Bing is performing, what I consider to be, a very brave advertising campaign called “Bing It On .” It’s like the Pepsi challenge of our generation. The idea is simple: people use Google without ever feeling like they need to change. Bing challenges Google in a head-to-head search-off to see who truly yields better results.
I am going to come clean – I am a Google user. I have NEVER used Bing unless I am testing something SEO-wise. As a matter of fact, I am pretty sure all of MentorMate are pretty zealous Googlers. However, we are also technology agnostic. If Bing is a superior search engine we have no choice but to switch. I decided to run the Bing It On test to find out.
My testing process was systematic. First, I (with the help of my coworkers) came up with five common searches and discussed what our expectations of the results would be before running actual searches. We ran the searches to decide which results better met or even exceeded our expectations. Just for fun, we tried to identify which result was Google’s (something I will refer to as Google Signs). Once we began our testing process, we realized there were a few more common searches we were curious about so we extended the testing to ten total searches. As you’ll see below, each search is different and came with varying expectations.
Without further ado, bring on the test results!
Searching Something I Expect to Rank Highly
Search: “minneapolis software development”
SEO is one of our core competencies at MentorMate and we want to see the fruits of our labor. We work hard to get MentorMate.com and our client’s sites as high in the rankings as possible.
I want to see five or more different mobile application development companies. I am curious which engine ranks MentorMate higher.
Results: Bing Wins
Both returned a nice list of software development companies. The results on the right, however, delivered more. The engine on the right also delivered a map and phone numbers. I like when my search engine goes above and beyond for me. You can tell that these are the Bing results because the map is clearly not a Google map. MentorMate is #1 for this term in Google and 4th or 6th, depending on how you look at it, in Bing. This makes sense because we spend less of our time optimizing for Bing, which makes me think… Are the companies above us optimizing for Bing or does Bing just value different things?
Searching to Spellcheck
This has probably become my most common usage of search. Looking through my search history will yield dozens of misspellings of words like necessary, entrepreneur, and diseases. In this case, I engineered a horrible butchering of the word ‘satisfactory’ by closing my eyes and attempting to type the word with the third knuckle of my left hand (I am right-handed).
I expect to get a “did you mean satisfactory?” at the very top.
Result: Bing Wins
Google failed to find anything, while Bing gave me exactly what I needed. I ran this search again outside of the BingItOn challenge to see if it was some kind of glitch. Nope. Google really can’t figure out what I mean. This is very surprising because I search horrible misspellings all the time in Google and don’t recall stumping it outright. I ran a bunch of misspelled words after my original test and Google did fine in all of those. However, Bing did a perfect job 100% of the time while figuring out what I was trying to type so it gets the win.
Searching a Question
Search: “how to prepare for a zombie apocalypse”
Asking a question is classic; probably the most common reason to use a search engine. Recently, I remember asking “how to remove a stain from a tie”, “how does dry cleaning work”, and “how to best train my dog”.
I want the top three posts to be informative blog, forum, or company links that sufficiently answer my questions.
Result: Bing Wins
Both engines returned worthy results from reputable sites. None were completely off-base, though they did range from funny to serious – but that is to be expected from such a question. I gave the win to the left side because it provided instructional videos while the right side did not. I was surprised that the left was Bing! I thought I was choosing Google because of the YouTube links. It’s pretty strange that Google decided not to display YouTube links for this search while Bing did.
Searching for a Movie
Search: “the adventures of baron munchausen”
Sometimes you want to learn who stared in a movie, what the DVD cover looks like, or see a trailer.
I want to see a trailer, a link to the IMDB movie page, and a link to the Wiki page.
Results: Google Wins
Both engines delivered exactly what I needed. Google is on the right, obvious from the YouTube thumbnail in result three. Notice how Google displays star ratings from IMDB and RottenTomatoes? One of the core pieces of information from those sites is delivered without needing to waste a click. Bing tries to bring something special by displaying the site thumbnail images. Unfortunately, that does not stand up to Google’s increased usability and Google gets the win.
There is more to this story. Google’s Knowledge Graph. The BingItOn tester excludes any superfluous sidebar information. That sidebar is where Knowledge Graph information appears. Take a look at this same search on Google. It is a complete blow out! Look at all the information I get about this movie without clicking any links. Even if Google lost in the BingItOn test, it still would have won if the Knowledge Graph was taken into account.
Searching for a Movie by Description
Search Term: “low budget time travel movie”
Let’s say you forgot the name of a movie or video game, but know what is about.
