In a study published this week by PC Magazine, Google ranks tops among search engines when it comes to customer satisfaction. The study, conducted by the University of Michigan Business School, the American Quality Society and the CFI Group, surveyed Internet users to determine the level of customer satisfaction with sites ranging from e-commerce sites to search engines.

The study grouped search engines, news and information sites and Web portals into an “e-business category” that received a 72.5 overall satisfaction rating. That rating fell below the 80.8 satisfaction level assigned to e-commerce sites. (E-commerce sites included travel, auction, retail and brokerage sites.) The results indicate a slight rise in satisfaction levels over last year’s findings, but highlight the continued need to increase usability and customer service levels online.

The good news for search is that it led the pack in its e-business category, improving 2 points from last year’s score of 78. News and information sites followed closely with a 75, while portal sites lagged behind with 71 points.

Google, the current king of search, topped the list of search engines with a satisfaction rating of 82 points. However, the competition isn’t far behind. Yahoo!, which has aggressively been seeking to challenge Google as the top search engine on the Internet, scored a strong 78 points, while MSN ranked third with 75 points. Up and coming search force Ask Jeeves saw a rise of nearly 15 percent in a single year to achieve a score of 71 points.

The small level of variance between the scores of the search engines highlights how ripe the industry is for the upcoming search wars. With Yahoo!’s proprietary search engine less than a year old and Microsoft expected to launch theirs within the next six to twelve months, the stage is set for an interesting battle. Recent emphasis on local search and personalized search has made it clear that the future of search is ripe for the picking. How each of these companies chooses to address these issues will likely have a strong impact on which engines comes out on top in next year’s study.
August 27, 2004

Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.

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