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Searchengineland points to an interesting article in PC World which pitted the top search engines against each other to determine which had the best (ie most relevant) search results.

Their conclusion was that Google had the best overall results across multiple query types (general search, image search, video search etc), but:

two other services topped it–barely–in our text-search tests.

(Text-search is general web search). These two services were Alltheweb and Altavista, both owned by Yahoo – the chart of results is here

These results don’t differ all that much from what we found in testing the various search options at AOL when I was there a couple of years ago. When stripped of UI and branding, most users couldn’t tell the difference in quality between search results. When UI and branding was returned, most people thought that Google was the best search engine.

This speaks to the power of branding in the third phase of competition of consumer internet companies, as I have blogged about in the past. First comes distribution, then product and finally branding. It explains why, even though Google’s general web search isn’t head and shoulders better than the other search engines any more, it continues to win market share.

  • Michaela

    Brand perceptions can do funny things. Decades ago, when I was at MCI (in the days when it was a bastion of fighting the big guy), we did research on operator services. We were working to launch it, and would be the only provider besides AT&T to offer those services. Turns out not only did the majority of people swear we already had the services, they liked them and swore they were good. Brand perception extended the brand to services we didn’t even offer. Go figure

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