With all the "advice" we've been receiving from search engines on how to manage our sites and provide the right user experience, I was thrilled to happen upon a little experiment. I recently created for myself the opportunity to do some user experience testing on the various search engines. I was surprised by the result and surprised by the advanced universal search experience on some engines while others really lagged behind.

When my wife called a few months ago and said she had just gotten us tickets to the big concert in late October, I could hardly believe my ears. I would soon be going to see one of my favorite bands, Van Halen, perform live. Then she uttered these words, "I've always wanted to see Tony Bennett in concert!"

Wait! What!? Tony Bennett? Is he still alive?

Well, yes he is and my wife was set on going. And you know what, the concert was excellent. I'm also a fan of 1920s jazz and his music takes you right back to that era. In fact, throughout the performance I started to think of Tony Bennett as an icon. Imagining all the generations of music his voice has endured, I wanted to learn more about the person so the next day I plopped down in front of my computer, opened up Google and searched for "Tony Bennett". Here is what I was greeted with:

This was a bit of a letdown. Maybe my expectations were too high, but with all the talk of Universal Search I was expecting a very rich media-type experience with music, video, news, and more. A link to more music results seemed to be all that was offered along with related searches at the bottom of page one. Well, that wasn't enough for me so I headed on over to Yahoo.

tony-bennett-yahoo.gifNow, this is a much improved user experience over Google. From the nice results box featuring Tony Bennett, I'm able to listen to music clips right there, watch video clips (right on the SERP!), get a link to the official Tony Bennett site or click on links to check out albums, photos and more. I really felt like I had access to everything I needed right from the top of the SERP. But, realizing this is good experiment material, I headed over to MSN to see what they had for me.

MSN's results were more in line with Google's. They did offer a Top Albums section that indicated there were reviews, but it still didn't top Yahoo. They did offer related searches above the fold and above the sponsored links which I thought was a nice user experience touch. So, remembering back to SES San Jose and all the talk about the revamped Ask.com, I thought that would be a good final destination for my experiment.

tony-bennett-ask.gifAsk.com lived up to my expectation based on the good showing they had at SES San Jose. Their top box result had a short bio with links to a full biography, songs, and more. A short scroll down on the right side of the screen yielded images, music clips, video clips and even an encyclopedia result. I'm not sure I'll need to know anything more about Tony Bennett after the Ask.com experience.

In my opinion Yahoo and Ask definitely gave me the most relevant and rich results. Granted, I was looking for a rich media Universal Search experience, but I'd be curious as to how many people searching on musical artists wouldn't be. MSN came in a distant third and Google a very distant fourth. Is this indicative of all searches? Absolutely not. But, I was surprised to be that happy with Yahoo and surprised to see how far some search engines need to go in providing a better user experience.

November 13, 2007

Patrick Schaber is currently the Director of Marketing for Transition Networks, Inc – a data networking hardware manufacturer. His experience working for both large and small organizations has given him keen insights into many facets of marketing including, email marketing, advertising, search engine marketing, social media and more. Along with trainings and industry speaking engagements, Patrick authors his own site, The Lonely Marketer, which focuses on the diverse activities and culture related to the small business marketer.


Too bad you didn't check MS Live Search.

Ask.com is really kicking ass in terms of the whole universal search thing.

If Google's accuracy could be combined with Ask's awesome "3D" results page, I think that might be the ultimate search engine.

Hey Patrick,

I like this review. The intent of the user is always the wild card. Google's assumed quality is challenged in reviews like this. I did a similar review back in October and found Google not to be superior. On par, perhaps, but not hands down better.

I have now doubt that Google will continue to be the leader. But, the margin may not continue as wide.

Hi Patrick,

I read your article and visited your blog. Great blog as I can identify with the supposition of the "lonely marketer" that you have proposed. I have worked in the Internet industry for many years and now work in more traditional marketing but Internet marketing is my true passion. I am also an SEO expert and in my estimation, you are bang on with your position above. In fact I think the reason for the lack of serving a media rich experience in Google relative to other engines is probably due to the fact that Google is a victim of its own success. As a marketer you know that the search engines are fiercely competitive and Google is positioned to offer the most precise search engine results whereas the other engines cannot compete on that basis so they lead the charge in providing broad spectrum results. do recall that Google in the not too distant past, tried providing results oriented to rich media intertwined with the regular search results and they quickly reverted back to the status quo. That might have been as a result of expectation. Loyal Google fans probably don't want to see a change. It's the Classic Coke and New Coke syndrome studied in marketing school. So I believe that Google is a victim of its own success.

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Search Engine Guide > Patrick Schaber > How Tony Bennett Inspired a User Experience Experiment