Ars Technica summarizes a report on search engine usage online, which finds that Google users are more loyal—they are less likely to use competitive search engines.
I think the more interesting number is the number of searches per month of the various users. Or, more specifically, the combination of these two numbers. Google searchers perform, on average, about twice as many searches as the users of their competitors. I find it hard to believe there isn’t a correlation between this, and their loyalty. The only question in my mind is the nature of the connection. Is it purely correlation (those who are more likely to use Google are also more likely to do many searches, for some 3rd reason)? Or is there a causal link?
I suspect there is a causal link, but which direction does it run? Do people who use Google find it produces more-useful results, so they’re more likely to resort to a global search when they want to find something out, rather than digging through a likely website? Or are people who more often find themselves searching the web for information gradually driven to Google because it most often gives them the best results, until they end up searching there first? Regardless of the exact mechanism, it seems to me that the simple fact that Google searchers are less likely to use competitors’ search engines is only the tip of the iceberg. The implications of the fact that they use global search a lot more is what Microsoft and Yahoo! should really be worrying about. You don’t just want people to use your service, you want them to like using it, and therefore do so a lot. Right now, Bing/Yahoo! are where MSWindows is in A/V production—inferior, but not unusable. That can be fixed: just improve the functionality. But they are headed for where MSWindows is in print design—more-or-less caught up in functionality, but still overlooked due to a combination of historical inferiority and lack of compelling capabilities—even if actually identical in functionality, if it’s not actively better than the Mac OS offerings, why switch? [Not that i particularly want MS to take over another market and then stagnate, but I do want Google to have some competition to keep it innovating and honest.]
And then there’s the issue of using other search engines in the first place: I’ve used Bing a few times, both directly and indirectly (via a Bing vs. Google dual-search) since the re-branding, in order to give it a fair shake and make sure I’m not letting my dislike of Microsoft get in the way of using the best tool for the job. But, other than that, and the occasional webbrowser with a different default that I hadn’t changed yet, I never use anything but Google. I’m surprised at the %age of people that apparently use multiple search engines. Between most web browsers having a built-in default search engine, and people reflexively using what they’re familiar with, I’m surprised the number is more than a percent or two. Perhaps most people resort to trying a different search engine when their first choice doesn’t give them good results? I’ve always tried refining my search, and don’t think I’ve ever tried a different search engine. (Or, rather, never a different engine that targets the same data: if Google doesn’t give me my answer, I might try searching the Gracenote CDDB, or other specialized website that I know Google can’t search, but it never occurs to me that Bing or Yahoo! might find something that is generally accessible that Google didn’t. And, when I have checked, they generally didn’t.)
[As an aside, my conclusion on Bing vs. Google: Microsoft believes or hopes that all searches are driven by, and lead to, meatspace. Its results when searching for a business or airfare or movie review or camera are basically indistinguishable from Google’s. And Bing has a few flaky add-ons that, when they work, produce better info in those areas. But when searching for “pure” information, including some news stories, Google produces consistently-better results. I very rarely am searching for info that ties directly or obviously to consumer activity, and search multiple times a day for information for its own sake, so I’m sticking with Google.]