Bing versus Google: It's the modern-day version of Coke versus Pepsi. For many people, the two search engines are indistinguishable. Both search the Web and deliver images, news, and product information in easy-to-read formats. But which one is better--and can you be sure?
Some users switch between them without a second thought. Others are devoted to their search engine of choice, just like cola die-hards. And most search engine devotees stick with Google: It's the king of search, attracting 66 percent of searchers compared to Bing with 15 percent, according to ComScore.
If you're a Google loyalist, you'll be interested to know that although Google excelled at producing lightning-fast results in our showdown, when it stumbles, it falls hard. Bing boosters should note that while your favorite search engine delivers uncannily relevant results, it has an annoying habit of auto-editing search queries in hopes of guessing what the user's true intent is.
To settle the great search engine debate, we created our own version of the Pepsi Challenge for Bing and Google to see which one could serve up the best results without the fizz. We focused on search fundamentals: How easy is it to find a specific website? How simple is it to track down a certain factoid? Can either search engine find and deliver the best place to buy online? In the course of testing, we also rated Bing and Google on their ability to deliver spam-free results that show no bias toward their own services.
Read on to see how they did. Along the way we also offer search tips gleaned from what we learned.
Navigational Search Challenge
Since there is no index for the Internet, users depend on search engines to find a specific website, and often, particular pages on that site. So how do Bing and Google measure up to the challenge of steering clear of junk sites and delivering the right ones?
When we used both Bing and Google to track down the official website for Mitt Romney, President Obama's YouTube channel, and a dosage chart for Infant Tylenol, the top results were correct in every case.
One exception cropped up, however, during our "CDC flu vaccine information" search. Google's first result promptly took us to a PDF of the CDC's detailed information sheet about the flu vaccine, but Bing pointed us to a more general CDC page with information on the flu itself; we had to click two more links to obtain the detailed information on the vaccine that we wanted.
Bing: 4 stars
Google: 5 stars
Search Tip: Keep your searches as specific as possible. Taking the time to enter an extra keyword or two (such as "official site" after "Mitt Romney") will save you time when it comes to sorting through the search results.
While the search results themselves are of utmost importance, how long it takes you to get to those results is worth considering, too. Search innovations such as autocorrect, automatic search refinements, and Google Instant are designed to be timesavers. Although we found Google Instant to be a welcome aid, we discovered that Bing was sometimes overzealous in autocorrecting search queries.
Both Bing and Google automatically correct misspellings. But Bing often went too far in our experiments, automatically altering three of the nine test queries we entered. When we searched for "Barack Obama YouTube channel", Bing included results for "barack obama youtube tv" automatically. When we searched for "Entertainment Weekly's Grammy Coverage", Bing also included "Entertainment Week Grammy Coverage". In all instances where Bing assumed that it knew what we really wanted to search for, the suggestions were not helpful.
The good news is that clicking to remove the included Bing results is easy, but it's a step that users shouldn't have to take so frequently. The bad news is that we couldn't find a way to turn the autocorrect feature off in Bing or Google.
Bing: 2 stars
Google: 4 stars
Search Tip: Be on the lookout for overzealous autocorrecting. It's easy to overlook a minor (or sometimes, major) edit to your search query, unless you're expecting it.
Next Up: Searching for Specifics on Large Sites