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Google or Bing – Which is Better?

When I first wrote this post back in March, 2012, the main differences between Google and Bing were customer service issues. That is to say, differences in the ways you can interact with the search engine operators, how responsive they are to site issues, and the tools they provide for monitoring and optimizing your site.

But that was before the latest round of Google algorithm updates, which took place in April. You may have heard about them by their names; Panda and Penguin. However, according to various reports, there were actually multiple changes to the way the Google search algorithm works.

What did these updates do, and how will they affect you? Well according to Google, they are designed to reduce the amount of “spam” in their search results and improve the search experience for their visitors. A good thing, right?

Unfortunately, these updates turned out to be a disaster for both web searchers and web site owners. If you are using Google to search the web now, you areĀ  getting a distorted and inaccurate picture of what is available. Local search results that we have been tracking for a year or more have taken a huge hit in quality. Sure, if you’re looking for Amazon or eBay, you’re going to find them without any problem. But if you’re looking for a barber shop in Kansas City or a cleaners in Klamath Falls, you’re going to find that local directories have replaced the local business web sites that you might have expected to show up in organic search results. I’ve also noticed a significant increase in the number of “parked” (unbuilt) web pages and spam blogs ranking very highly in the organic search results. One part of the Google search page that apparently hasn’t been negatively affected by the changes is the Google Places search results that are displayed up near the top of the page just after the sponsored results (ads). They are still relevant, but keep in mind that they are only displayed for certain types of searches.

By contrast, I am finding that Bing/Yahoo search results are of consistently higher quality. I never thought I’d say this, but I am now starting to use Bing regularly. However, changes are coming to Bing as well, and it remains to be seen how these will affect search results.

What if you’re a small business or organization? How does this affect you? According to reports I’ve read, many small businesses have been devastated by this latest round of Google updates. Sites that used to show up on the first page or two of Google search results have completely disappeared. Businesses are losing revenue and people are losing their jobs. It is a royal mess.

Three of my small business web sites were negatively impacted by the latest round of Google changes. These sites all went from page one or page two positions for local searches to essentially becoming invisible. In one case, I went through the first 58 pages (580 results) and never found our home page.

How did we get here, and what can we do about it? The answer to the first question is relatively simple. Google has become the world’s most popular search engine and as a result, if your business web site does not show up well in Google search results, it probably won’t be found. Google has focused mainly on the user experience for searchers at the expense of those of us who are creating the content they search for.

The answer to the second question is more complex. First, I think we have become way too dependent on Google. Thus, when they make changes to their algorithms, there can be huge negative consequences for thousands, if not millions of people. Google is an unregulated monopoly with a tremendous amount of power. That is not a good combination.

How should we respond? Personally, I think we all need to take a “time out” and not focus so much on Google. Somebody over there must be aware that these updates have been a complete disaster for everyone– searchers and web site owners alike. Hopefully they’re working on changes that will return Google search results to the quality levels we have come to expect.

But what if they don’t? This is a huge opportunity for Microsoft Bing to take market share away from Google. As web site owners, we can help by encouraging our site visitors to use Bing. We should also take a hard look at where our advertising dollars are going. Instead of sending all of our money to Google, let’s consider other opportunities. Not only Bing, but also Facebook and local search sites. There are thousands of local search sites, so it’s important to determine which ones are going to be effective for your business or organization. I’ll talk more about that in a future post.

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