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Tom Howlett

Review of Leading Search Engines in 2012

24th Jan 2012 News, Industry News | 9 Comments


Review of the different search enginesFor most people nowadays, their search engine of choice is likely to be Google with an estimated market share of 66%. Like most others, I have been using Google for many years now, it is the first thing I see when I load up my browser and when I want to search for something, I generally load Google straight up.

Recently however, I was curious about the other search engines out there, old and new, that I have never really dedicated any time to. I couldn’t honestly say that I have enough experience of any other search engines to fully justify being dedicated to Google. So it was high time I checked them all out, and this post outlines my findings.

The criteria that I employed to measure each one was always the same:

  • The design
  • The ease of searching
  • The display of the results
  • The use of paid ads on the search engine (if any)
  • The ability to filter results
  • The integration with social
  • Does it save any form of search history?
  • Does the engine display related searches?
  • How relevant are the related searches
  • Does it utilise search suggestions?
  • Am I able to browse other media such as News, Shopping or Videos?

Search engines that use another’s results, such as Meta search engines were generally avoided apart from Yahoo who still have a larger presence online compared to some. Here is the list of search engines that were evaluated during this review:

Google

I thought it was good to start with Google, a search engine that offers much more than just search, they now operate in many verticals. Google have changed quite a lot in the past year with a new design and a huge integration in social with the emergence of Google +. I personally prefer to keep search and social separate. I am happy to share certain blog posts and websites using various social sites and bookmarking tools, but prefer to avoid the social discovery side of things when performing a pure web search. I think it will appeal to some though, making web browsing as a whole a much more social experience. Users of Google + will likely find some of the new features useful.

It is clear where Google want to end up. A search much more socially driven, it offers the ability to share, connect, discover and socialise all in one place. For some searches, the Google results will offer pages recommended by friends and ones that are understood to offer value based on the page subject its general popularity.

What I Like About Google:

  • The design – many people expressed dislike when they changed the design, I for one preferred the more modern layout.
  • The size of its index. You can always trust Google to be constantly crawling and indexing the web for fresh results.
  • The results that rank for various searches are generally relevant and high quality (something which they are always aiming to better).
  • The advanced filtering of the results if very useful for certain searches. For example, filtering for pages that went live in the past day or week.
  • The suggested searches are useful for improving your search and highlighting popular searches.
  • The integrated shopping results are very useful for price comparison and reviews.
  • The fairly recent addition of instant previews are useful for quickly seeing how relevant a result is and helps you spot spam and low quality websites prior to the click.
  • Being able to use advanced search queries to improve the chances of getting a higher quality result.
  • The Sitelinks that appear on a page listing are helpful for jumping straight to popular pages of certain websites.
  • The social integration could be useful for searches, especially for shopping related searches. However this is still in its infancy and will likely improve.
  • The image search is easy to use, produces lots of results and have great advanced filters for finding exactly what you want.
  • Equally, browsing for videos is useful by being able to filter the results by video length, quality and more.
  • The news search is bang up to date and enjoyable to browse.

What I Dislike:

  • The social integration, although I said this was a like above, I sometimes do not want my searches tailored through peers.
  • I prefer not to be constantly logged into Google. This is becoming even more difficult these days when there is an increasing number of sites and applications that a Google login is required (YouTube for example). It seems as though they are doing this to get everyone using Google’s services the majority of the time.
  • Google is quite secretive about user data and how it uses this for its own benefit.
  • The feeling that they may have their ‘fingers in too many pies’ and the search results may suffer because of this.

Bing

Bing is a search engine owned by the mega corporation Microsoft, it has an estimated market share of 15% in the US, although is much smaller here in the UK. This is small compared with Google, however Bing offers a few differences that users may prefer to Google. Initially you are greeted with a very visually driven home page. This injects a little bit more enjoyment to the browsing experience initially and even offers a few facts and statistics towards the bottom of the page which some people may enjoy reading. The Bing home page is almost like a desktop wallpaper, which I imagine was intentional to get people to save their search engine as a home page when starting up their browser.

