Is Bing Better Than Google Search? We Find Out

searchengine   Is Bing Better Than Google Search? We Find OutBy many accounts, Bing is really giving Google a run for its money. On November 6th of this year, the Guardian reported that Google’s search share in the UK dipped under 90% as Bing’s share continued to climb.  Meanwhile, just a couple of months earlier, Google saw it’s search engine market share stay flat at about 66%, while Bing continued to climb up to a share of nearly 16%.

Now, I’ve always been one to cheer for the underdog, mostly because I never like the see the formation of a monopoly, and I especially like to see the toppling of any sort of status quo. Competition is a very good thing. However, is this really about real competition? Does Bing really have what it takes to go head-to-head and win against Google?

In September, Saikat posted a story about the Bing It On challenge, where organizers claimed that independent market tests found people preferred Bing search results to Google’s results 2-to-1. Back in May, Chris did an image search comparison and actually found that Google’s results were better.

For many years, I was a loyal Yahoo search engine user. Long ago, at the urging of my colleagues at work, I tried the ultra-simple looking search engine known as Google, and I was an immediate fan of the search results. I never looked back. Since the arrival of Bing, I might have tested it out once or twice, but found nothing compelling enough to draw me away from Google.

But are these arguments fair? Do “blind search tests” really show people prefer Bing results? And, given my love of all things search engine related, am I simply avoiding Bing because so much of the Internet’s population is active on Google? Is that really fair?

Which Search is Better – Bing or Google?

So, I decided to put my love of all things “search” to good use, and do a formal, semi-scientific comparison between the two search engines. I say “semi” scientific, because ultimately in some way, the evaluation of search results is bound to have a subjective piece. People like search results for different reasons. So, what would be a fair evaluation of search results in order to accurately and fairly compare both textual and image results?

I went with an approach that covers some of the most popular topical “genres” online – basically a technical topic, a list-style topic, a historical topic, a how-to query, and a health question. For each query, the results are judged at four levels. Fully relevant gets 3 points, a near-hit gets 2 points, a misplaced listing gets 1 point, and a completely irrelevant listing gets 0 points. Again, some of the evaluation is of course a little subjective, but by defining “relevant” as the return of a web page that directly and immediately answers a question or describes a topic, I believe the scoring can be very fair and unbiased.

How The Evaluation Works

To show how this works, I will start with Google and do a search for the phrase “android games“. This should return a listing of Android games, or even better, a review of a variety of games for Android devices. All searches for this article were completed using an anonymous proxy so that the search engine didn’t know who I was or where I was located.

Let’s look at the Google results.

searchcompare1   Is Bing Better Than Google Search? We Find Out

As you can see, Google listed Androidshock, Androidgamesroom, Techradar and DigitalTrends as the top 5, most relevant sites in this category. For the purposes of this article, I ignored Google’s news listings, since those are not specifically related to the search algorithm.

searchcompare2   Is Bing Better Than Google Search? We Find Out

While Androidshock and Androidgamesroom are basically two sites that serve as a directory of Android games – and both obviously highly relevant to the search term, the Techradar listing is actually more of a blog format review of a long list of Android games. I noticed that the phrase Android games returned about 6 times on this page – hinting that someone at Techradar carefully formatted the page for this term, and carefully made sure not to go overboard with the number of occurrences.

searchcompare3   Is Bing Better Than Google Search? We Find Out

I found that, impressively, all of the top ten listings in Google were highly relevant, high-quality sites that immediately gave access to Android games that I could download, and reviews of those games to help me decide which game I wanted to play.

The Bing search results on this term were similarly relevant.

searchcompare4   Is Bing Better Than Google Search? We Find Out

However, the ranking of sites was clearly different. Bing considers a site like Androgamez as the top, most relevant website for this phrase. I actually found that the site design is fairly unprofessional, with a quite spammy 19 instances of the phrase Android Games. I gave the listing a near-hit. However, Bing did hit the bulls-eye with listings like Google Play, Playandroid, GAmeloft and Androidshock – however Google’s number one choice was actually Bing’s 8th.

searchcompare5   Is Bing Better Than Google Search? We Find Out

This hints that Bing may not be up to the same level of algorithm intelligence when it comes to filtering out those websites that are black-hat SEO focused – utilizing keyword spamming techniques and other gimmicks that Google has successfully figured out how to outsmart at this point.  So, in this round after evaluating the top 10 listings, Google earned a score of 30 out of 30, while Bing earned 27 out of 30. Not bad for either search engine.

Evaluating Text Search

The rest of the search terms were “how do you format a hard drive” (technical), “how did shakespeare die” (historical), “how do I build a patio” (how-to), and “what causes a wart” (health).

Interestingly, both search engines struggled with the technical question. You would thing something as simple as “how do you format a hard drive” would turn up a multitude of high-quality websites with informational step-by-step procedures on how to do just that, with screenshots galore. Well…not quite.

