More Relevant Results: Google or Bing?

    May 7, 2010
    Chris Crum

Remember when Bing launched its recipe results? Now Google has launched a similar feature with recipe rich snippets. "For example, if you were searching for an easy to make thai mango salad, you can now see user ratings, preparation time, and a picture of the dish directly in search result snippets," explains Google. It may not be incredibly far-fetched to suggest that maybe Bing’s offering nudged such a feature into development, whether or not Google would admit this.

Rich Recipe Snippet from Google

This story isn’t about recipes though. It’s about the major search engines’ quest for gaining or keeping you as a user. It feels like Bing has been around quite a while now, but in reality, it hasn’t even been out for a year. Right out of the box, Bing seemed to make Google want to improve. Google is even in the process of testing redesigned search results pages that borrow some design characteristics from Bing.

Where are You Getting the More Relevant Results? Let us know.

Both Google and Bing still have their relevancy issues. We recently looked at an example of a query for "matt cutts" on Google (though we compared them to Yahoo rather than Bing, as Yahoo mentioned the same query in a blog post). Frankly, Google’s results left a bit to be desired. It wasn’t that that they were bad exactly, but personalized results pushed the more relevant results further down the page, and Matt’s Facebook profile was MIA, despite Facebook being one of the most popular sites on the web, a good result for a search on a person’s name (It was in the first few on Yahoo’s results).

Microsoft may like consumers to think that Bing gives all the right answers. Those commercials would certainly seem to suggest they have a leg up over the competition in that regard, but they’ve got their own relevance issues. For example, for an article I was writing recently, I was looking for that site Bing has that showed all of the latest features they’ve released. I couldn’t remember the name of it, so I searched (on Bing) for "latest bing features". Given Bing’s philosophy of wanting to provide answers, I would expect to easily find what I was looking for through such a query, but instead the first organic result is an article called "The Latest News from Bing" from November of 2009.

Bing Latest Features query

Search Diversifying

In the latest search market reports, Google has lost a little bit of market share. Bing is gaining (and has the potential to gain a lot more for reasons discussed here). Another thing Bing has going for it, or Google has working against it rather, is that search itself is becoming much more diversified as a result of mobile, social media, and geo-location. People are simply using more ways to find the information they’re looking for. It’s not that they’re not using Google anymore. It’s that they’re maybe using it less for certain types of queries. For example, where someone may have once used Google to search for a movie showtime, maybe they now have an app for that on their phone.

Is a Bingized Yahoo Good for Yahoo Search?

At some point in the near future, Bing’s results will be taking over Yahoo’s results to some extent. While most will agree that the Microsoft-Yahoo deal will be good for search advertising. Another question would be is it good for people who use Yahoo to search? Are Bing’s search results better than Yahoo’s? I’m not so sure, looking at the "matt cutts" example. For the "latest bing features" example, however, I can’t say that Yahoo’s results are really any better than Bing’s.

I realize that just looking at a couple of examples is kind of grasping at straws and are hardly representative of all queries in general, but it’s still a question worth pondering. Are Bing’s results better than Yahoo’s? Does it even matter? Will the average Yahoo user even notice a difference?

Google’s Edge in Innovation

Google still seems to have the edge in getting out new and interesting features. Take real-time search. Microsoft and Google both announced deals with Twitter around the same time. Microsoft even had one with Facebook too. While Bing had a separate destination relatively quickly, where users could search Twitter with Bing, they didn’t integrate real-time Twitter results into Bing results themselves. Google did this after a little while with not only Twitter, but many other sources to make up its real-time search results. Just this week, Bing announced that it is starting to include such results, and only from Twitter, and only to a small subset of users in the U.S. Google is even doing Twitter archive search now.

That’s not to say that Bing doesn’t do some things first (like the recipes for example), but Bing has a lot more to prove (and in all fairness, they do regularly release new features). Google is already established. Bing is still trying to win people over.

Google is frequently making acquisitions to better its search technologies. Just this week, Google acquired Pink, to better its Google Goggles product, which lets people search with their phones by simply pointing their cameras toward an object. They recently acquired Aardvark, a social Q&A search service (a space that is growing rapidly – see AnswerBag/MerchantCircle news for one of the latest examples).

Wrapping Up

With regards to relevance, you’re going to find better results on Google, Yahoo, and Bing on a query-by-query basis. In reality, none of them deliver perfect results all the time, and that is why the diversifying of how people search is likely to continue, and for the better. The search engines can work to personalize results all they want, but in the end, it’s the user that personalizes how they search, and right now, it’s not  looking like any single search engine is going to control all of that.

Which search engine do you think most consistently delivers the most relevant results? Are you turning to other ways to find information beyond search engines? Tell us what you use.