Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin said when the company went public in 2004 that their search results show the best, with few ads, few, useful, and less prominent. Page also says it wants users to leave Google as quickly as possible to get to the right place. In 2019, David Cicilline, chairman of the U.S. House Antitrust Committee, asked whether the statement was valid.
Google skipped the question in its reply. Data show that Google is taking steps to keep users more and more stuck on its sites than to direct ingress to third-party sites. More than half of searches in 2019 will leave users at Google. According to SEO consultant Rand Fishkin, Google has evolved from a search engine to a walled garden. This change is most evident in smartphones. From June 2016 to June 2019, the percentage of non-ad clicks on mobile searches fell from 40 percent to 27 percent, non-click search (i.e. users can find the information they need on Google without clicking) from 56 percent to 62 percent, and ad clicks more than tripled. It’s getting harder and harder to get clicks without paying Google. In 2016, Google added a fourth ad bit to the first page of search results, a move that was seen as designed to meet Wall Street’s expectations for its growth. Users need to scroll through longer pages to find useful search results for non-advertising. Google’s revenues have soared as companies struggle to adapt. Revenue was $24 billion in revenue in 2009 and $162 billion in revenue by parent company Alphabet in 2019, with search revenue of nearly $100 billion. Most of the revenue growth comes from increased advertising.