Not The Pepsi Challenge But The Bing Challenge

I remember years ago as a teenager, going to the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto during the late summer. It was a time when Pepsi Cola was doing some major marketing and they instituted the “Take The Pepsi Challenge.” At the Ex, there were tables set up where people could sample a glass of Pepsi and a glass of Coke to take this challenge, to see which one they preferred. You were not told which was which before sipping from each glass, but after sampling, you were asked which one tasted better to you.

Microsoft has initiated their own challenge in an interesting way, although you are not tasting anything. On a website owned by Microsoft, they are asking you to rate Bing’s search results Vs. Google’s. I first learned about the website via the Twitter post made by “Lord Of Seo” when he twitted “People chose Bing nearly 2 to 1 in a blind test. Which will you pick? #bingiton at http://www.bingiton.com/Landingpage.aspx?form=&publ=&crea= …

People choosing Bing 2:1? Well, I’m not surprised as I myself have begun to prefer Bing results over Google’s for quite some time now. Not only Bing, but also the search results that duckduckgo.com  provide seem more relevant to my search queries.

I thought I’d give it a shot myself and headed over to BingItOn. You’re asked to type in a search query and then select what you think are the best results, five times (each time, using a different search query). You’re also offered the option of rating the results you see as a “Draw.”

In my case, I was not surprised to see that Bing slightly won. I chose the Bing results for three rounds, one round went to Google, and one was a “Draw.” Here’s a screenshot of the results:

bingiton results - bing wins

As I wrote, I’m not surprised. I personally think Google’s search results have deteriorated drastically in recent months. It seems to me that in all their efforts to get rid of so called “web spam” and their attempts to be everything to everyone, they’ve actually done a worse job at providing good results for what I am looking for. It seems I am not alone in this thinking. In a way, it’s sad for me as I used to love Google. I was rooting them for them and always hoped they would be more successful, and harbouring my own dislike for Microsoft, I never thought I’d see the day when I might begin recommending Microsoft’s  search engine Bing to others.

Interestingly, in looking at quite a number of websites that I monitor Google Analytics for, I’m seeing a higher bounce rate for visitors that are referred to those sites from Google’s SERP’s than those from Bing’s SERP’s. What does that suggest? More study is needed, but it suggests to me that Bing is providing results to its users that are more relevant in the first place. Bing users are liking what they see when they land on web pages to a higher degree than Google users.

Getting back to that “Take The Pepsi Challenge” test – as a teenager I thought I preferred Coca Cola. I have to admit that I was taken aback when I chose Pepsi over Coke, and since then, it’s been what I have purchased when I do want a cola beverage.

Will you take the Bing It On challenge yourself? I’d love to know your results – feel free to post them in the comments below after you head over to Bing It On here.

 

Google Search Result Numbers – Bug Or Feature?

Earlier, my business partner and I were messing around with an experimental script to help with obtaining some faster search engine results from Google. What we were trying to do was find a way to quickly see the top one hundred results for a search query so we could parse the results and get what I was looking for much faster – but what we saw as far as Google search results seemed odd after running the script.

We were trying to understand what was going on – was it her programming, or something else? The specific search query we were working on was:

[toronto fly fishing] and we were using Google.CA for our results. Here’s what those results look like when typed into a browser and not logged into Google:

google serp toronto fly fishingYou can click that for a larger image view.

Now, if you are logged into Google, you can change the number of results Google displays on a single page. We wondered if there was an issue with our script, or was it a Google issue in how they displayed results, the more results that are being returned for a page. Guess what? Google does indeed change the rankings of the results when you opt to have more displayed.

