The war between the search engines is an interesting discussion, where personal preference is stacked up against reliable results. Google, the world’s biggest search engine with over 65% market share, makes it difficult for anyone to really challenge this space (Comscore. June 2012). Bing, with 18% market share, is a top contender and I can’t help but wonder why it has such a small share of the market (Compete Pulse, April 2012).
Are the results that different to what Google would provide a searcher? Is Google popular based on habit, or is it just the superior search engine? Who can provide more accurate results?
Let’s do a little digging.
The Contextual Search Showdown
Contextual search is one way to test the difference in how these search engines break down and sort information. Using long-tail (more niche and specific) search phrases allows insight into how a search engine determines what is relevant.
Below is an example of how Bing processed the term “how many white rhinos are left in Africa?” versus how Google processed it.
As you can see, Bing provided a Wikipedia reference as the top result. Wikipedia (although the biggest crowdsourcing platform in the world) doesn’t always provide the most accurate and reliable results. Google on the other hand provided its top link as the RRC (Rhino Resource Centre), a reliable and trusted database of information regarding the rhino population. In this case Google trumps Bing. Its top option is a much more reliable source and it still lists the Wikipedia link as its second result.
The Specific Search Scuffle
When searching shorter, less specific terms such as “mars,” the two engines provide very different results, with Google once again coming out on top.
Bing’s top hit is once again Wikipedia, and below that a few irrelevant links to shops and facts. Only the fourth link provides you with a link to “Bing news”. This is the first time you encounter published and relevant news. In Addition, the news link takes the user to a collection of articles from all over the world and doesn’t provide a singular (most reliable) link or story.
Google, on the other hand, takes you straight to a recently published BBC news article regarding news relating to Mars. An article published by one of the biggest news broadcasting companies in the world makes the result appear reliable and relevant. Google also provides images of Mars as their fourth top link, further attracting users. While Bing only includes their image gallery at the bottom of the page, making the user experience less intuitive than it could be.
Interestingly, even when changing the search from “mars” to “mars images” Bing only ranks its image gallery at the bottom of the page! Google moves its image results to the top.
Bing Knocked Out With The Knowledge Graph
Where Google seriously demonstrates its superiority over Bing with simple searches, like “mars,” is through the Knowledge Graph. This provides users with simple, to the point stats about their searches as well as high quality images. You can also see related searches in the “people also search for” section, in a series of pictures at the bottom of the graph. It’s a great solution to answering questions quickly, without the user having to click or take any action.
The Specific Site Search Skirmish
If you search for a page you’ve already visited or heard of, you may include the website domain name in your search. Here I tested the term “rugby results supersport.com”:
Google recognised the words “results” and “supersport.com” within the search bar and provided a top link to the recent results page on Supersport. Bing, on the other hand, recognised the terms “rugby” and “supersport.com” and directed me to the rugby home page on Supersport, failing to provide the same level of detail that Google did.
This test, however, didn’t thoroughly convince me of a reliable result, since Supersport is a South African page and Bing users are primarily American. I ran a test through CNN news and searched for “paralympic 2012 results cnn.com,” on both search engines.
What I was hoping for was to see Bing prove me wrong, but once again Google came out on top and took me straight to a list of the competing countries and the medals they had won on the CNN site. Bing directed me to the CNN site but provided me an article about two table tennis players who had recently returned to the Olympics.
The Product Search Challenge
Finally, I wanted to find out the credibility of product related searches for each search engine. In a simple search for the iPad 3, Google once again provided the most reliable result, offering a top link directly to the official Apple site, in the iPad tab. Bing, however, provided a top link to a generic sales site called “ipad 3 release.com”.
In all my tests Google came out on top, cementing the search engine’s spot as number one in the world.
It seems Google will probably remain in this extremely dominant position for the foreseeable future for one major reason: Bing - its nearest competitor - isn't pushing the envelope the way a search engine would need to in order to pose a viable challenge, in my opinion. And so, Google remains the most reliable engine, with a much better understanding of what people are looking for.
But, what could Bing do to improve their market share? I have three suggestions:
- Redirect to a local site. When you visit the Bing search engine it does not redirect you to the local domain like Google does. For instance, you actually have to type in www.bing.co.za.
- Offer the ability to turn off auto correction. Bing’s auto spelling correction can be incredibly frustrating and there is no way to get rid of it (bear in mind, Google has the same problem).
- Stop trying to compete purely with the US market. Bing should start looking to establish itself as the search engine for the emerging market. Yes, Google is well established across the globe, but I think there is an opportunity for a search engine to offer a country or region specific engine, that tailors to your cultural likes, dislikes and community interests.
It will be interesting to watch how Bing tactically moves forward, and until they step up to the challenge, I simply can’t see anyone saying “just Bing it!” in the near future.
What do you think they should be doing?