Penn State released a report — Branding matters — even when searching — that claims the brand value of a search engine can make searchers believe results are better or worse than they are.
The study showed that when a searcher was given an identical result set across Google, Yahoo, Windows Live Search and an in house search engine, Google and Yahoo came out as more relevant. Why? Because of the brand of the search engine.
Despite the results pages being identical in content and presentation, participants indicated that Yahoo! and Google outperformed MSN Live Search and the in-house search engine.
The study was done on a sample of 32 participants, with “camping Mexico,” “laser removal,” “manufactured home” and “techno music” as the search queries. They were then asked to rate each result on a three-point scale consisting of very relevant, somewhat relevant, and not relevant.
After the study was complete, on average about 36 percent of all results were judged relevant to the query. Yahoo scored 15 percent above the average while Google scored just 0.7 percent above the average.
I find it very interesting that Yahoo scored higher than Google in this study.