I expect to know the name of my movie, and get an IMDB and Wiki page as well as a trailer link.
Result: Google Wins
They both correctly identified the movie. However, only Google returned the IMDB link. I find it strange that Bing decided not to pull IMDB even though it did in the previous search despite identifying the movie correctly. Google gets the win for this one because of the star ratings and, of course, the IMDB link.
Searching for Sports Facts
Search: “most homeruns this season MLB”
Sometimes you just need to settle an argument.
I want to know the answer to my question without having to click on another link. I want the link title or intro text to answer it so that I can go on with my day.
Both search engines fail to answer my question without forcing me to click links. Digging deeper, I still worked entirely too hard to get the answer to my question. Maybe this is due to me being an amateur at navigating sport websites? Interestingly enough, Apple’s Siri was able to tell me exactly what I needed: “44 homeruns by Miguel Cabrera.” So I guess Apple wins.
Searching to Convert Units
Search: “how many cups in a liter”
This could be distance, volume, temperature, or even money.
I want the results to my conversion without needing to click on any links.
Result: Google Wins
Both returned the correct result in the way I expected. Turns out Google, on the right, brings extra usability to the table. It offers an interface where I can change either number and see real-time conversions without needing to search again. This feature must have been added recently because I do not remember ever seeing it. But for the increased usability, Google gets the win.
Searching a Business
Search: “Umbria Pizzeria Bloomington”
Sometimes you need to call a place to make reservations. Or write down the address. This process should be very quick and easy.
I need to get an address and a phone number in the top three results, preferably without being forced to click any links. Then I would like the business website and some reviews.
Result: Google Wins
Obviously, the left side wins with flying colors here. We can tell it is Google by the familiar review stars being displayed in the results. Another Google sign is the internal links it shows for the top result. Of course, the left result doesn’t win just because it is Google; it wins because the address and phone number are right at the top along with a “contact/map” link. Also, Bing doesn’t return any review sites while Google not only brings a Yelp review, but displays the star-rating without any extra effort. Take a look at Knowledge Graph information for an even more decisive victory.
Searching for News
Search: “japan riots in china”
Did you overhear something on the radio just as you arrived at your destination that you want to learn more about? Maybe you are fact checking some current event to make sure you aren’t only getting one side of the story?
I would like to get relevant news posts from a variety of sources.
Google brings us Examiner, News Asia, AFP, and the Globe and Mail as sources. Bing brings Bloomberg, CNN, Rueters, Yahoo Finance, and HuffingtonPost. While both returned a variety of sources and images, Google goes the extra mile and embeds videos. But both results pages met expectations and a YouTube video isn’t immediately a relevant news source. I give this search a draw.
Searching to Shop
Search: “mens dress shirts slim fit”
When I need to buy an item, searching is often my first stop. It helps me price check, informs me of which stores carry the item, and even provides me with some style suggestions.
I expect to see images of the item so I know the search is understanding me correctly. I would also like to see some prices listed in the search page so I don’t need to click on any links to get a general idea of pricing. I would also like multiple stores which sell my item.
Results: Bing Wins
This was very surprising, but the left results are actually Bing’s! That’s right, Google returned 0 images and hardly any prices in the results. Google did a great job bringing a variety of retailers which sell slim-fit men’s dress shirts, but the results page is devoid of life. Bing meets my expectation by showing me images of shirts with attached prices. Although the variety of Bing’s results are more limited, I still prefer the result including images and prices.
But wait! This is another example in which Google’s hidden Knowledge Graph devastates Bing. Google does show images and prices, it just places them in the excluded Knowledge Graph. Comparing the images, it looks like Google does a better job actually showing “slim fit” shirts instead of just dress shirts. If I could factor this into the test Google would win this search, but I am limited to an honest BingItOn test.
I am very surprised to see this end in a draw. But, it is clear that comparing search results alone is not comparing apples to apples. Two of the search results are suspect. When I searched for a typo, I somehow won the lottery in finding a word Google couldn’t figure out. 99.9% of the time that result will be a tie. Also, the men’s dress shirt search in Google actually does deliver superior results via their Knowledge Graph, which the BingItOn test appears to block. In my opinion, displaying star ratings in the results, interactive widgets like unit converter and calculator, and the useful and impressive Knowledge Graph empower Google with usability that goes beyond simply retrieving relevant links. Taking that into account, Google has the edge. While Bing is a fine tool, I am in no hurry to switch primary search engines just yet.