Google’s European Monopoly (& Shrinking Click-Through Opportunities)

In Europe, Google dominates the search landscape even more so than in the United States. In spite of the EU’s regulatory and hefty penalties on the search giant, and despite the anecdotally stronger desire I’ve heard from European consumers to have alternatives, Google runs Europe’s web landscape. Thanks to our friends at Jumpshot, whose clickstream panel covers billions of searches each month across tens of millions of devices in the EU, I’ve got some superb data to share illustrating just how dominant Google is.

The data I’m showing is from January-September of 2018 (which makes it easy to compare against the US search market share and Google CTR data I’ve shown in previous posts). Numbers from 26 EU member countries (including the UK, but not including Malta) are listed. This study includes 252 million searches from the smallest country’s dataset (Luxembourg) and more than 73 billion from the largest (the UK), so we’ve got very healthy coverage and can thus, be relatively confident in the data.

Let’s start with where searches happen in the EU.

Pie chart comparison of where searches happen in the US vs. EU+UK
Google properties combine for 93.4% of all US searches, and 96.1% of all search in the EU+UK

Yikes. Numbers like those suggest it will be nearly impossible to compete with Google in the near term, because search quality is so dependent on analyzing user behavior and improving results based on the searches (and clicks, non-clicks, or query refinements you’ve seen).

Here’s a comparison of a few specific EU countries vs. the US and group’s average:

Where searches happen on the web in selected countries
Google, Google Images, & YouTube are similarly dominant across the EU, UK, & US

I don’t think it’s possible to make the case that Google is anything but a monopoly. You can certainly argue that they’re a monopoly with low competitive barriers, but the old position of “Bing, Yahoo!, Amazon, and Facebook are significant players in search,” is provably false. Facebook probably has a lot of people searching for friends and family names, and Amazon has a lot of searches for products, but they are barely-noticeable slices of overall search.

Next, let’s dive into Google’s click-through rates. Since they search giant controls so much of search, the traffic they send is crucial to the health and viability of running a website (Yelp’s Luther Lowe has a short cartoon that helps explain this). Jumpshot’s data has previously shown how precipitous that drop has been, with Google siphoning away large percentages of traffic to their own properties and answers in the SERPs.

Here’s how that drop looks in the EU+UK vs. US on desktop devices from 2016 vs. 2018:

Google Desktop CTRs in the EU+UK vs. US over time
Organic CTR has fallen in both regions, but in the EU+UK, paid has taken more of that share, while in the US, it’s no-click searches.

Desktop’s fall isn’t massive, but it is double-digits in Europe and nearly as much in the US. Below is a look at some of the highest and lowest countries for desktop CTRs:

Google's Desktop CTRs in selected countries
Comparing a selected set of countries in 2018 shows that there’s a wide range of regional variance in Google CTRs

Now, let take a peek at Google’s CTRs on mobile devices over time and in selected countries:

Google Mobile CTR in the EU+UK vs. US over time
Organic has suffered a brutal decline on mobile devices, though it’s more shallow in the UK+EU than the US

Mobile’s drop is, unsurprisingly, much larger than desktop. It’s down by nearly a third in both the EU/UK and US. Below is a look at some of the specific countries where the numbers are most extreme:

Google Mobile CTRs in Selected Countries
The US has the most instant answers, onebox results, knowledge panels, and Google properties competing for clicks (as well as the least regulation/risk-of-fines), resulting in the fewest CTR opportunities

The various CTR data is interesting and useful enough that I’ve also included the full numbers below and in this Google CTR Spreadsheet.

This data paints a stark narrative. Google is a monopoly in (at least) search and browser market share. It uses its monopoly power to gain advantages in numerous other areas (video results, maps/local results, shopping results, etc). And while SEO and PPC remain powerful channels, the former (organic search) is being slowly cannibalized around the world, yielding more monetization and data-gathering value for Google and less for everyone else.

Huge thanks to Shaun Rivera, whose tireless work has made this post possible.

p.s. Please feel free to use, embed, or reference these graphs or data (clicking on any of them will take you to the full-size version). When doing so, a link to this post and a citation of Jumpshot is much appreciated!