While Google’s number one slot was taken by the PC Support channel of About.com – actually a very well written and accurate guide to format a drive – surprisingly, slot two was taken by a Webopedia article. This article is nothing more than an ultra-wordy, content-mill style article useful for nothing more than to gather up as many search engine visitors as possible, whether or not the article is actually helpful.

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Seriously, does it take an entire paragraph to define the word “format” in the intro? Do you really have to describe the difference between format and reformat? If someone wants to know how to format a hard drive, they are looking for the sort of guide you can scan down with a 1, 2, 3 procedure – not a dissertation. So, in this case Google failed with listings like thelightroomlab.com, and a Lifehacker page that didn’t even mention anything about formatting a hard drive at all.

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In fact, both search engines listed the erroneous Lifehacker page. However, both search engines did equally bad as well. Google scored a 22 out of 30, while Bing scored an 18 out of 30.

On the remaining terms, the scores lined up as follows:

  • “How did Shakespeare die” – Google (25/30), Bing (22/30)
  • “How do I build a patio” – Google (28/30), Bing (25/30)
  • “What causes a wart” – Google (30/30), Bing (30/30)

Comparing Image Search Results

Image search results are actually a lot easier to grade than text results. Using very specific terms, I just looked through the top 20 images returned to see if the image showed me exactly what I was asking for. For image search testing, I chose specific categories as well – a location, a biological term, a unique technical device, a scientific diagram, and a difficult-to-find health image.

The location term was “top of mount washington new hampshire“.

Any of the top 20 images that literally showed me a photo of the top of Mount Washington scored that search engine a point.

searchcompare8   Is Bing Better Than Google Search? We Find Out

On that search term, Google only got a 9 out of 20.  Bing didn’t do any better.

searchcompare9   Is Bing Better Than Google Search? We Find Out

Bing only scored a 4 out of 20. However it did actually seem to do a little better with returning nearly-related images. That is, not pictures from the top of the moutnain itself, but long distance pictures showing the entire mountain.

On the remaining terms, the scores lined up as follows:

  • “carpobrotus edulis” – Google (20/20), Bing (20/20)
  • “allen bradley plc” – Google (19/20), Bing (17/20)
  • “diagram of relativity” – Google (19/20), Bing (10/20)
  • “human heart being operated on” – Google (5/20), Bing (0/20)

Time Sensitive Searches

The final test of a search engine is how well it returns timely data from the Internet. Obviously, if you search for something like the population of China, you want to know the accurate population numbers from the most recent census. For time sensitive searches, I used the terms: “the population of china”, “how much does gas cost”, and “us election”.

In timely results, Google clearly shines by often display realtime graphs or charts at the top of the search listings.

searchcompare10   Is Bing Better Than Google Search? We Find Out

However, just taking the quality of search results into account – both relevance and whether the data on the returned pages was the most recent available data on the topic, Google scored a 6 out of 10 for this term. Bing tied with Google with a 6 out of 10 as well.

On the remaining terms, the scores lined up as follows:

  • “how much does gas cost” – Google (4/10), Bing (0/10)
  • “us election” – Google (17/20), Bing (20/20)
  • “diagram of relativity” – Google (19/20), Bing (10/20)

Conclusions

The final tally of scores boils down to the following totals:

General Search:
Google: 135/150, Bing: 122/150

Image Search:
Google: 72/100, Bing: 51/100

Timely searches:
Google: 27/40, Bing: 26/40

I think that it’s relatively safe to say that while I understand people are excited about there being a strong alternative contender in the search engine marketplace, it is way too premature to start claiming that Bing search results hold a candle to what Google is able to accomplish right now.

Setting aside complaints from webmasters that have had their sites beat down by Google’s constant algorithm tweaks to remove spammy sites and content mills, the truth is that Google results really are getting better and more relevant all the time. As the analysis above shows, in most cases Google returns better and more accurate results.

It should be said though, that in more and more cases, Bing may actually return better results. That can be seen throughout the testing above. If Bing can manage to fine-tine its own results in a way that improves upon what Google has already accomplished – it could very well catch up to and surpass the largest search engine on the planet. That may not happen within the next year or two, but it is certainly a possibility within the next 5 to 7 years.

Which search engine do you prefer – Google or Bing? What’s your own analysis of the quality of search results? Share your feedback and opinion in the comments section below.

Image Credit: Target and Dart Symbol via Shutterstock

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33 Comments -

0 votes

Eserpess der

I saw the heading of the article and I was like…
NO!!!

0 votes

Ryan Dube

You guess the right answer. :-)

0 votes

Christopher Webb

Yeah, Google is the undisputed champion of the algorithm.

0 votes

Joel Lee

I tend to be an adventurer of new options, particularly with software and Internet-related activities, but Google is so familiar to me that I can’t bare to try Bing. It just doesn’t FEEL like search, if that makes any sense.

Thanks for the comparison, though. Google isn’t perfect but Bing surely isn’t either, it seems.

0 votes

Javier Vega

I agree, Google seems to be a more accurate search engine, at times is just natural for me to search on it, it feels like THE search engine at least for now.

