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Google Loyalty Wins Back Firefox Users


Last year the search community was shaken up by some pretty big news: Yahoo stole Google’s Firefox contract. At the time this seemed like a coup for Yahoo, but it may not have turned out that way.

Internet Heartbreakheartbreak

Although Mozilla Firefox isn’t the biggest search engine, it is the third most used and handles between 12 and 22 percent of searches around the world. That’s not a small market. For years, the Firefox search bar used Google results (and ads) by default, but Yahoo managed to win the contract for the next five years.

We assumed that was a pretty good prize for Yahoo (and Bing, which serves up Yahoo’s search results and ads). After all, we’ve written before that people tend to go with the default search engine —not many bother to manually switch it over.

Apparently, we were wrong.

Initial data supported the idea that users would just use the default. In December, when the contract switch took place, Yahoo’s search share rose and Google’s fell. This was by no means a game changer, and Google remained the word’s #1 search engine. But the loss of all that traffic and ad revenue was, obviously, more than a small speed bump for Google.

Then things started to change. As the new Firefox 34 browser rolled out, new users seemed to switch their default search engine just as quickly as they downloaded the new version. They were either aware of the switch in the new version or noticed it quickly—and didn’t like it. Either from loyalty to Google or dislike of change, users switched back en masse.

According to Search Engine Land, Yahoo’s share of Firefox 34 traffic may be as low as 36 percent. That’s pretty paltry for a service that’s actually built into the browser. (Search Engine Land also pointed out that, if these numbers stay the same, Google may actually make more money off Firefox without the contract: they still get the lion’s share of traffic without having to split ad revenue with Mozilla.)

What This Means for Advertisers

adwordsWhile all of this is a big deal to Mozilla and the search engines, for marketers it’s cause for a deep sigh of relief. After all, if Firefox users went the way of Yahoo, then a good chunk of eyeballs would see Bing ads instead of Google ads. And that could knock over pay-per-click advertising strategies if they were too firmly founded on Google AdWords alone.

The mass switchback has allayed those concerns. Mark Ballard offers an impressive look at the numbers and shows that, all told, the Firefox contract moves no more than 2 percent of paid search clicks from Google to Yahoo.

So the change doesn’t matter much, right?

Not exactly. For one thing, as Mark says, “On its own, that isn’t likely to be significant to the overall success or day-to-day management of most paid search programs, but the source of our paid search traffic does matter.” That’s especially true since, at least for now, Google ads have a higher conversion rate than Bing ads. That small movement in traffic could result in a ding in sales even for companies that advertise on both platforms—although a very small ding.

The broader lesson for any company is that our online ads aren’t insulated from decisions made by search engines and browsers, and that it’s best to be ready to change and adapt quickly as search conditions change.

EverSpark is happy to be your partner in this. We handle all internet marketing needs, from SEO to pay-per-click. Contact us for a free consultation today.