We often look at Google's 90% market share in Search and call it a monopoly.
But is it really that black and white? Of course, it's not. There are lots of nuances.
We could, for example, distinguish between mobile and desktop Search market share and segment by geography. Or, we could look at Google's whole stack and each product's market share, which is exactly what I did and what I present to you in this post.
What you'll quickly find is that Google's market share is impressive for some products and not at all for others.
Googles market share across its products
First, the data. Then, some context.
About the data
This study is based on a list of 49 Google products from its own page (March 2020).
I set out to find as much data about each product's market share as possible on the internet. Please see raw data at the end of the article with a link to the source.
Note that not all data is from the same time or covers the same time frame. Some data might be imperfect but was the best source I could find. Please read the limitations of the data under "Market share is not market share".
Market share is not market share
In my research on Google's market share, I encountered many problems that I explain below. They're not just applicable to Google's case but pretty much any conversation around market share.
FYI: It might be dull for you to cover these points. You might say "just gimme the data!". But looking at the data without context can be deceiving and lead to false statements. So, if you want to make sure you interpret these numbers right, give this a quick read ;-).
First, good data is hard to find. For hardware products, you rely on research from third parties, public statements or public reports from Google itself. Data about software products can be bridged with technographic tools like Datanyze. Here's how that data is collected:
"The primary methods for collecting technographic data are scanning the web using a combination of web crawling, third party providers and natural language processing."https://www.datanyze.com/technographics
So, proceed with caution.
Often, there are several ways to measure market share (for example, check out this Wikipedia page about browser share).
For 19 products, I found no data on market share. If you happen to have some, I would appreciate you sharing it with me so I can fill the gaps.
Second, market share is not a standard every company has to keep - it's a story. Google holds 73.1% of the search advertising market, 37.2% of the digital advertising market, and only a fraction of all advertising revenue (note that more than half of all media dollars go into digital advertising since 2019). Guess which story Google wants to
Third, finding a single market for a product isn't always straightforward. Some software exists on mobile and desktop devices like Chrome. Even further, consider that Android devices have Chrome preinstalled, whereas Apple devices use Safari by default. That has an impact on the numbers and you need to think about putting market share in relation to # of units sold.
Other software is universal and fits into several categories. What market would you assign G Suite to, for example? Does it compete with Microsoft Office, Airtable, and Coda - or projectors, pen and paper, and all sorts of other means? How about Evernote? Probably all of the above.
Fourth, we need to look at the where and when. Chromebooks, for example, have 60% market share in US classrooms but a desktop market share of 1.35% (source). Markets can be sliced by geography.
The time market share is measured in also plays a role. Are we talking about a year, a quarter, a month?
Fifth, market share is a time snapshot. It doesn’t always tell you the trajectory a product or company is on. Google Cloud, for example, had 6% of the market in 2019 but that’s 1.1 percentage points up from the previous year. As such, market share must be compared over time.
Sixth, market share can rapidly change through acquisitions. Google bought Fitbit last year and upped its market share from ~1% to 25%. Another reason to look at it over time, over several markets (if applicable), and in context to the rest of a company's portfolio.
Why we need to dig deeper into market share
My drive to look deeper into the topic came from three motivations. First, if we want to discuss Google's monopoly status, we need to know specifics. Second, Google has always been a company that "innovates through M&A" and I wanted to see how well that played out. Third, I was curious about where Google could find its next big revenue stream.
So, let's dig in.
Is Google really a monopoly?
For years, SEOs debated whether Google has a Search monopoly or not and it's no secret that Google dominates the market. In fact, Google has 90% mobile and 73% desktop Search market share.
But Google is a platform, not a list of products. The easiest way to see that is to look at all the products you can use with a Google account.
Search is the basis for many other products. Take Youtube, for example. Its integration with Google Search surely drives a part of its success. For Google, it's a blessing because it can keep users in its ecosystem and show them more ads or subscribe them to Youtube Music.
As a result, Youtube Music and Youtube Premium seem to be doing alright. The non-advertising revenue from Youtube in 2019 was $3b with more than 20m subscribers (source). But compare that against $15b from (Youtube) ads and you see what really matters.
Or Google maps, which builds the basis of Local Search and Google's directory of local business reviews.
Every pageview on a Google property is an ad impression and a higher chance of someone clicking on an ad. For Google, that means money. For us, it means the market share of Search influences the market share of other products.
The products Google has a market share higher than 50% for are:
- Web search: Google search, mobile + desktop Search
- Browsers: Chrome, only desktop
- Online maps: Google Maps
- Online video: Youtube
- Mobile operating systems: Android
- Digital advertising: Google Ads
- Web analytics: Google Analytics
- Web fonts: Google Fonts
- Web tag management: Google Tag Manager
Some of those products are "free" to use. You would think that market share for free products is redundant but in an eco-system, free products drive the adoption of paid products. Google Tag Manager, for example, is an enabler for Google Analytics, which has a paid product called GA360, or BigQuery, Google Cloud's data warehouse.
Now, more than 50% of market share alone doesn't qualify as monopoly. The FTC looks at three factors when evaluating whether a company has a monopoly or not:
- Market power: the company needs to hold significant market share over the long-term
- Exclusionary conduct: attaining an advantage through predatory pricing or excluding others from the market
- Business justification: reaching the pole position through a superior product and hard work or accidents and unfair play
Google has the market power in the products I mentioned above but I don't see exclusionary conduct and business justification. Anybody can choose the search engine, maps app, browser, or web font platform they want.
How well have acquisitions played out?
Almost every Google product was either acquired or added functionality from M&A (list: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_mergers_and_acquisitions_by_Alphabet).
