This article was originally written and published for Searchengineland and has been slightly re-written to post here.
Google is the dominant force in Europe—there is no other search engine which even comes close to Google’s market share. I think everybody will agree when I say that Europe could use some competition for Google. Bing should be the designated search engine to become that big competitor, but for now that is not the case. Even the recent launch of the “new” Bing in France and the years of Bing in the UK haven’t made most people switch away from Google.
But despite its dominance, there are alternative search engines in Europe, and they can be worth looking at. With Europe’s more than 800 million people, of whom about 60% spends time online, even a small percentage using alternatives to Google offer attractively large numbers, and targeting users of those search engines could be very profitable. Lets take a look at some of the alternatives.
Bing (UK and France)
As in almost every country Google is the dominant force in the UK, but here we see that Bing is more popular than anywhere else. That is not surprising since the UK has been the only European country until recent in which Bing showed its full potential. Bing now accounts for about 4% of the search market share in the UK. Adding Yahoo’s Bing-powered results can add another 4% making Bing a very good alternative to Google. Bing also is the “runner up” in many other European countries with France leading the way with a 2.8% share.
It therefore makes sense to optimize for Bing in Europe, but be careful: in many countries Bing is nothing more than Live Search with a Bing logo.
Going from Western Europe to Eastern Europe you can’t overlook Yandex. This search engine is the dominant force in Russia where it even outranks Google with a 64% market share. This is extra special because Yandex is one of the few non-English-language search engines which is able to beat Google at its own game. Yandex is growing rapidly, not just in search, but it also adding lots of other features to make it a bigger competitor in Eastern Europe. And Yandex will be aiming at Western Europe soon too. They recently launched an English-only search engine, so Google beware!
If you are targeting Russians, optimizing for Yandex is the best choice, not just because it has the biggest market share but also because it gets closest to how the Russians think. Yandex is able to recognize Russian inflection in search queries, which means that you can really understand the intent of the Russian user. Therefore, take extra care when it comes to keyword research. Get a native speaker to help you out here because Russian really differs from other languages.
Seznam (Czech Republic)
Its not far from Russia to the Czech Republic, where Seznam is dominant. This search engine was originally a web portal but today is used primarily as a search engine. In the Czech language they beat Google in numbers when it comes to dominance in search. If you want to target the Czech Republic this is one search engine you cannot leave aside. Seznam, which means “list” in English, is the only real force to reckon with in the Czech Republic—perhaps not the biggest audience, but one of the most active ones in Europe.
Conduit (Germany & Spain)
In Germany the second biggest search service after Google is T-Online. This really is a portal with Google-powered search engine. Therefore you can see it as an alternative but you will still be using Google. A real alternative is Conduit. This search engine, which also has quite the market share in South America, has a bigger market share in Germany than Bing or Yahoo. In Spain Conduit even has a larger market share: 2.9 percent.
Vinden.nl (The Netherlands)
The Netherlands has a huge Google culture. No other engine can even come close to the market share of Google (94%). If you have to name one it is probably Vinden.nl. Vinden (“finding”) is said to have a 3% market share but also relies on some Google technology. Vinden.nl, as well as “startpagina”, however also do it the old fashioned way: offering browsable lists, the good old directories so to speak.
These search engines are a few examples of alternatives for googe in Europe. For each specific country there are of course more alternatives. For example, Onet.pl in Poland, Ask.com in the UK and the Nordic countries, Orange in France and even more local search engines in other regions. I’d love to know what your favorite local search engine is, so let us know and we might just take a closer look at them!