As Google celebrates its 20th birthday this year, we reflect on the tech giant’s impact on the property market.

Officially launched in September 1998, two PhD students from Stanford, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, founded the search engine which would transform the world and how we use the internet.

From these humble beginnings at Stanford University, to a global company worth almost $1 trillion, Google is now used in approximately 190 countries across the world. Famous for its multi-coloured logo, global reach and Google Doodles, Google is the forefather of all search engines. However, Google is far more than merely a search engine now, and is widely used for work and productivity, scheduling, cloud storage, social networking, navigation and mapping, as well as innovations such as the Android mobile operating system, smartphone and tablet devices, and many more hardware technology inventions.

In the late 1990s, before the invention of property sites such as Zoopla and Rightmove, search engines were often utilised as a method to search for property. Google still holds its importance today, but as a search tool before reaching a property search website. “Googling” a search has become an extremely common phrase as internet usage has boomed.

Although Google is dominant in the internet and technology sector now, in the late 1990s there was a vast number of other search engines fighting for dominance in the market. AltaVista was dominant in the search engine space at the time, and used by millions of internet users worldwide, until it was bought out in 2003 by Yahoo! Lycos, AskJeeves and Yahoo UK were some of the other most widely used search engines. Some of these search engines are still going strong, but most have long been lost to history, and engulfed by the huge pull and power of Google.

Zoopla and Rightmove are, of course, at the top of the list when searching for property using Google, with Prime Location, OpenRent, OnTheMarket and Gumtree also making the first page. The big estate agents come after these popular property portals, and they have big budgets to spend on search engine optimisation (SEO) and strong brand reputation, utilising clever methods to improve their Google rankings. Getting onto the first page of a Google search has become crucially important for agents, especially in region-specific searches, and it is difficult for sites to remain relevant, current, and fresh.

Google has changed the property industry in the past twenty years by providing a platform for Zoopla, Rightmove and other property search sites to truly thrive. The search engine has also helped regional agencies to expand, as well as increase their offering to nationwide services. Due to the internet’s rapid growth, Google has helped boost the appeal, accessibility and profile of online and hybrid operators who are looking to join the market.

It is widely acknowledged that the majority of home buyers and tenants begin their property search online. If people do not visit one of the online property portals or agent websites directly, it is likely that they use Google as the first destination in their search. Twenty years ago, this would seem impossible, but now it is hard to imagine another way.

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