You can try this yourself. What we did was to log into our Google accounts, and select the little “gear” icon that appears (or you can log in and go directly to: https://encrypted.google.com/preferences

You will need to select “Never show Instant results.”  Next, adjust the sliding widget to increase the number of results it shows per page on a Google search. The higher the number you select (up to 100), the more drastic the changes are that you will see. Here’s a screen capture of the first 23 or so results in a results page set to 100 (the file is quite large but it is for comparison purposes):

toronto fly fishing google 100 resultsYou might assume that by getting 100 results all at once, on a single results page would simply give you the same results you would get if you had 10 results per page, and then clicking through ten pages – but your assumption would be incorrect. Instead, Google seems to deliver the results when you select the higher quantity, by domain. Not by what it thinks is most relevant as you would assume if you were doing a conventional search with only ten results per page.

Here’s a run down of the top 10 results when you do a conventional search on Google, and then when you do a search and ask for the top 100 results on a single page:

1. Conventional Search

  1. Wilson’s (which is actually then 301 redirected to another domain) – www.wilsonstoronto.com
  2. Fly Fishing Toronto – www.flyfishingtoronto.com
  3. Learn Fly Fishing And Casting…. – www.murraysflyfishing.com
  4. Welcome To The Franklin Club – www.franklinclub.ca
  5. Winter Hatches Fly Fishing Club – www.winterhatches.org
  6. Fishing Near Toronto?…. – www.canadacity.ca
  7. Wilson’s Canada’s Fly Fishing Outfitter… – www.canadasflyfishingoutfitter.com/toronto-fly-shop.php
  8. Focus On Fly Fishing… – www.torontosportshow.ca/focus…
  9. Fly Fishing School Toronto Grand River… – www.grandriverrafting.ca/children_…..
  10. Fly-in Outpost Fishing Sudbury Aviation… – www.sudburyaviation.on.ca

2. And here’s the first eleven Google results when you select 100 results per page:

  1. Wilson’s – www.wilsonstoronto.com (Again, a link that ends up being a 301 redirect)
  2. Fly Fishing Toronto – www.flyfishingtoronto.com
  3. About Fly Fishing Toronto – www.flyfishingtoronto.com/about-fly-fishing-toronto
  4. The Franklin Club |Fly Fishing Toronto – www.flyfishingtoronto.com/the-franklin-fishing-club
  5. Fly Fishing Memberships For Toronto Club.. – www.flyfishingtoronto.com/attention-toronto-franklin-club-fly-fishing
  6. Angling For Some Long-Weekend Fishing | Fly Fishing Toronto – www.flyfishingtoronto.com/angling-long-weekend-fishing
  7. Learn Fly Fishing And Casting – www.murraysflyfishing.com
  8. Booking Information For Fly Fishing Casting – www.murraysflyfishing.com/booking.htm
  9. Articles About Fly Fishing School, Toronto, Ontario – www.murraysflyfishing.com/article.htm
  10. Welcome To The Franklin Club – www.thefranklinclub.ca
  11. Fly Fishing Toronto | The Franklin Club – www.thefranklinclub.ca/fly_fishing_toronto

What’s going on here? Is this what you would expect to see? When you select a higher number of results per page, Google seems to lump different URL’s on domains together in it’s results. But the end user is probably not expecting that kind of behavior. I would assume that most people that wanted to see more than ten results per page would want to see what Google is ranking on a page with longer results, but in the same order as if it were providing rankings to anyone looking at just ten results per page.

In my opinion, it’s pretty flaky. Does Google think this is a feature, or is it a bug in the way it delivers search engine results? Does Google really think that if you are looking for 100 results for a query about [toronto fly fishing] that getting five results from flyfishingtoronto.com is more important than seeing murraysflyfishing.com and then thefranklinclub.com, where if you are only expecting ten results per page, the results would be quite a bit different?

Maybe Google programmers have consciously done this in order to skew results for those that use rank tracking software and websites to purposely throw off results. I don’t know. I do know though, that if I am a Google user, and decide that I want to see more results than ten per page, I’m presented with a result that is quite a bit different. And it doesn’t really make sense as far as Google’s claims to be providing a good search experience.

What are your thoughts? Google Bug, Feature, or Manipulation? Does it makes sense it to you?