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Customer Satisfaction with Search Engines

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Yahoo rates higher in terms of customer satisfaction than Google. That's according to the annual e-business report released by ForeSee Results and the University of Michigan's American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI).

The e-business sector experienced a 1.7 percent dip to an overall score of 75.2 on ACSI's 100 point scale. The e-business category includes search engines, portals, news, and information sites.

Google's score sunk from 81 last year to 78 in 2007; a 3.7 percent decrease. In the same period, Yahoo raised its score from 76 to 79, up 6.8 percent.

"While Google does a great job in search, which is what they do, but [consumers” are seeing Google the same as three years ago," said Larry Freed, president and CEO of ForeSee Results.

Freed said Google's word-of-mouth marketing earned the search engine success in search, but hasn't effectively promoted applications like Gmail, Google Docs & Spreadsheets, and Google Earth. "It might be time to step back and grow the market share in these applications."

Yahoo rebounded after suffering what Freed calls the "relaunch effect," when the site underwent a serious upgrade. "It takes [users” a while to get comfortable and relearn how to find things," Freed said. "The future looks bright for Yahoo, its gotten past the tough spot of the relaunch, which should translate into financial gains."

Ask.com registered a gain of 5.6 percent to a score of 75, up from 71 last year. While Ask.com relaunched in early 2006, when it shed its "Ask Jeeves" identity, it never suffered the relaunch effect. "Ask did a relaunch and really had remarkable results," Freed said. "They took the Google strategy and seemed to actually do it a little better."

Ask.com's homepage is simple, but promotes the services like city searches, news and blogs, Freed said. "While clearly they are a minority player, Ask is poised to start to gain market share. I think they've done a great job reinventing the Web site, and transforming from Ask Jeeves to Ask, and it will start paying dividends," he said.

News and information sites on the Web were also covered in the report. The category received an overall score of 75, up 2.7 percent from 2006. Freed said there were no clear winners in the news and information category. "I have not seen them be able to leverage that personality to the Web. When you get to the Internet, you lose that personality, with personality you can build loyalty," he said.

Another factor affecting loyalty to a particular Web site is the commoditization of news. "More and more users are not going to those sites for information, they are going to the Yahoos and the Googles," said Freed.

The answer, said Freed, is in the convergence of multiple channels. "You'll see more people starting to watch TV with their laptop, doing things like going to the Web site to vote on a topic, or find out more. If they can create that convergence, they will build the loyalty and bolster the strength and loyalty of the online channel."

ForeSee Results uses the University of Michigan's ACSI as a predictor of financial performance. Data are derived from an annual interview of approximately 70,000 consumers, released on a quarterly basis.


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