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Bing v/s Google eye tracking study reveals big differences between the two


Ever since the launch of Bing, the search world is in two sides.

1- The bing lovers and the
2– “I’ll take my time to believe” types

I think I’m the second type. Bing’s traffic looked promising. After all, all that money pumped into promotion gave results. But apart from that Bing was/is an interesting tool in itself. The direction was quite unique of that of a “decision engine”. I wouldn’t have given it a try, if they branded as “the better search engine”. Even before trying I’d presume it to be a failure, because I knew Live and MSN. So …you know !

But no, looks like Bing is really turning heads. A recent report at mashable shows that Bing is really badass, it crossed, twitter and even in numbers.


What’s interesting is that Live is now dead, its moved to Bing. So all the traffic that Live had is not on BIng. And the additional numbers I’d assume are the testers. If the traffic sustains, then I’d agree that Bing is making an impact, but if it declines, it just goes out to show that the “testers” aren’t satisfied.

Now, here’s an interesting Eyetracker study done on a  couple of people comparing Google and Bing.

In this study, Eye tracking technology was used to capture 21 participants’ eye movements as they completed two informational (e.g., "Learn about eating healthy") and two transactional (e.g., "Book a last minute vacation") search tasks in each engine. 21 people are not that much, but it definitely shows interesting patterns.

Check out the heatmaps comparing the two.


And here are the results.

Distribution of attention on Google vs. Bing:

  • Google and Bing did not differ in terms of the amount of attention on the organic search results.
    In each search, all participants looked at the organic search results, spending an average of 7 seconds in that area.
  • Attention on the sponsored links located above the organic results was similarly high for both Bing and Google.
    Over 90% of participants looked in that area during each search. As expected, during transactional searches, participants would spend more time looking at the sponsored results on top (~2.5 seconds) than they did on informational searches (~1.5 seconds).
  • However, sponsored links on the right attracted more attention on Bing (~42% of participants per search) than they did on Google (~25% of participants per search).
    The participants who fixated on these links spent approximately 2.5 seconds looking at the area during transactional searches and 2 seconds during informational searches. These times were similar for the two search engines.
  • Another difference between Bing and Google involved related searches.
    On Bing, related searches are shown on the left, right below the categories, while on Google, related searches are below the organic search results, towards the bottom of the page. Bing’s related searches had a much higher visibility than Google’s, attracting the attention of 31% of participants per search. Google’s related searches attracted the attention of only 5% of participants per search.
    Read the full story here.

These indeed are great results. Although its obvious that Bing has a slightly different layout compared to Google, users tend to look for organic search results more than anything else on the page. And in Google they are more accessible than on Bing.

Its only a matter of time to get an answer on whether Bing is really shifting people from using Google or not. At the moment, it sure is turning some heads, in fact, lots of them.

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Written by Mani Karthik

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24 Responses

  1. Regarding the heat maps i personally would be rather sceptical – google users are conditioned to the google layout which hasnt changed since its launch – so they know exactly where to find what they are looking for.

    On the other hand, the Bing users are probably rather first-time-users or people who try to fetch all changes (which came with the relaunch of msn live). So their eyes wander around to find the requested information and to determine whats advertisement and whats not.

    In my opinion the bing heatmaps will soon adjust to the ones of google.

    • I agree with this (more than with Raghu) which leads to something more interesting -

      Visitors to Google are mentally blocking out the adverts but visitors to Bing are not. Good news for Google users but not good news for advertisers (who are really the people keeping Google going).

      Maybe it is time for Google to shake things up a bit to break the mental ad-blockers and to get people to look at the adverts again.

      • Thats true – but i reckon they are afraid of loosing users by randomly inserting Adwords entries into the search results, because it could turn into a negative user expierence which is bad for cassual users who dont get the difference (and thats against their company policy “do nothing bad”)… hmm do i sound like a google fanboy? hope not =)

  2. Bing might be not proving the relevant results users are looking for and they end up clicking on ads?

  3. Sultan of SEO

    I agree with Raqhu… even when I have tried to use Bing I end up looking at the sponsored links to find what I’m looking for. To be quit honest… I don’t think MSN has changed their algo’s at all from before, and we all know that it sucked before. Guess what… it still sucks. All MSN did what throw a lot of money into a marketing campaign, which I’ll admit has turned out better than I had initially thought… “**Bing**”. Man I hate that sound, but thats why it ended up working for them. People that didn’t know any better thought it was cute… those of us that did, hated it so much that it became interesting. IF I where MSN I would act quickly while they have everyones attention and improve their search results before everyone that doesn’t know any better forgets about them like I have…

    - The Sultan

  4. I’m of the opinion that Bing is just the same old crappy MSN index hidden inside new wrapper paper. Google still has the best index in terms of quality, and until Bing improves their index I won’t be using them as my primary search engine.

  5. WillC

    Well, this is certainly a different take on the “competition” between the two. But the results don’t shock me too much. Bing just has more going on up top then Google does, so naturally it catches more attention. The left and right features are placed in a spot where the eye will catch it better. Google’s related searches are in danger of not being seen at all and there is now proof.
    I would like to see a bigger study like this with more test subjects to see how much of a trend this is. I personally think that Bing’s presentation is way better (I had seen a similar search layout used before this by and that means a lot now a days when one of the big goals is to get eyeballs wondering around for the sake of advertisers.
    As far as how much this has to do with the actual results and experience? Not really sure.

  6. Since Yahoo’s site is both a portal and a search engine, whereas those features are split in Microsoft’s sites, looking at the sum of Microsoft’s sites vs. Yahoo posts an even rosier picture for Microsoft.

  7. Great comparision. Yes i read the post in

  8. Bing might be not proving the relevant results users are looking for and they end up clicking on ads?

  9. pobus

    Although it’s interesting to compare the two in terms of eye-tracking, there isn’t much context provided on the participants so it’s difficult to assess what the long-term impact will be.

    You also make a judgement about the initial usage figures, but given the amount of hype the launch of Bing has driven that’s not surprising at all – the deciding factor, as always, will be whether the gimmick keeps people interested for long enough. IMHO I think not, but time will tell :)

  10. It will be interesting to see what happens over time. I know that since Bing came out, one of my sites is getting tremendous targeted traffic that it did not get from Google, but that may change!

    Thanks for the in-depth information.

  11. ReaderX

    Several months later, this reads like meaningless hype.

    Comparing traffic to Twitter? Meaningless.

    Eye tracking between users who had never seen Bing and therefore looked around a bit more versus users who surely must have used Google before and therefore looked around much less out of familiarity? Meaningless.

    Frankly, this reads like schlock journalism of someone who borrows other people’s research and writes exclusively about hot topics of the day in order to whore for traffic, rather than someone who thinks seriously through the issues or does any research.

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