He might work for Microsoft, but blogvangelist Robert Scoble says he's sticking with Google over his company's own search engine for now. Two reasons -- too many ads above the fold and disappointment with the results of a search on "microsoft blog." See his Just a little search comparison entry for more.
MSN deserves a little more credit on the ad side, however. I tried a search for dvd players on Google, MSN's beta search site and Yahoo and measured from the top of page down to the first editorial web listing. (For the record, I'm running 1024x768 on a 20" LCD monitors).
On Google, it was 12.5 centimeters to the first result. Above that were two different ads stretched horizontally across the screen, followed by Google Desktop OneBox results, then Google News OneBox results. Eliminate the Google Desktop results, and it's a 10 centimeter drop.
On the MSN Search beta site, it was also a 10 centimeter drop. Even though MSN Search has three ads, rather than two, they are a bit more compact. The two ads on Google take up 3 centimeters of space, while MSN takes 4.5 centimeters -- but MSN doesn't integrate any news search results in the query, so it saves a bit of room overall.
Over at Yahoo, it's a 17 centimeter stretch. Four ads are shown horizontally, taking up a giant 8 centimeters of space.
All this will vary depending on the search, of course. In some cases, Google won't have horizontal ads. And if it lacks OneBox results, even more space is saved. However, things like OneBox results or Yahoo's Shortcuts are sometimes more relevant that the usual primacy given to web results, so I won't fault them for that at all. It's good invisible tab implementation.
Instead, I think it goes more to first impressions. As noted, the Google horizontal ad box is simply smaller in size than MSN's and often doesn't show at all. MSN isn't that bad for getting you to web results, if that's what you want, but they can still feel a bit further down.
As for the search test, it's always dangerous to rate search engines on the basis of just one query, yet that's often what will resonate most with searchers, especially in the case of ego searches. It doesn't matter that you should do a battery of tests. If someone searches for what they expect and don't get it, that search engine is deemed to have lost.
Again, a little slack for both MSN Search and Yahoo. Google brought the blogs.msdn.com site up first as Robert felt a good search engine should do. But Yahoo and MSN Search weren't bad in putting it there second. And arguably, the blogs.msdn.com site might not be the top answer for that query.
While it is where Microsoft employees blog, it doesn't appear to be the official Microsoft blog. In fact, from what I can tell, there doesn't seem to be an official Microsoft blog at all. So who is to say what should be first for a query on "microsoft blog?" Ultimately, the searcher -- making Robert right subjectively but not objectively for everyone.
FYI to the blogs.msdn.com site, if you do want to be first for "microsoft blog," put those words in your HTML title tag! That's simple, long-standing SEO tip would probably be enough to move you to first on MSN and Yahoo.
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