Apple’s new mobile ad-blocking functionality has grabbed headlines recently, pitting the tech company against advertising giant Google. However, there’s something else Apple is building in to iOS 9 that has the potential to cause a seismic shift across the search advertising industry, and thus have a bigger impact on its main rival.
It’s no secret that the beating heart of Google is its search advertising business and while ad-blocking represents an immediate threat to Google, the changes Apple has made to search will be even more disruptive.
Apple has altered the way devices display search results. The importance of this goes beyond a change in design and user experience. With the release of iOS 9, Apple is allowing developers to optimise the content in their apps to make it discoverable through Spotlight search or Siri, delivering it ahead of web content. Any information a user might be interested in will be somewhere on their device, either in the apps they use, or in the wider App Store.
For example, if someone is searching for a holiday, Apple will now deliver relevant results directing people to the exact page in an app. Previously, the searcher would receive the typical Google search results with the best performing site - according to Google - at the top of the results, plus any sponsored results.
If Apple can provide its affluent customer base with their own curated, personal web on their device or within the Apple ecosystem, it could evoke a cultural shift in the way people search. It could also be the biggest challenge Google has ever faced to its reliance on search advertising revenues.
In a New York Times piece in May, Goldman Sachs analysis claimed that 75 per cent of Google’s mobile search revenues came from iOS devices, so this is not insignificant.
This won’t be an overnight problem for Google, but it will become one if the search giant doesn't address it.
Google must find a way to win the ecosystem war with Apple.