Google vs Bing
When it comes to search engines, there is really no dispute about who is top dog. Google reigns supreme. One could even argue that other search engines have been rendered irrelevant because of Google’s large market share. The name “Google” has even become a verb, and people use the brand Google interchangeably with “search” the way that many call any first aid bandages Band Aids, any facial tissues Kleenex, and any soft drink a Coke.
Nevertheless, there have been and continue to be other players in the game, and while Google unquestionably sits atop the pile, other companies such as Yahoo! and Microsoft are constantly seeking ways to chip away at Google’s search enterprise.
Microsoft’s latest attempt is their new search engine simply called Bing. When Google slipped past Yahoo! to take the searching lead, there were plenty of evaluations of the two. Google was simply better. In fact, it revolutionized searching by producing more relevant results, more content, and easier functionality.
The purpose of this comparative evaluation is take an honest look at the quality and usability of both search engines and to document the positives and negatives of each. In the first section, I will attempt to put my searching experience as a librarian aside and approach each website as an average user. In the second section, I will put both to the librarian’s test, using more advanced searching techniques.
Usability evaluation looks at the number of clicks it takes to complete a task, the amount of time it takes to find the things one wants, and other similar factors. The following results are not based on actual scientific usability testing but on my own observations. Others may have a different experience, so I will try to explain my reasoning for whatever conclusions I make.
- Google +1
- Bing +1
In a departure from Yahoo! and AOL’s style of presenting a directory and news on their front pages, Google and Bing both opt for mostly empty pages with single search boxes. The similarities in appearance, however, end there. Google has a plain white page with no images other than its logo. On the other hand, Bing has a different background image every time you visit. The Bing image is also interactive, containing several spots where the user can get mouseover popups and links. I found all of the Bing bling to be superfluous for my purpose, which is to search. Google +2
Both sites allow users to have accounts so they can customize their experiences, but to be fair, I accessed both without logging into either. Google has one search box and two buttons: Google Search and I’m Feeling Lucky. To the right is an Advanced Search link and Language Tools. The top includes links such as Images, Videos, etc.
Bing has one box and one button, which appears as an icon with a magnifying glass. One could argue the button is a more universal approach than having the actual word “Search”. On the left-hand side are the Images, Videos, etc. links. One of the links, absent from Google is “Visual Search“.
Neither interface seems to have any practical advantage over the other from a basic user’s perspective.
- Google +1
- Bing +1.
When I began typing my search word ants into Google, it brought up a menu offering suggested or popular search phrases containing the word “ants“. Bing offered the same, but also has an option to turn the feature off right inside the menu.
When searching, both engines brought up Wikipedia as the very top result and also included image results of ants. In addition Google provided YouTube video results. Bing did not. I turned off my ad blocker to see how the ads appeared. Google only had ads on the side, while Bing showed large text ads on the top and bottom as well. Interestingly, Bing, which claims to be simpler and less bloated, produced 104 million results in contrast with Google’s 14 million.
Where Bing differs dramatically is in its suggestions. Rather than accepting that I actually wanted to search for ants, it brought up a sidebar with the heading “Pants”, which included “images of pants”, “pants for women”, “pants for kids”, and so on. The second search result after Wikipedia was plants.usda.gov, with the keyword PLANTS highlighted. Two of the five top search results were plants instead of ants, and the remaining twelve results on the first page were all about pants. All of Google’s search results and ads were actually about ants. Google +2
As a librarian, I would already be frustrated with Bing’s insistence on suggesting words for which I did not search. It assumes the user makes obvious typos and does not realize it. Bing’s “Related Searches” sidebar actually had more results for ants than the main search results.
In an effort to find ant colonies in America, I typed the following string into Google: “ant colonies” america. The first result was again Wikipedia, which is probably not the best source of information on ants, but still has some merit. Other results seemed very relevant to the search terms.
Typing the same search into Bing actually produced almost identical results, which is a big departure from the basic search. All of the strange suggestions were absent, indicating that Bing now viewed me as a whole competent human rather than a hapless dolt.
- Google +1
- Bing +1
Best Search Engine
There are many other tests I could run, but that would make this article unduly long. Suffice it is to say that Google wins, and my rating system probably fails to adequately reflect just how insulting Bing’s suggestions were. While Bing will certainly have its share of adopters, Google is safe for now. Final Score:
- Google 7
- Bing 3