In today's coverage of the new Yahoo! Search radio advertisements, Erick Schonfeld at TechCruch says:

So can an advertising campaign change any of that? Search is not like a soft drink. People use the search engine that they think can do the best job in helping them find things. Now, maybe Google has brainwashed all of us to believe that it does indeed produce more relevant results. And in a blind taste-test more people might choose Yahoo's results. But if that is the case, I'd rather take an interactive quiz that puts each search engine to the test and make my own decision. That would go much farther to convince me to switch than Yahoo's current creative.

Funny he suggests that. I remember suggesting exactly that a few years back when I worked in the marketing group for Yahoo! Search. I suggested we do something inspired by Twingine but which hid the engine identity and let users judge for themselves.

Why didn't it happen? Because some of the same people who were convinced that Yahoo! Search was "just as good as" Google (and better in some cases, they said) were afraid that people would realize that this was not the case.

The cognitive dissonance was amusing, but it was also frustrating and stupid. "Either we believe we're better or we don't... Which is it?" is the sort of argument I tried to make.

I guess that question eventually answered itself.

Oh, well...

Posted by jzawodn at October 14, 2008 07:12 PM

Reader Comments
# Joe Lazarus said:

I don't think the blind taste test would help Yahoo!'s case. It's not good enough to be on parity with Google. In order for me to switch, the results would need to be significantly better, not just comparable. Plus, brand matters.

on October 14, 2008 08:22 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:


I remember saying that it didn't matter if we were "as good as." You have to be noticeably better to give anyone a reason to switch.

on October 14, 2008 08:25 PM
# said:

Ye-es, but Microsoft did the same with the Mojave/ Vista marketing, and look where that got them...
Of course the problem for a search engine is that if it's 'just as good' as Google, then what's the incentive for users to switch from Google? And if it's different from Google, users will be reluctant to switch from what they know so well.
It puts most of the smaller engines between a rock and a hard place, and arguably the only way out of it is syndication deals (such as that for Live Search/ Facebook) which mean users use said search engine, and perhaps realise that it's actually quite good.

on October 16, 2008 01:53 AM
# nomadhacker said:

Your idea was good then and I think it's good now (though it's quite a bit late). I think if they make this a major marketing push, like a high-profile mobile marketing campaign hitting the major cities, it could make some people think. I used to work in mobile marketing (sometimes called experiential marketing or event marketing) and the hands-on approach that it takes really gets through to people in a way that other 'ads' don't. It might help Yahoo!.

on October 16, 2008 09:33 AM
# Philip Aaronson said:

Switching really couldn't be simpler, there's no barrier here. I've often wondered if a use both campaign might be effective. A, "try us if you can't find what you want" style message.

on October 16, 2008 09:35 AM
# jmy said:

I remember seeing some academic research in 2006 that did a blind Google/Yahoo taste test. And people indeed could not tell the difference. Yahoo caught up, a long time ago.

I've never understood the mentality of people who say "It's not good enough to be on parity with Google. In order for me to switch, the results would need to be significantly better, not just comparable."

Anyone who has spent just a little bit of time actually examining and comparing the results from multiple search engines quickly realizes that often the results from two different engines often have the same objective precision/relevance, but have very different documents that achieve that relevance.

If you only use a single search engine, and never switch, then you are limiting yourself to the (even unconscious) bias of that one engine. There is often a lot of value in trying out other engines, even if those other results are "just as good as, but no better than" your current engine.

I suppose the people who don't realize this are also the people tuned to Fox News all day, and never get their news from multiple sources, either? I just don't understand the mentality.

on October 21, 2008 09:54 AM
# Rocky said:

We did tests where we'd take the exact same set of results, in the same order, and slap a Google or other logo on it. Google always won.

Even when changing the Google order so that Google's #1 was no longer #1, the page with the Google logo won.

It's hard to overcome that kind of brand power.

on November 7, 2008 11:09 PM
# Shane Sheibani said:

I think that at this jpoint in time people are pretty much locked into Google for their search engine,(although I can't see much difference between Google and Yahoo) I mean, what's the first thing people tell you when you want to find something? "Google it"!

on November 12, 2008 01:34 AM
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