOS 6, Apple made the still-controversial decision to remain independent with its own maps data rather than drawing from Google’s wealth of information. Now, the company is constantly revising the information available to the Apple Maps app and refining how the program operates. Users have noticed a significant upgrade since the feature was originally launched, and it shows that Apple isn’t willing to back down just because Google has a small head start on them.
In terms of personal assistants, Apple had the advantage over Google. The company launched Siri back in 2012, and it changed the way we see interactive digital interfaces. Google Now followed shortly after that same year, but for a good long while, Siri was the main competitor.
Google Now evolved quickly and iteratively over the years, adding more features, refining its voice recognition, and improving its capabilities. Google Now was able to navigate the Internet as well as device-based content with ease, and eventually it overtook Siri as the generally favored personal digital assistant option.
Again, Apple refused to give up, and has been making its own adjustments to Siri along the way. Today’s Siri is highly capable, with an ever-increasing wealth of features, highly accurate voice recognition, and smoother interfaces.
Perhaps the most telling Apple development in recent years has been the revelation of “Applebot,” a web crawler presumably designed to compete with Google’s own universally recognized web crawler. Starting last November, some webmasters noticed an Apple-based search bot roaming their pages, but it wasn’t until recently that Apple confirmed its existence.
When a user searches for online content using Siri, up until recently, it’s been assumed that it naturally draws upon a third party source. For example, a user feeds a query to Siri, Siri realizes it requires a web search, and Siri relays that query to Google, Bing, or another major search engine. However, this no longer may be the case. With Applebot crawling the web for information, Siri can rely on its own Apple-born brethren to generate and calculate results.
Currently, Applebot is flawed. It’s a relatively new function, so it’s naturally going to run into some hiccups. In the meantime, Apple is plugging the holes by relying on Google web crawler information as backup. Still, once Applebot is fully functional and running smoothly, it will be entirely within Apple’s range of capabilities to design its own ranking algorithm and break apart from Google as an alternative major search engine.
For the next few years, not much will change in the world of SEO and online marketing. From what we can tell, Applebot isn’t shaking up everything we’re used to from an analysis or rank calculation perspective. Instead, it’s relying on many of the same factors that Google is using, including domain history, content quality, and offsite relationships. That means even if Applebot and some new Apple search engine starts being used, it won’t have much bearing on your rank or SEO strategy—you can use the same tactics and get ranked for both.
Rising Competition for Google
Bing has long been a competitor of Google, but hasn’t seen much traffic volume. This, however, has increased in recent years. The addition of Apple as a major competitor could throw a wrench in Google’s current web dominance. Add in the fact that Europe is currently investigating Google for antitrust violations and is doing everything it can to either break up the company or publish its proprietary search algorithm, and the future doesn’t look bright for Google. Of course, it will likely remain as a major online and tech force for decades or more, but its practical monopoly could come to an end sooner than you might think.
If Apple breaks onto the scene and is successful, there’s nothing to stop it from trying to become the new Google in even more ways. Assuming Apple’s popularity in that realm will mirror its popularity for mobile devices, the future could very well hold two tech giants on equal footing, both vying to outdo the other. The consequences are limitless—different search rank calculations, different online visibility strategies, different user targeting, etc.—but until Applebot breaks fully onto the scene, it’s best to keep those possibilities as speculative, in the back of your mind.