Where did all the search go?

In 2014, Google search decreased for the first time since 1998, why?

simone puorto vertical search

According to a old (but far-viewed) article published in Buzz Feed .

“The answer may lie as much with a change in publisher behavior than in user behavior. 
Are publishers investing less time in SEO than they used to and putting those resources into social? 
When SEO was king, publishers sought to program their content to be discovered by Google. Now that content requires human muscle to be shared on social platforms, publishers need to expend a different kind of energy focused on creating content that’s emotional, funny and discoverable — i.e. the stuff you might want to share. And this may be what’s killing search traffic too.”

Search Engine Land wrote an interesting article about the history of search that can help understand this shift:

“Until recently, Google has dominated search. It has been the main stomping ground for consumers looking to buy products, visit sites, or conduct research.
According to comScore, searches conducted on traditional search services declined 3%. Meanwhile, searches on topical sites — known as vertical search — climbed 8%. 
The New York Times recently reported that Amazon maintains a larger share of shopping searches than Google does.
While vertical search has been steadily growing for years, the increase in Web addresses and the rise of mobile technology are key causes of the recent spike in growth."

Traditional Search Trend:

traditional search trend

Vertical Search Trend:

vertical search trend

According to Search Engine Land, there are 3 phases in search:

"Initial Search
Searches made on search engines – also known as core search – represent a large portion of consumer search behavior.
When consumers begin their search quest, a common behavior is to initiate their online journey by visiting a core search engine such as Google. At this point, search queries are typically generic terms like “laptop computer” or “travel tips for Europe.” Potential customers at this stage are not planning to make a purchase or even looking for a specific product – they are instead exploring their options or looking for broader information.

Specific Search
As people explore the options provided by Google, they quickly move out of the search engine and visit topical sites – such as Best Buy or Apple – and carry out specific searches. Although the initial search activity often originates in Google, a majority of the follow-up searches – “specific searches” – have shifted to vertical and topical sites.
According to Google, in just five years, the Internet has gone from 1 trillion Web addresses to 30 trillion. With the addition of many more top-level domains coming over the next year, that explosion is continuing unabated. With so many sites and so much information at consumers’ fingertips, it’s increasingly common for users to skip search engines all together and conduct their specific searches within vertical or topical sites.
Specific searches are also becoming more popular with the rise of smartphones. For example, consumers often go straight to apps like Weather.com, Yelp, Kayak or ESPN. In some instances, mobile apps eliminate the need for search all together and push information out to consumers such as flight delays or news headlines.

Revised Search
Another common occurrence is the revised search phase in which consumers often return to Google. They come equipped with a revised search based on information they’ve gathered across apps, vertical and topical sites.
In the example of a laptop computer search, they might revise their search to “HP Pavilion dv6t-7000.” At this point, they have most likely conducted searches across many sites, over minutes, hours, days or even weeks. 
Although the initial search may begin in Google, vertical and branded sites are on Google’s heels with an increasingly larger share of searches. And, mobile apps will emphasize the trend.

While Google isn’t going anywhere, the way it’s used has changed. As a result, other publishers will chip away at Google’s market share, creating an opportunity for advertisers to reach audiences at the ripest time, using the proper search data and consumer touch points.”