How Major Search Engines Stack Up

Coofer Cat's been enjoying some runaway success, all due to this post from a while back. My web stats show that over the last 15 days, 1850 people visited it, 1217 people finding it via a search engine (although that number may not be 100% accurate).

A quick check of Google, Yahoo and MSN show up wildly different experiences.

Firstly, a disclaimer: I don't imagine I deserve prime search engine positioning for what is really a content-free post. However, at the present time, there is a remarkably small amount on the internet on this particular topic (which all three search engines broadly agree on). Also that particular page is really about the TV show, not about bubbly pools for your garden. So you decide: If you search for info about the TV show, would you expect to find my page, or something else?

So let's give it a go: First of all, Google. Since Google accounts for most of my search engine based traffic, I'd expect most people find me that way. As it turns out, my page is listed as the fourth item in the results - very good. Also, note that the other pages really are on-topic, and not about bubbly pools. Indeed, clicking further pages of results suggests that there really are no other pages to speak of about the TV show, and just loads about pools. I've got the least to say about Google's results, because they seem pretty sensible.

Secondly, let's try Yahoo. Here the results are a lot more 'interesting'. The top result is good, as is result number 8, but all the others are about pools, and don't seem to include all three search terms. Continuing on, page 2 has something, as does page 3, but some of those are pages that include search results on them (and so don't actually have useful content, just links off to the stuff I'd like to have found in the first place!).

Page 7, item 65 is a link to my home page (which at the moment has the search terms on it). I never actually found where the link to the actual page is (I got bored after page 24), although they do have it (adding confirms it). Every so often though, a proper result is peppered into the lists of pages about pools.

So Yahoo have a slightly weird result ordering. I can't really decipher how it's working, but I'd have to question how 'relevant' pages about pools are, given the search terms are available verbatim, elsewhere.

Lastly, MSN Search. On the first page, the first result is indeed a good one. However, all the other pages that seems to have anything to do with the TV show are actually pages that embed search results in them (so the words are coming from somewhere else). I guess there's no way to know which is which, but the second page of results has my home page listed 5th, and another page on the subject sixth.

Even more wierdly, MSN only has four pages of results (despite MSN's overbearing 'bot!). My actual post doesn't seem to be anywhere on them, even though the search engine knows about it. Like Yahoo, MSN seems to have a weird idea of what's relevant and what's not. Again, pages with only two of the three search terms rate far higher than pages with all three verbatim. That said, the pages it does have that seem to be relevant don't look familiar, so they may be pages the other engines didn't bother with.

To conclude, it seems to me plainly clear why Google is the favourite search engine of the Internet. It returns the right results, but can get to less relevant stuff too. It seems it's intelligently listed results, and not been swayed by all the flannel on the internet. The others have some uses too (after all, as they rank things differently, pages that Google dislikes may get higher positioning), but by and large, they seem unable to point users at the actual pages they need (although can get users pretty close).

Submitted by coofercat on Sat, 2005-10-15 18:43