Webometric Thoughts

August 19, 2008

A week of Asking not Googling

Filed under: Ask,Google,search engines — admin @ 1:32 pm

In response to Google’s continued growth in the search engine market, last week I decided to attempt to give up Google Search. For the last week my search engine of choice has been Ask:

Whilst I have regularly used different search engines over the years, a fundamental shift came in my searching behaviour in about 2000. Pre-2000 there was no single search engine that dominated my search activities, I went all over the place: HotBot, Yahoo, Lycos, AltaVista. I even Asked Jeeves on occasion. Since 2000, however, Google has dominated my life, with only occasional visits to those few search engines that continue have their own index. Trying to break eight years of Google dominated search has a number of difficulties.
Habit – You don’t have to think about typing in Google, you fingers seemingly hit the keys before you have even decided what you want to search for; this is not an easy habit to break. I quickly remember, however, as soon as I have typed GOOGLE, or after I have typed in my search terms, that I am trying to give up Google Search, and force myself to go to Ask and type in the queries again (however tempting the Google results may look). I think Google is a habit that can be broken, but it isn’t easy.
Trust – After using Google for eight years, I find that I trust them to do their job as a search engine. Whilst I understand the limitations of any single search engine (i.e., that Google’s search engine is not exhaustive, and that other search engines will have different pages indexed), tens of thousands of queries have taught me what to expect from the Google index. When I don’t get the results I need from Google I make a judgement as to whether I need to try somewhere else or adjust my search terms; if I don’t find what I want on Ask my first reaction is to question the quality of the search engine. Trust is something that can only come with time.
The Google Package – Google now offers more than just web search: blogs, emails, news, image search, blog search, scholar. No other search engine provides such a variety of products that are of the same quality (the UK version of Ask News is currently rubbish); you can’t help but return to a certain extent. Vigilance is constantly necessary if we are to stop falling back into our old Google habits.
The Gold Standard – Despite trying to break away from Google search, I still care how it ranks my pages. Most people use Google. Most of my traffic comes from Google. It means more to have a high Google rank than a high Ask rank, and you can’t help but check.

Whilst it was always going to be difficult to move away from Google, Ask’s search compares favourably, you just have to make an effort to break the Google habit, and give Ask enough time to build up a level of trust. For all Google’s growth, there are two things I prefer about Ask: The Skins (the polka dot background always cheers me up); and the URL is 3 keystrokes shorter. How many man hours would have been saved if Google had called themselves Goo?

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