Citigroup tested 200 of the most common queries to determine which major search engine delivers what it considers to be the most relevant results and Google (NSDQ: GOOG) won by a wide margin. From the report released Tuesday: 71 percent of the time a Google search brought up the most relevant results or brought up results as relevant as the competition, compared to 49 percent for Bing, and 30 percent for Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO). But analyst Mark Mahaney says there is no need at all for Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) to despair: “We view our study as generally validating the positive Bing reviews … but also demonstrating Google’s very strong position,” he says.
Indeed, Microsoft has said that with its relaunched search engine the company is actually focusing on four core areas — travel, health, local and shopping. And, in two of those areas — health and travel — Citigroup says that Microsoft usually returns results that are more relevant than its rivals (The investment bank does not look at shopping). That’s certainly an indication that Microsoft’s attempt to position itself as a “decision engine” around those areas is working.
It’s also worth noting that “relevance” is difficult to define. What may be the most relevant result to Citigroup researchers may not actually be the most relevant result to another searcher. Citigroup says it picked winners for each of its queries based on “relevancy of the organic search results” as well as the “robustness of the search experience, which included factors such as image and video inclusion, Search Assist, and Site Breakout.” That sounds very subjective.
For its part, Microsoft has unsurprisingly insisted that its own metrics show that its search engine produces results as relevant as Google’s.