Bing thinks everyone uses Google out of habit and not because it’s a better product, so they decided to conduct a 1000-participant blind study to determine which search engine people really prefer. All branding and identifying features were removed from both search engines, and participants evaluated 10 searches side-by-side on their monitors, then chose Google, Bing, or Draw for each.
And the results?
People chose Bing web search results over Google nearly 2:1 in the blind comparison tests. Specifically, of the nearly 1000 participants: 57.4% chose Bing more often, 30.2% chose Google more often; 12.4 % resulted in a draw. (Source)
With these numbers, Bing felt sufficiently confident to make the study public in the form of a challenge – go to BingItOn.com, perform five searches, and see if Bing doesn’t return better results than Google. This is a great marketing technique for a search engine trying to overcome the gargantuan bias people have for Google – everyone loves a challenge (especially one you can share to Facebook, Twitter, and comically, Google+).
Does it work, though?
I performed two searches – one with keywords only, and one with every advanced search technique I could think of. Then I had my fiance do the challenge, asked Facebook friends to do it and report back with results, and did a search on Twitter for #BingItOn. Here’s my tally:
Google – 27
Bing – 4
Draw – 7
Yikes, you go, Google!
When I read in the study that the participant demographic were those 18 years and older who “have used a major search engine in the past month”, I suspected simple keyword searching and a willingness to accept less than 100% relevant results would tip the scales toward either Draw or Bing for the average (read: non-librarian) searcher. I guessed that my advanced queries would expose weaknesses and widen the gap between the results, and that my librarian friends would have a similar experience.
Surprisingly, Google and Bing produced similar results for my advanced queries (with the caveat that they use different operators, for example NOT versus -, so the results were somewhat skewed), and it was in the keyword searches that Bing showed its inferiority. Google’s results were more relevant and pulled from more reliable sources on average.
So, who is really better?
My fiance brought up a good point after I forced him to do the challenge and watched like a hawk and questioned his choices – for the average user, especially someone who may not know precisely what they’re looking for and would like to click around a bit, isn’t user-friendliness more important than being technically correct? Bing’s more logical operators, value-added results, and inviting homepage are all easier to use than Google’s stark white page and obscure syntax.
So while it will be difficult, if not impossible, to change the minds of veteran searchers posing complex queries, Bing probably will earn itself a few new converts for the effort. And the biggest advantage to running this clever marketing campaign?