French study pans all search engines

Stephen Baker

This study from France (ex Battelle) shows that most of the results delivered by search engines, including leaders Google and Yahoo!, are disappointing. Does this mean that some newcomer could come along with better results and displace Google with the ease that Google blew past Alta Vista et al six years ago?

The one advantage of a newcomer would be that no one would know, at least initially, how to game its system. Google has spawned an entire industry dedicated to engineering and perverting its results. In a sense, it's a parallel to the hacker and virus industry that surrounds Microsoft. That Google industry is gaining ground. The results in some categories are so skewed that the most relevant clicks--surprise, surprise--are the paid advertisements.

This trend is clear in the French study:
"...[W]e can see a clear degradation of the results in terms of perceived relevance for commercial links, for all search engines: the grade given to commercial links is systematically lower than that given to other results. Google and Yahoo lose around one point for each commercial link, which is a lot on a 5-point scale, especially when the highest grade obtained is only 2.3."

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