Given the high value of the online search market, whether brand perception or quality of search results matters more for users is a highly salient question. This paper presents findings of the largest controlled, systematic preference elicitation study of search quality versus brand perception. We examine a total of 548 instances of sponsored and organic search results from the Google and Bing search engines as rated by 25 participants. We find that, if users are not aware of the source of a set of search results, they will consistently rate Google results as better. However, the presence of the Google brand strongly influences perceived quality, essentially over-riding differences in search result quality. Together, these results demonstrate that, while Google may outperform Bing in blind searching, trust in the Google brand is a much more significant factor in users’ search preferences.
Author and article information
Ahmed A. Ataullah
David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science
University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada