Advertising Strategies and Lessons


Former Google Ad Chief Launches New Search Engine Neeva: Just The Facts

July 2, 2020 Sarah Cavill

Neeva search engine picWhen it comes to search, Google is the only game in town for most internet users, wracking up more than 2 trillion searches per day worldwide and capturing 92% of the mobile search engine share. However, it is not without its critics, particularly when it comes to issues of privacy and market share.

Sridhar Ramaswamy, who previously ran Google’s ad business before leaving in 2018, thinks there is a better way to run a search engine, one without ads that capitalizes on the subscription economy and focuses more on personalization. Enter Neeva, a different kind of search engine. “We felt very strongly that there needed to be alternatives, alternative viewpoints, and alternative business models,” said Ramaswamy.

What Is Neeva?

When Ramaswamy left Google, after 15 years of massive brand and revenue building, he believed that ads and the constant pressure to grow had compromised both the quality of Google searches and the privacy of its users. 

Neeva aims to tackle those issues with more personalization and no ads. In an interview with The New York Times, Ramaswamy explained, “Neeva is a search engine that looks for information on the web as well as personal files like emails and other documents. It will not show any advertisements and it will not collect or profit from user data.” 

Neeva will be free initially, and eventually available by subscription for less than $10 a month. Ramaswamy hopes to lower the monthly fee as Neeva grows. 

How Will Neeva Provide Accurate And Personalized Search Results?

Neeva isn’t starting from scratch. It will be built on existing data and content from Microsoft Bing,, Intrinio and Apple. And, as users connect their Google, Microsoft or other relevant accounts, Neeva will use those personal records for the most accurate search results. According to The New York Times, “Because [Neeva] knows the people in your contacts, the retailers you ordered from and news publications you received newsletters from, Neeva’s search results will become more personalized over time.” 

What Does Google Think About Neeva?

Obviously, Google’s way of doing business is very successful, and digital marketers rely on Google for tremendous amounts of business, both through organic and paid search. “There are many different vertical and general-purpose search options for people, and we regularly see new approaches. Ads make Google Search free for everyone, and we only show them [ads] on a very small fraction of overall queries,” said Chi Hea Cho, Google spokeswoman. Google also noted that their users find “relevant ads and offers” extremely useful. 

Can Neeva Succeed By Being Unique And Tapping Into The Subscription Economy?

Search Engine Land notes that word of mouth and an emphasis on unique features will be fundamental to Neeva’s growth. The new search engine will “need to capture immediate attention with some novel capability or feature that is fundamentally different from Google. And it will need to build a loyal following of technology search influencers who promote it by word of mouth — with perhaps a Gmail-style scarcity-based rollout to make access more exclusive.”

Additionally, insiders believe Neeva’s success will rely on consumers so fed up with privacy concerns and mega corporations that they are willing to pay for services that are offered for free by other search providers. The subscription economy has shown that people are willing to fork over nominal monthly fees for things that might otherwise be available for nothing, but success will likely be an uphill battle for Neeva, as it has been for other search engine startups in the age of Google. 

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About the Author

Sarah Cavill

With more than 20 years of writing, editing and reporting experience, Sarah Cavill brings to Digital Media Solutions (DMS) a fine-tuned and diverse set of skills. Her work has been featured in notable publications including The Daily Muse, CBS Local, Techlicious and Glamour magazine. Sarah has a passion for current events and the deep-dive research that goes into the content development and brand identity of DMS Insights. In her role as Associate Content Manager, Sarah contributes to the pitching, researching and writing of multiple stories published each week surrounding digital and performance marketing innovations in pop culture, news, social media, branding and advertising.

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