Is Google Still the Best Source of Information?

When we think about SEO, information research, or shopping online, the first association is Google. Or at least it used to be. According to a recent study, Google is considered the biggest search engine in the world, and it has been this way for a long while now. But - think about it - do you really always search for information on Google?

Social media - the new “search engine”?

Picture this: you’re planning a trip to Paris, one of the most-known tourist destinations in the world. You want to find affordable yet interesting accommodation, restaurants, or attractions, but Google keeps showing you sponsored content and SEO-optimized low-quality articles targeted at tourists. What do you do?

If you’d turn to social media, you’re not alone. A study conducted by ePassportPhoto has discovered that people often find themselves using social media to discover new places or search for information. It’s mostly Gen Zers and Millenials that turn to social media, with an average of 36.80% and 36.73% searching for information on social media often or very often.

Interestingly, older generations turn to social media as well - maybe not as often, but considering they’ve used Google since its launch in the early 2000s, the shift is quite notable.

chart showing the poll result of question: How Often Do You Find Yourself Using Social Media for Search?

What platforms are the most popular for research?

Instagram is used by over 500 million people every day, so it’s not that surprising that 37.02% of people enjoy searching for information on the platform. It’s user-friendly, visually appealing, and - let’s face it - filled with people who post about anything you might need in your research. Not only individuals but also businesses are turning to Instagram, often prioritizing it over traditional websites due to its broader reach and interactive features.

Right after Instagram, people often choose YouTube (34%) and Facebook (28%) for their research. Surprisingly, TikTok is not very popular when it comes to searching for information (21.58%).

Why do people choose social media over Google?

Let’s return to the “trip to Paris” scenario.

Google, while being an excellent source of information, may sometimes be full of sponsored content and generic suggestions. You might begin to wonder if the person who wrote something actually knows what they’re talking about - and only a few people engage with websites’ content, so it’s not user-verified.

Plus, there are so many links that look exactly the same. It’s hard to differentiate the ones that you’ll actually find useful from what the search engine faceless algorithm has chosen for you.

On the other hand, on social media platforms, you might find content made by someone you trust - whether it’s your friend, an influencer, or a random person who tagged their posts with a location. Yes, you read that right; people trust strangers on social media much more than Google’s algorithm. The ability to engage with the content and the community around it makes searching for information on social media incredibly trustworthy.

Moreover, some people believe that social media algorithms work much better than Google’s, showing them actually relevant information. It makes searching for information much easier and more convenient. Also, the visually appealing interface is the perfect cherry on top.

Social media vs. Google - what do people prefer?

According to the survey results, eight out of ten people have found information they couldn't find on Google through social media. Considering this, it might seem like Google’s relevance is dropping. But, as life shows in many ways, nothing in life is simply black or white.

Even though social media seems like a more efficient way of research, people still trust Google (31.97%) more than social media (29.46%). Of course, the difference is very slight, and there are a lot of people who trust both of the sources equally (30.19%). However, as for now, Google seems to keep its crown as the most trusted source of information.

The interesting part? The same people, when asked a somewhat connected question, mostly agreed (67.78%) that social media allows them to assess the credibility and reliability of information better.

What does that mean?

The search war is still ongoing. Google is still viewed as a reliable source, probably thanks to its longevity. However, social media platforms are increasingly being seen as a great tool for finding information - sometimes even as a better source than Google itself.

People won’t stop using Google. Especially because most people (58%) would still choose Google over social media if given the option to pick just one platform for information for the next six months. This doesn’t change the fact that social media seriously threatens Google’s position. That’s why Google doesn’t remain indifferent to the changes visible in people’s search preferences.

Google’s answer to the “search wars”

One of Google’s attempts to remain people’s top pick is indexing content published on social media. What does it mean? When you search for a keyword followed by “TikTok”, Google will show you rows of results of TikTok content above the standard links to articles and blogs. By doing so, Google aims to meet the evolving demands of its users, who are increasingly relying on social media for information.

Moreover, Google has enhanced its efforts to improve its user interface and provide a more personalized search experience. For example, Google Discover shows articles, videos, and content that align with the user's past searches and interests. This mimics social media’s personalized search, basically combining the power of a search engine with social media's personal touch.

We’ll probably see more integration of social media and search engines in the future. Could that lead to more unified and efficient online research? Only time will tell.

About author:
Martyna Inkielman is a content writer at PhotoAiD - a service that allows you to take a passport photo at home. She enjoys writing about traveling and social media. In her free time, Martyna can be found exploring new cuisines, painting, or taking analog photos.
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