Why I use google

January 19, 2007

It’s the biggest business on the net – even bigger than porn and gambling – so it’s something search companies want to get right. Here’s my feedback to the “big 3” (Google, Yahoo, msn/live).

1. Finding them

Type in google.com and you get a simple, clean, FAST, country orientated search box; being in the UK I am redirected to http://www.google.co.uk. There’s nothing there to slow me down or distract me, it just gives me what I want. One of the best things that has happened for Google is the way people have begun using it as a verb – that’s free advertising – when I talk to people, techie and non techie alike, if I mention something they’re interested in they’ll often say “I’ll google that later”. I believe Google aren’t too happy about this but I think it’s the best kind of advertising.

Type in yahoo.com and you get the Yahoo USA site, a cluttered page full of irrelevant information with flashing adverts (don’t you just love the ones that “break out” of their space to cover most of the screen?). If there was only one search engine then I would have to put up with it, there isn’t so I don’t.
For those in the know you can type in search.yahoo.com to go straight to a search page however Yahoo just can’t resist putting other clutter on the page – news stories – at least there’s no flashing adverts. Again this clutter is all American.

Type in msn.com and like Yahoo you get a page full of flashing, irrelevant (to me) American information, again you can go straight to the search engine at search.msn.com which now redirects to live.com (when did that happen?). The next time someone mentions a subject you don’t know much about, say to them “I’ll live that later” and see what they say. At least it’s a clean interface which is what I want, now that I know it’s there and I can open it quickly by simple typing live.com I may give it a go some more.
2. Searching

As a simple generic test I searched for the most important subject in human history – “pizza”

Results:

Google – Knowing I’m in the UK it has given me UK specific results, the first 3 are UK pizza restaurants, the 4th is a generic wikipedia pizza page. There is very little clutter, the ads are well highlighted and the real results start about a third of the way down the page.

Yahoo – It may be a problem with my old LCD screen but the highlighting for the ads is very hard to see and they blend it with the results. Switching back to google the difference is very subtle but Google’s colouring is enough to clearly identify the ads, Yahoo’s colouring is not. This makes me feel uneasy – I don’t mind ads but I like to know what is an ad and what is content. The ads are county specific but the content is not – again it is completely irrelevant to anyone outside of the USA, the first 3 items are pizza restaurants like with google and number 4 is wikipedia again – the restaurants are all in America so I suspect they won’t deliver to me. Since the ads are UK specific they clearly have the technology to geo target their content but simply choose not to. There’s also an entry named “Yahoo! Shortcut” at the top for “Pizza restaurants near you”,maybe they do know where I am. Clicking it brings me to a page asking me to enter my zip code – anyone know the zip code for UK? – enough said. Even searching on uk.yahoo.com gives a list of American pizza restaurants.

MSN / Live.com – With regards to layout they’ve pretty much copied Google, the shading around the ads is clear enough however, as with Yahoo, the content is all American as are the extremely generic ads, including “find pizza on eBay”, “buy pizza at shop.com” etc. I click on options to see if I can set it to be UK (I shouldn’t have to) and it knows I’m in the UK – location listed as London – close enough. So I click save to see if it will give me any UK results – nope, same as before.

So for anyone outside the USA (there are a handful of us), it seems like Google is the only search engine that has seriously made an effort to be country useful.

Do Yahoo! and Microsoft not see how much money Google is making from this?, it’s like they’re not even trying. This was a very simple test and hasn’t really pushed the engines to see what they can do but you need to get the basics right first.

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