What is the Best Search Engine? 15 most popular search engines tested for accuracy and relevance.

 
This search engine comparison page tests the most popular search engines to see which provide the best set of pages most closely related to the keywords used. The search engines used for this comparison are those reported for January, 2012, by eBizMBA (http://www.ebizmba.com/articles/search-engines) as being the 15 most popular search engines.

1. Google: ...........65-percent of all searches for 900,000,000 visitors per month. (Other references give Google 81-percent.)

2. Bing: ..............12-percent for 165,000,000 visitors a month. (Other references credit Bing with 9-percent.)

3. Yahoo!: ..........11-percent with 160,000,000 visitors a month.

4. Ask: ............... 9-percent with 125,000,000 visitors per month.

5. Aol Search: ...... 2-percent with 33,000,000 visitors a month.

6. MyWebSearch: ..1-percent with 19,000,000 visitors a month.

7. Lycos: .............0.3-percent with 4,300,000 visitors per month.

8. Dogpile: ...........0.2-percent with 2,900,000 visitors per month.

9. WebCrawler: .....0.2-percent with 2,700,000 visitors per month.

10. Info: ..............0.2-percent with 2,600,000 visitors per month.

11. infospace: .......0.1-percent with 2,000,000 visitors per month.

12. GoodSearch: ....0.07-percent with 1,500,000 visitors a month.

13. Search: ..........0.07-percent with 1,500,000 visitors a month.

14. Excite: ...........0.06-percent with 1,150,000 visitors a month.

15. AltaVista: .......0.04-percent with 700,000 visitors per month.

 

To determine what is the best search engine, I selected a web page that has a very specific topic yet is closely related to a similar topic with wide mass appeal. This tests the search engine's ability to distinguish fine differences between page content. I call this "relevance." The second criterion, "quality," is determined by how high in the top ten the web page with the most detailed and complete information is ranked. The web page used for this test is AWANA GRAND PRIX RACE CARS (http://www.waynesthisandthat.com/awana.htm).

AWANA cars are 7 inch long wooden cars raced down a track and are almost identical to the Pinewood Derby races sponsored by Boys Scouts of America. While there are hundreds of web pages about constructing pinewood race cars, there are only a few about AWANA race car construction. This perfectly matches the requirements for testing "relevance." Of all the AWANA race car construction sites, AWANA GRAND PRIX RACE CARS is by far the most extensive in the depth and breadth of information on it. This provides the requirement for testing "quality."

The keyword string used for each search engine was the same: how to build the fastest awana race car. This string was selected because it most likely matches the type of search someone would use who wanted to find out how to build a fast car. The following list ranks which search engine provided the greatest relevance and highest quality at the top and the search engine with the worse of both criteria at the bottom. In determining the relevance, the number of closely related web pages in the top ten suggested sites are evaluated for how closely they satisfy the keyword string. Each site dealing with AWANA race cars gets 1 point, each related to pinewood derby gets 1/2 point and sites not related to either get no points. Ten would be a perfect score. For quality, if the test page is listed in first position that search engine earns 10 points, second = 9 points and so on. Sponsored sites are sites at the top of the list that get their high ranking by paying the search engine for it. These are not included because their position is not determined solely by content.

Positions on the "What is the Best Search Engine" list are determined first by the relevance points and second by quality points. In cases where both relevance and quality are the same, position is determined by how sponsored links are presented. If they are few in number and clearly identified then that search engine is rated higher than another with many sponsored links that are poorly identified.

 
What is the Best Search Engine:

Search Engine _____ Relevance _______ Quality__________Comments

1. Lycos ...........................9.5 .......................10 .............

2. Yahoo! .........................9.5 .......................10

3. Bing .............................9.0 .......................10

4. GoodSearch ...................8.5 .......................10 .............The test page was also listed as the first sponsored link even though that position wasn't purchased.

5. AltaVista .......................8.5 .......................10

6. AOL Search ...................8.0 .......................10

7. WebCrawler ...................8.0 .......................10 .............

8. infospace ......................8.0 .......................10 ...........

9. MyWebSearch ................8.0 .......................10 .............Starts off with a long list of 10 sponsored links.

10. Dogpile ........................8.0 .......................10 .............Starts off with 5 sponsored links that are hard to identify.

11. Google .........................8.0 ....................... 9 ..

12. Excite ..........................7.5 ........................9 ............. ..

13. Ask .............................6.5 ...................... 10 ..

14. info .............................6.0 ....................... 5 ... ..........I suspect the first 5 positions were sponsored links but I couldn't spot the identifiers.