Bing may need some time to mature before competing head to head with Google, but is good to know that alternatives are on development, maybe in a year this comparison will be tougher.

0 votes

Ryan Dube

It does make sense. I think that’s why I’ve resisted for so long as well, and will probably resist for that much longer – at least until Bing manages to get a bit more competitive with its search algorithm.

0 votes

Justin Su

The erroneous Lifehacker page was due to the server coming down because of superstorm Sandy. All posts were redirected to its backup server, which only had the lastest posts.

You could have accessed the page by using the cached page on Google.

0 votes

Ryan Dube

Cool – thanks for the explanation. The good thing is that it counted equally against both search engines, so didn’t really push the scores in one direction or the other.

0 votes

Félix S. De Jesús

For Me, Google is the Champion, even when you drag an image, in most of the times, you really finds pages or images appeared in websites. :)

0 votes

Adam Campbell

Googles tactics, though potentially unscrupulous, are definitely better

0 votes

Brian Mok

I prefer Google over Bing, but Bing looks way better.

0 votes

Ryan Dube

I agree – I am always impressed when I decide to visit Bing. The graphics/layout are just wicked cool.

0 votes

Scott Moody

I have long been a Google user and continue to be. For the average web surfer, it is going to be a highly subjective preference. I remember the day when Google was just a search engine ;-)

As for the Microsoft propaganda stating that Bing beats Google 2 to 1, I would be extremely interested in knowing WHY people chose one over the other. Does Bing have a prettier page or are the actual results better. They don’t mention that. Ahhhh, the wonderful world of misleading advertising.

0 votes

Terafall

How comparison between google/bing and duckduckgo

0 votes

Adi

yes , i think duckduckgo can give good competition to google soon

0 votes

Matjaz Mirt

Interesting article. I would also like to see how duckduckgo.com can do vs google & bing.

0 votes

Ben Klaas

Duck Duck Go has been my default search engine for close to a year after reading http://dontbubble.us/ and http://donttrack.us/ . I’ve come to really rely on the ! operator it provides as well https://duckduckgo.com/bang.html.

All that said, I’d be willing to bet that Duck Duck Go would not score nearly as well as Google or Bing in this particular test (though would like to see the results of such a test). Because of everything mentioned above though, I’m willing to accept a slightly less capable search engine (when measuring just results set).

0 votes

RaMaN

Thanks for those Valuable links!

0 votes

Ryan Dube

Thanks – it would definitely be interesting to see how the scores match up. We’ll have to take a look at that.

0 votes

fish

I’ve just tried the same search terms on DuckDuckGo. The results are certainly interesting. I’ll not summarise them here because I’d like to encourage people who have never tried DuckDuckGo to give it s shot for themselves.

I’ve used Google for many years but I am getting very close to switching to DuckDuckGo.

0 votes

DB

always luvin me some goog search…powerful, fast & neato.

0 votes

Lisa Santika Onggrid

I’m still on Google. Used to be an avid Yahoo user, but Google search beats everything. At least for now.

0 votes

Nikhil Chandak

Google is better than Bing , but Bing is also good

0 votes

jane manning

Im happy with google so why would I change ? I dont do change and therefor would rather read articles like this to find out if things are any good. I often google reviews on software etc so I guess thats what Im sticking with

0 votes

Adi

all the way google for me !!

0 votes

Erwin Van de Velde

Google is far better in my opinion: Bing may give the same links, but Google gives results. E.g. when I look up a restaurant:
- Google: the website with specific content parts (e.g. menu, contact) and a map with the location
- Bing: just gives the URL

This difference is huge and for me the reason why Bing cannot compete with Google.

0 votes

Easton Wiki

Love Google integrating all other services into search to easily find docs etc.

0 votes

Saikat Basu

When it comes to image search, I used to find Bing better, but Google has improved over the last year.

0 votes

RaMaN

I always prefer Google. It do good job in verbatim.

1 votes

Junil Maharjan

There’s no surprise here. But I think Bing did better than i thought.

0 votes

Serge Langlois

http://www.stargett.com has been my default search engine and I have PDF, News and other search tab. I love it. :)

0 votes

Artis Zelmenis

Pretty nice article on search engine comparison, worthy to read, yet, I wish to mention something.

Why you give Bing lower score on search for pictures for a term “top of mount washington new hampshire”.

Quoting you:
However it did actually seem to do a little better with returning nearly-related images. That is, not pictures from the top of the moutnain itself, but long distance pictures showing the entire mountain.

But you were not searching for term “FROM top of mount washington new hampshire” or better, yet “PICTURES FROM top of mount washington new hampshire”, weren’t you?

if you ask pictures for a term “top of the mountain” then don’t wonder that the search engine gives you exactly that.

In this case seeing your print screen seems Bing just blow Google away.
Still a nice writting.

0 votes

Garris Rago

I have an irrational bias towards Google, probably because it’s the only search engine I’ve ever used (aside from trying search engines, or using specific ones for specific tasks) and am just so familiar with it