Over a year ago, I wrote about Google's biggest acquisitions in Tech Bound:
- 2005: Android, $50m
- 2006: Youtube, $1.65b
- 2008: DoubleClick, $3.1b
- 2011: Motorola Mobility, $12.5b
- 2013: Waze, $1b
- 2014: DeepMind, $500m
- 2014: Nest Labs, $3.2b
I should have added the acquisition of
- 2015: bebop, $380m
- 2016: Orbitera, $100M
- 2016: Apigree, $625m
- 2017: HTC, $1.1b
- 2019: Looker, $2.6b
- 2020: Fitbit, $2.1b
Why? Because all acquisitions made it into products. Google is at least as good at acquiring and integrating as in algorithm crafting.
Let's look at how the acquisitions were funneled into products:
|Acquired company||Resulting Google product|
Many smaller acquisitions were for hires and patents and some big ones like Motorola Mobile and Fitbit were strategic. When we consider the impact important acquisitions of DoubleClick, Youtube, Android, or Waze on Google's ecosystem as a whole, it's hard to say that the company's investors haven't paid off manyfold. Most Google products that resulted from M&A now own a majority of market share.
What could be Google's next big revenue stream?
As I wrote in Tech Bound, Google is under immense pressure to keep its success story going. Since birth, Google brought in +20% revenue YoY but its biggest asset is its biggest liability. Google's cash cow (ads) still makes up over 80% of its total revenue and has become a dependency that's hard to get rid of. The company desperately needs to diversify its revenue streams because there are only so many ads you can show before your user experience goes down the drain.
Google was smart in accelerating the rise of mobile through mobile-first because it can display ads on two different SERPs (mobile and desktop). That equals double the ad real estate. It's getting harder to pull; another ace up the sleeve.
In Google's 2019 annual report, it reported Youtube's revenue for the first time. What we see is that the revenue share from Youtube gets higher over time and the growth rates of ad revenue lower (15% in 2019 compared to 22% in 2018). That's a dramatic drop!
Even further, revenue only grew by 18% from 2018 to 2019, compared to 23% from 2017 to 2018.
The question then becomes "what is Google's next cash cow"? The contenders are:
- Google Cloud
- Local Search
- Youtube (ads, music, premium)
Google Cloud's revenue in 2019 has reached almost $9b, up +53% from the $5.8b in 2018. However, it still pales in comparison to Google's total ad revenue of $134b or to AWS's market share of 33% and Azure's 14.5% (source).
Local Search revenue, i.e. ads on Google Maps, seems to be wrapped up in Google Search & Other on the revenue statement.
Google also has a category on its annual report title "Google other" that includes Youtube's non-advertising revenue (Youtube Premium + Music) and other income streams that are not further explained.
To summarize my three motivations to do this I mentioned in the intro: Google's monopoly degree seems low, acquisitions played out fairly well, and the next cash cow is yet to be found.
One issue that doesn't let Google roam free with acquisitions is the unwanted attention from regulators. That makes it harder to find the next cash cow because, as we've seen, Google's biggest success came from acquisitions.
Google was able to pull off the acquisition of Fitbit but probably only because its market share in the Wearables vertical was so low before.
To beat a dead horse, market share cannot be seen in isolation. Even though Google's Search market share would qualify for only one out of there points of a monopoly, it's clear to see how Search drives the market share of other products.
An antitrust case against Google could prove to be much harder compared to, for example, Microsoft in the 90s. But it's not impossible to see.
What Google's market share certainly gives away, though, is that Google's strategy works like clockwork. Free products make excellent enablers of paid ones and create an ecosystem that feeds itself.
|Product||Market||Market Share||Source||Time frame||Market|
|Google Desktop Search||Search Engine||73%||Source||March 2020||Global|
|Google Mobile Search||Search Engine||92%||Source||March 2020||Global|
|Chrome Mobile||Web Browsers||44%||Source||March 2020||Global|
|Chrome Desktop||Web Browsers||50%||Source||March 2020||Global|
|Youtube Music||Music streaming||5%||Source||Dezember 2019||Global|
|Chromecast||Streaming players||11%||Source||July 2019||US|
|Google Play||App Store||34%||Source||October 2018||Global|
|Home||Smart Speakers||25%||Source||August 2019||US|
|Google Wifi||Mesh networking||?|
|Wear OS||Wearable OS||25%||Source||August 2019||Global|
|Gmail||Email clients||26%||Source||April 2019||Global|
|Google Duo||Video calling||?|
|Hangouts||Chat apps||11%||Source||December 2018||Global|
|Google Fi||Phone plans||?|
|Google Photos||Photo storing||?|
|G Suite||Business productivity apps||9%||Source||July 2018||Global|
|Drive||Cloud Storage||26.9%||Source||March 2017||Global|
|Google Ads||Online advertising||73%||Source||October 2019||Global|
|Analytics||Web analytics||85%||Source||March 2020||Global|
|Google My Business||Local business search||?|
|Google Fit||Health and Activity Tracking||10%||Source||November 2019||Global|
|Google Flights||OTA||25%||Source||August 2018||US|
|Google Fonts||Fonts||89.50%||Source||March 2020||Global|
|Google Pay||Mobile Payments||16.70%||Source||May 2018||Global|
|Google Nest Wifi||Wifi Router||?|
|Google One||Phone Cloud Storage||?|
|Google Cloud||Cloud Storage||6%||Source||February 2020||Global|
|Search Console||SEO Analytics||?|
|Google Tag Manager||Tag management||87.23%||Source||March 2020||Global|
|Blogger||Blogging CMS||0.98%||Source||March 2020||Global|
|Domains||Domain registration||4.60%||Source||February 2019||Global|
|Data Studio||Business intelligence||0.36%||Source||March 2020||Global|
|Assistant||Digital Assistant||9%||Source||December 2019||Global|