15. Search .........................5.0 ..................... 10

 
Additional Tests:

While one such test is suggestive, it is far too small a sampling to be conclusive. For that I selected seven more pages and used the same keyword string for each search engine to determine which was the best. The following list gives the pages and the keyword strings used:

RETIEF OF THE CDT  keyword string: retief of the cdt

BOX OFFICE DATA  keyword string: historical box office data

LOST ART OF KNITTING NANCYS  keyword string: how to use a knitting nancy

BICENTENNIAL QUARTERS  keyword string: bicentennial quarters

VICTORIAN DOMESTIC SERVANT HIERARCHY AND WAGES  keyword string: victorian servant wages

HOW TO WRITE BETTER FAN FICTION  keyword string: how to write fanfiction

EXTREME MELON GROWING  keyword string: how to grow the sweetest melons

 
Each of these pages contain a level of detailed information that far exceeds any others on the same topic so they should be listed near the top of the first ten sites listed by each search engine. Using an evaluation system similar to the first test, each search engine was given the same keyword string for the page in question and assigned points reflecting the results. The numbers a search engine earned for each of the seven pages were added to determine how it compared to the others. The maximum possible score was 100. The following list presents the results:

Bing: .................. 87 points

Yahoo: ............... 87 points

Lycos:................ 87 points

GoodSearch: ....... 87 points

AltaVista: ........... 87 points

Infospace: .......... 84 points

Excite: ............... 84 points

Info: .................. 79 points

Dogpile: ... .......... 78 points

MyWebSearch: .... 73 points

Search: .............. 70 points

Webcrawler: ........ 68 points

AOL: .................. 68 points

Ask: ................... 64 points

Google: .. ............ 60 points

 
Comments:

The results from Bing, Yahoo, Lycos, GoodSearch and AltaVista were virtually identical, so much so that it's tempting to assume they are all the same search engine simply repackaged for different customers.

Google's last place position was surprising. I suspect there is something about the hobby nature of the test pages used or the way I construct them that prejudices Google's methodology against them. For example, in the test using the page VICTORIAN DOMESTIC SERVANT HIERARCHY AND WAGES 14 of the search engines listed this page in the number one position. Google placed in the number 2 spot. This page contains possibly the most detailed and complete description of servant positions and wages available on the Internet, presented in approximately 2,000 words. The page that Google claims to have more information about "victorian servant wages" contains only 200 words with a single reference to servant wages. To get any more information the viewer has to click through a series of pages, each containing a little information about a few of the servant classes but nothing about their wages. This sort of questionable ranking happened several times. The majority of the other search engines would list one of the test pages in the number 1 or 2 spot while Google placed it in 8th, 9th and in one case 13th position. If there was something wrong with the titles, meta-keywords, descriptions or content that caused Google to de-rate them, then why didn't the other search engines do the same? In such cases I carefully examined the pages ranked higher and in only one case did Google place a more informative page above the test page.

Don't misunderstand. Google is a great search engine that I've used for years with great success. It's just that after comparing it to other search engines this test indicates that almost any of the others is to be preferred.

 
Conclusions:

Because the scores for Bing, Yahoo, Lycos, GoodSearch and AltaVista are the same, other considerations have to be weighed to decide which is preferred. Since I like an uncluttered entry page and a clean, easily read list of suggested sites with a minimum of advertising, including sponsored links, I took a second look at these top five winners to see who looks the best.

Bing: Homepage loads moderately fast, slowed because it has a large picture as background. Search page lists the top 10 suggestions with additional search options in three more lists on the left and right. Looks busy.

Yahoo: Very simple homepage without decoration that loads instantly. Search page displays 12 suggestions with a single alternate suggestion list on the right.

Lycos: Complex homepage loads the same as Bing. Contains 12 large icons for other services. Looks busy. Search page lists 10 suggestions with images of the pages on the left. Sponsored links clearly identified on the right. Looks cluttered.

GoodSearch: Homepages loads slowly compared to the others because it's crowded with advertising. Lists 10 suggestions under five sponsored links that are hard to identify. Alternative suggestions listed on the right. Looks similar to Yahoo.

AltaVista: Very simple homepage loads instantly. Lists 12 suggestions with alternative suggestions listed on the right. Almost identical to Yahoo.

 
I don't like Lycos because the homepage is busy and the page images on the search page are distracting and don't really serve a purpose. GoodSearch's homepage looked like a mess, which put me off. Bing's homepage wasn't too bad, but when I'm searching I'm all business and don't appreciate unnecessary artwork. Also, its search page felt cluttered because of all the alternate suggestion lists. Some people may find these useful because they provide ideas for fine tuning the search. I thought they made the page busy.

That leaves Yahoo and AltaVista. They look the same and provide identical results. My final choice is for AltaVista because it's search page has a discrete link to the subject in question at Wikipedia on the left of the main list whereas Yahoo offers a filter by date. Since most of my searches are related to technology and not current events, I would find the Wikipedia link more useful than Yahoo's time filter. Someone more interested in current events would find Yahoo's time filter more useful.

Having gone through all this testing I have to confess that it really doesn't matter which search engine you use. They all do very well and will quickly provide even the most demanding researcher with links to as many sites as anyone could ever need. Still, for me AltaVista best answers the question: What is the best search engine?

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