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Comparing Google and Bing

June 1, 2009

Bing, the latest iteration of Windows Live Search, is now available for use and has been getting quite a few rave reviews.  Miguel Carrasco wrote a lengthy post discussing the benefits of Bing over Google; however, maybe I’m old fashioned, but I see a lot of the hype as overhead.

Not to nitpick, but searching DIRECTLY for product names will return advertisements and sponsored sales information—no matter the search engine.  Miguel’s post (searching for a Nikon D60 camera).  Using my new fanboy item, the Palm Pre, as an example, I can see that the Google page actually has FEWER (real estate) “advertisements” than the Bing search.

Bing has a whopping 6 sponsored links… along with something called Bing cashback that I haven’t really read up on yet.  That along witht he lost space on the left seems like a lot of waste.

Bing

Google drops off a bit of space for the 3 sponsored links, but keeps it thin and uses it’s integration with YouTube to show previews and group the video results to the top.

BUT… how much does that matter?  If Google’s page takes a moment more to load, do the background graphics, fancy headers, and AJAX postbacks on the Bing page make up that difference?

“Previews” in Google and Bing

An exciting point with Bing is the content previews.  Hover over a search result and it provides a bit more information.  This, however, has been in Google’s search for quite a while if you turn on the functionality.

I’ll admit, I like the hover effect.  Clean, renders relatively quickly (noticed a bit of delay on some pages, but not too bad), and seems to parse content well.  But is it ground breaking?  Nah, not really.

Google’s had it for a while, though I’ll admit, I rarely use it (I used it more while doing heavy research in school).

The difference is that Google’s requires you to turn it on… For those who don’t use it, the dynamic filtering is FANTASTIC (and provides that handy “left side bar” that Bing is raving about).  Remember—Google was originally focused on extremely streamlined results—”more text” and AJAX postbacks would be considered evil.😉

If you really do need more images, using Google’s “Images on the page” provides a cool look at what graphics are on the page.

Are product searches always what we do?  Nah!

How often do we actually search for a product name—especially in the workplace?  When I’m looking for my Pre, sure, but 90% of the day is spent searching for error messages, code snippets, and forum messages.  Face it, I JFGI it all day long. I encourage coworkers to JFGI. Etc.

So how does Bing and Google stack up when searching for a less commercial, more technical request?  I’ve recently dug into db40 and needed to dig up some ideas for id generation.  I remember reading a blog post recently about it, but couldn’t remember who wrote it.

Bing returned an interesting result set… but didn’t turn up (in the first 10) what I was looking for…

Nearly all of the results were root domains or directories—nothing real specific (blog posts, forum posts, etc) from the titles.  Since the cool Bing “sorting and grouping” doesn’t appear to apply to everything quiet yet (not sure if that’s context-based or a newness/lack of indexing), I was left with “all results”.

On the other hand, Google appears to put more priority on the title of the page.  Notice on the Bing search results, “Id Generation” didn’t appear in ANY of the page titles whereas they’re in all of the titles of the Google results.

The title doesn’t mean these are the BEST results; however, with news stories, blog posts, etc—the takeaway point will usually be in the title. 

The blog post I was wanting showed up second in the Google results.  The Bing results referenced Tuna’s blog a few places; however, didn’t actually reference the post for “Id Generation in db4o”.  The one time it WAS mentioned (the 4th result of Bing), it was a stale link to the front page of Tuna’s blog—not the actual post.

Conclusion

The selling point to Google for many years now has been two fold:

1) Extremely clean, fast user interface
2) Reliable and relevant results

I moved away from AltaVista, Yahoo, and other engines years ago because they wanted to be ‘cute’ and while Bing has potential, it’s already too cute for my tastes without any real benefit.

It’ll be interesting to see how Bing grows—and how it affects Google.  It’s too early, however, to say that Bing is this saving grace—especially if you’ve never dug into all of the features of Google.

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