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Search Showdown: The Brand's the Thing
In a series of user tests run by Vividence, the answers that search engine users obtained for a variety of research questions were not significantly different. Google, MSN, Lycos, Ask Jeeves, and Yahoo! all gave similar success rates to users. But Google shone in terms of customer satisfaction, which goes to show that search is a potentially fickle brand game, resting on perceptions and preferences rather than performance. A couple of observations:
- These kinds of test are often skewed toward simple, factual look-ups. That's not necessarily what people's real-life inquiries look like, however. Factual research is often part of larger, more complex problems a user is trying to solve. The test might say something about these services' quality relative to each other, but not suitability to all real-life research tasks.
- Real-life searching is often not confined to a search engine or the content it can point to; savvy users view search engines as finding tools, not sources, and often use search engine results as just a first step toward finding experts and sources beyond what's available on the open Web. This kind of test doesn't measure the relative effectiveness or importance of search engines in the entire arsenal of research tools users have available.
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