Talk to anyone in SEO and after a while you’ll catch them talking about ‘optimizing your site for Google…er.. all the major search engines’. The truth is that Google has become so dominant in the UK, that it has pretty much set the rules for optimization. Indeed, you’d be pretty foolish to optimize for any of the lesser players before you’d make sure your site was performing well in Google. Language tells us a lot in situations like this: while “Google it” is an everyday phrase, I have never heard anyone tell me to “Lycos it” or “Yahoo it”.

Such thoughts were underlined with the recent coverage of the merger between Yahoo and MSN’s Bing this week. Despite being the second and third biggest players in the search market, even combined they lag far below Google’s market share. In the US, Google counts for about 60% of all web searches, while Yahoo and MSN together account for approximately 30%. In the UK, Google is far more dominant: it’s where we perform 90% of all searches.

Will it always be this way? The public commentators seem to think not: we’ve already seen seismic change since the early days of search before Google was even thought of. Consumer habits have changed, and they can do again. Meanwhile, I’m hearing more and more grudging admittance that ‘Bing is actually pretty good’.

It takes a lot for people to change their habits – I must admit that I, for example, have not ventured back to Bing since it launched and curiosity took me there – but if enough people start talking that way (and if, of course, Bing genuinely starts offering more efficient search results than Google) word will spread, and even those most set in their ways will make a switch. I’m reminded of the increasing popularity of the Firefox web browser: at first, it was for cool ‘early adopters’, but when they started enthusing about it to colleagues, friends, and family, its market share began to grow exponentially.

If Bing and Yahoo really start to reclaim their share of the search market, then we SEO professionals are going to have to learn to genuinely mean it when we talk about optimizing for all the major search engines – which will keep us on our toes. At least life is never boring in SEO.