The Midwest of the US was rocked by an unusual 5.2 earthquake. Looking at Google Trends, which shows popular recent queries, I can see people immediately hit the search engines with queries like illinois earthquake, chicago earthquake, and midwest earthquake. So how did the search engines do? Especially when search engines are supposed to be providing better direct answers for queries like this? Not particularly well. Google alone came through with news results on a general search. All four did better with specific searches.
First, I checked what you’d get just for a search on [earthquake] at the four major search engines:
Google on earthquake:
Not bad — news search results right at the top.
Yahoo on earthquake:
Zilch. Bad on you, Yahoo.
Microsoft on earthquake:
Sadly, that gives results focused only on California and Nevada. And they’re not really results all indented under the top listing, but rather links to more info deeper within that particular site.
How about Ask.com? For earthquake:
Overall, I’d say Google took it for being most helpful. But how about for a more specific query like [midwest earthquake]? Here, Ask gives what I know it is capable of, a nice display of recent earthquakes at the top of the page:
But pity it doesn’t do this for a general search. Earlier this week, I heard on Twitter from GrammarGirl that there might have been an earthquake near Reno. There was. But if I hadn’t known the location, I wouldn’t have gotten much help from Ask.
Getting specific also gave me news results at the top of the page from Yahoo and Microsoft, while Google continued to perform as well as before. The Yahoo and Microsoft changes:
Overall, I wish I’d seen more "direct answer" style boxes like Ask provided on a general search from all the major search engines. At the very least, I should get news results — and in this, only Google did the right thing for a general query. FYI, see also Visualize Earthquake Data In Google Earth for looking at earthquake information within Google Earth.