The search results aren’t too different to what you experience when using Google, with the same filters and search options. It also has image, news and video search that can be helpful for certain searches.

What I Like About Bing:

  • The look of the initial search page, it is visually nice to look at and changes regularly. The facts which are included along with the image are usually interesting and sometimes gets you sidetracked (which in this case isn’t a bad thing).
  • Related searches are permanently located on the left to help you find what you are looking for.
  • The recent search history allows me to easily jump back to previous recent searches.
  • The advanced search allows me to filter the results by keyword, by website or by region for more relevant results.
  • Being able to enter my current location for more appropriate search results.
  • When you have been searching for a while, recent searches appear below the search bar to highlight what I have already searched for.
  • When browsing for videos, like Google it allows you to filter the results by video length, resolution and source.
  • Twitter integrated maps, enables you to look at their map software and see live tweets being published from that area. Unsure how useful this can be, but it is interesting and fun to pass the time with.

What I Dislike:

  • The colour used behind their sponsored ads is very pale blue and hard to distinguish. This is likely intentional to get more people to click on the sponsored results.
  • Bing sometimes places the ‘related searches’ element halfway down the results page which likely has an impact on the amount of traffic sites below that will get (for example, for the search ‘Car Insurance’).
  • There doesn’t seem to be an easy way to filter news results by country.
  • The layout of the result pages aren’t quite as clean or as intuitive as the Google search engine.

Yahoo (now powered by Bing)

Yahoo, one of the old search engine giants who was once very successful. They are still around and fighting for market share. I’m sure there are a number of web users who are loyal to Yahoo and like the way in which they do things. I personally have never properly used Yahoo other than using it for its Yahoo Answers and the Email functionality.

What I Like About Yahoo:

  • The paid and organic results are much more distinguished compared to other search engines.
  • You are able to search by domain extension (such as .edu or .co.uk).
  • You can easily search file types (such as .html or .pdf).
  • The image search has a similar functionality as others with filterable results which is useful.
  • The image search allows you to browse easily by licence type, if you were looking for an image to use for your own website.
  • The shopping side of the Yahoo search engine is more isolated from the main search engine which does take you away from where you were, but offers more options for browsing different types of products.
  • Yahoo answers is a very popular and useful site on its own for user submitted questions and answers.
  • You can add news results easily to a feed so you can get updated via RSS.
  • The Yahoo search engine also includes an mobile app browsing engine to browse popular mobile apps.

What I Dislike:

  • The default search is for the whole of the web instead of the UK, however this is easy to change.
  • The isolated shopping site takes you away from the main search engine which could have its downfalls.
  • The fairly recent change to using the Bing results makes the search engine seem a bit behind the times, however this may change in the near future.

Ask

Ask was originally an answer engine designed more to provide answers to questions than results for generic queries. They generally marketed themselves as an answer engine with its friendly alias, Jeeves (Ask Jeeves). It now attempts to make the search engine much more interactive with a ‘question of the day’ and various other links and activities.

What I Like About Ask:

  • More focused on questions so may be a good resource when you have a question about something.
  • Related searches are easily accessible.
  • Includes popular questions related to the search and includes an easy link to other questions and answers.
  • It has the ability to filter the results by domain if you want to only find results from a certain website.
  • There is a sense of trustworthiness about the search engine.

What I Dislike:

  • The first organic result sometimes appears before the sponsored ads. The first result is likely to get the majority of the clicks, the second organic listing ends up in position five within the results.
  • The default search is for the web instead of limiting the search to the UK only.
  • The colour used behind the sponsored ads is very pale and hard to distinguish between the organic results. Coupled with the first organic listing being above the ads, it improves the chance of clicking on a sponsored listing.
  • There are not as many options, settings and filterable options compared to the other search engines.

