it comes to search engines, people
overwhelmingly prefer Google - but increasing
competition from a number of rivals could
eventually threaten the company's top spot, a
new study claims.
The survey by market research firm Vividence
found Google's results vary little from those
found on other search sites. In addition,
despite the search king's continued success in
attracting customers, its users are less likely
to click on advertisements listed on its site.
representatives declined to comment on the
study due to the quiet period the company has
entered as part of its pending initial public
gather their results, researchers at
Vividence surveyed and monitored 2,000
individuals as they interacted with search
engine sites, including Google, Ask Jeeves,
Lycos, Microsoft's MSN and Yahoo!. The company
found Google clearly remains consumers'
favourite, largely because of the search
engine's less-cluttered interface.
fact, Vividence said, almost 90 per cent of
Google users reported having a "strongly
positive experience," while only 68 per
cent of users said the same of Yahoo!, 50 per
cent for Ask Jeeves, 48 per cent for Lycos and
41 per cent for MSN.
the study revealed search results on Google
differ little from answers to the same queries
on its competitors' sites. When comparing the
accuracy of the search engines in providing
information on the same topic, the results were
close. For instance, Google users searching for
the leading cause of death for people between
the ages of 25 and 34 found the information they
were looking for 55 per cent of the time. The
company's rivals fell close behind with between
52 per cent and 54 per cent success rates,
Watkins, CEO at Vividence said: "This
close performance shows you how successful
Google has been at creating a brand and
convincing people to come back to the site. But
you have to wonder - will Google's competitors
simply copy its style and win away
of Google's rivals have already launched
stripped-down versions of their sites, including
Yahoo!, which offers users the ability to ditch
its wider portal properties at a simplified
search site. Amazon.com's A9 search engine is
another competitor that has swept away much of
the clutter in favour of Google-like simplicity.
the threat of copycats looms perhaps an even
more disturbing finding for Google. Vividence
claims that Google trails behind its rivals in
encouraging people to click on advertisements,
the site's primary source of revenue. Google
ranked last in Vividence ad tests that examined
how frequently people followed sponsored links
Jeeves garnered the most clicks on
advertisements, followed by Lycos, MSN, Yahoo!
and Google, respectively. Google provides Ask
Jeeves with search-related ad links. Watkins
said part of the reason why Google lags behind
its competitors is the company's stringent
practice of keeping ads well marked, while the
other sites sometimes mix solicitations in with
regular search results.
Google sacrifice some of its image in order to
get more clicks on ads? Maybe yes," he
said. "This is a company on the verge of a
$2bn IPO, so you'd have to think that
competitors will copy their format, and if these
competitors can also sell more ads, it makes you
wonder about the future."
predicted that Microsoft, which is known to
be developing a new search engine and has
garnered limited success from MSN, could be the
biggest threat. If Microsoft can create a search
engine that looks and performs like Google and
charges less to advertisers, it could
potentially steal users, he said.
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