Duck Duck Go

Duck Duck Go is an up and coming search engine which has a few tricks up its sleeve. It is gaining traction within the search engine world, though doesn’t quite compete directly with the others yet. It markets itself as a cleaner search engine which avoids any kind of personalisation or the usage of private data to influence rankings. After reading a bit about the search engine and having a look at their website, immediately I am intrigued and am eager to use the engine. Does it compare to the big boys though? Or is it more of an engine for those who want to avoid anything Google and its quest for world domination?

What I Like About Duck Duck Go:

  • A very clean and easy to use search engine.
  • You have the option of searching many popular sites straight from the Home page (such as Amazon, Google, Wikipedia). Or a special option “I’m feeling ducky” which is the equivalent of Google’s “I’m feeling lucky”.
  • The result listings are clear and visually appealing.
  • It clearly segregates paid and organic listings.
  • It adds a site Favicon to the site results for that little bit more visual appeal.
  • It gives you a little summary of your search at the top of the listings, this can sometimes summarise what the product, theory, item or whatever else you are searching for is. This is usually extracted from Wikipedia.
  • There are search suggestions in the top right that when clicked, append your search. You can also quickly swap words that occur within your search.
  • The default option loads more listings as you scroll, which is handy depending on what you prefer.
  • You can customise the colour and theme of the search engine for a more personalised experience.
  • It highlights a websites trustworthiness within the search engine results by colour.
  • The !bang functionality enables you to search external sites straight from the search engine. For example the search ‘iPod Classic !Amazon’ takes me straight to that search on the Amazon website.
  • It has a maths functionality whereby you can enter math sums into the engine for quick results.
  • They pride themselves as being a search engine with less clutter and spam which is very appealing.
  • They don’t collect personal information.

What I Dislike:

  • The search engine currently defaults to the United States instead of the UK (no problem for people located in the US of course).
  • Very US centric initially until you play with some of the settings.

Blekko

Blekko markets itself as a spam free search engine. What sets Blekko apart is that it gives users the ability to directly affect the results within the search engine, as they say “users deserve a choice in the editorial voice of their search engine”. They mention that they have a bias towards quality sites, so is the engine for people who are after top quality results.

What I Like About Blekko:

  • Nice looking interface and appealing home page.
  • The spam free search is appealing, especially for certain searches.
  • Great ethos towards the web as a whole.
  • They want their users to create a space they are comfortable browsing in.
  • Easy way of filtering the search results with a Slashtag.
  • You can login to create your own Slashtags.

What I Dislike:

  • It is quite hard to get used to Slashtags initially, which is probably the reason that there are a lower number of ‘likes’. I would like to spend more time using Blekko before I make up my mind about it.
  • With the engine being spam free and user edited to an extent, you could be missing out on finding the perfect resource or maybe find a new site you have never heard of before.

To Conclude

I had quite a lot of fun exploring the different search engines, something I have been meaning to do for some while considering the industry I work in. Each of the big daddy search engines seem to be moving towards a much more integrated experience by gradually merging search and social together. I believe that to an extent and if done right, a socially driven search engine could be great but sometimes I would rather browse the web without any influence from the social channels.

As the larger search engines seem to be moving towards the social direction, it seems as though there are a few little guys cropping up that offer something refreshing and intend to do the opposite of the likes of Google (for the Google haters). These smaller search engines definitely have some great features and this could lead to their success sometime in the near future. I especially like Duck Duck Go and the thought that seems to have gone into that engine. We could find that the larger search engines keep the smaller rivals on their radar and attempt to recreate their ideas for a mass audience. Whatever happens it will be interesting to see if Google continues is domination within the industry or whether other search engines begin to gradually reclaim some of that market share.

I hope you have enjoyed this post, I have tried to remain unbiased towards each search engine and express my true opinion when reviewing each of the search engines. I did have limited time whilst reviewing each of the search engines which may have caused me to overlook some features, but am interested in the opinions of others and your experiences with any of the search engines mentioned above. Do you have a favourite search engine and why? Let me know in the comments.

 

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Tom Howlett

If you’re looking for information on Link Building then read Tom Howlett’s posts. Tom has a specialist insight into link building strategies designed to improve website’s visibility and ranking. He will help you become a master in finding new link sources.

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