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August 13, 2007

Who Does Blended Search Better?

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Okay, so a few months back Google did it, and then Ask did it and now it looks like Yahoo is following suit (Terry, maybe you should have held on to those shares…) adding all sorts of blended-like features to their search results.

Yahoo’s offering isn’t as dramatic or as widespread as Google’s and Ask’s, but I like where they’re going. In fact, watching Yahoo put more and more audio, video, images and maps into their search results lead me to one question: Who does it better: Ask, Google or Yahoo?

Let’s see.

Music:

If you’ve stalked me on any one of the various social networking sites, you know that I’m heart is filled with the glorious sounds of Country music. (I know, it’s very odd for a girl from Long Island to be such a Country fan, but you can’t help who you love, right?) And my Country group of choice? That would be the always awesome Rascal Flatts.

  • Ask.com: Even if I didn’t already love Ask, their result for this query would be enough to do it. Ask.com clearly understands my Rascal Flatts love and is attacking this query from all angles. First there is the Rascal Flatts Smart Answer that comes complete with relevant links, such as their Official Site, ringtones, audio files, concert tickets, and other info. Then the 3D component kicks in, giving me a selection of images, sound clips coming from iLike, event listings and a seriously impressive Narrow and Expand Your Search option. This is perhaps the most beautiful page I have seen. I don’t even want to leave. But I have to. It’s time for Google.
  • Google : Okay, Google sucks. I’m sorry, but this is not an impressive result. A picture so small I can barely make it out and a (non-clickable) list of some of their albums and songs? I’m bored.
  • Yahoo: Yahoo has come up with a solid Music Shortcut that seems to mix what both Google and Ask are offering. It may not be as extensive as Ask’s, but Yahoo does give users video clips. Yahoo’s focus seems to be not so much on giving users everything on one page, but giving you a taste of all the different Yahoo properties and encouraging you to follow a link off the page and explore them. In other words, it’s all very Yahoo.

Who does Music better? Ask.com. No contest.

Sports:

Unless you’re a new Bruce Clay blog reader, you probably already know that I’m something of a Red Sox fan. I take my Red Sox very seriously, even more seriously than my love for the New England Patriots. I don’t want to hear any lip about the next bunch of shootouts, okay? [This example would have been more exciting if it had been about the Dodgers. --Susan]

  • Ask: Not quite as information-filled as the Rascal Flatts result, but still a nice collection of media found here. In my opinion, the Smart Answer is somewhat lacking. (Isn’t Gary Price originally from Boston? Represent!), but the 3D component does a solid job giving users news images, regular images, video, and news snippets. Somewhat interesting, if you hover over the video clips you get a little preview sans audio. Nice touch.
  • Google: Okay, this is totally boring. I never thought I’d miss seeing ads on the right side of the page, but the whiteness of this SERP is actually making me long for a touch of clutter. With the exception of a boring news results, Google isn’t working Universal Search into sports queries at all. Lame.
  • Yahoo: A query for solely [red sox] or even [boston red sox] gives me no blended features except for scores and schedules. However, as announced on Friday, if you search for a specific player Yahoo’s SERP comes to life. For example, if you’re specifically interested in David Ortiz, Yahoo will give you his vital stats and links pointing out to all its different portals. Both Google and Ask offered similar player listings.

Who does Sports better? I like Yahoo’s athlete profiles, but overall I’m going to have to with Ask.com. I specifically liked the distinction between Images and News Images, Ask also lets users read the article associated with the different News Image, similar to the way Google does with Google News Image Version.

My only criticism: Ask, please remove Johnny Damon’s name from the list of Related Names. He does not deserve to be there. Thanks.

Maps:

A week from today I will be attending SES San Jose and sitting in an overly-air conditioned session room located at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center. I’ve been there before that was one year and approximately 5, 000 search sessions ago. I don’t remember it; let’s see if the engines can refresh my memory.

  • Ask: Ask gives me a pretty standard Ask SERP – I get the business listing, images (some related, some not) and a map. Obviously, if I click on the business listing I’m brought inside AskCity where I can get directions and locate other businesses based on their proximity to the convention center. If you haven’t used AskCity before, it’s awesome.
  • Google: Google’s result for the San Jose McEnery Convention Center is basically your standard business listing, complete with a map, address, and phone number. It’s useful in that you-get-what-you-need kind of way.
  • Yahoo: Interestingly, Yahoo brings up no map-filled Short Answers unless you add "san jose" to the end of the query. I guess the "San Jose" "San Jose McEnery Convention Center" wasn’t good enough. (May want to work on that, guys.) Once you hit the right prompt, though, the listing is virtually identical to Google’s.

Who does Maps better? Although I use Ask for all my mapping needs, based on this query I’m going to go with Google. The result offered by Ask just seems busier than I need it to be. Google gives me all the info vital to my search and then gets out of the way.

Travel/Destination:

Quite sadly, my travel destinations are tied to the locations of the various search conferences, but let’s pretend for a second that I actually had a life that included travel. I mean, hitting Chicago in December is fun and all, but what about if I wanted to go someplace warm. Like Cancun!

  • Ask: Again, Ask shows it knows how to do blended search. The images it provides are to die for, we get Wiki’s entry on Cancun, the current weather (88 degrees and partly sunny) and the current time. The Narrow/Expand your search features are nice but I’m a little surprised there’s no Smart Answer. I’d also like a map. Until a week or so ago I didn’t realize Texas had a coastline. I know; shut up.
  • Google: All Google gives me are three Image results. Google did announce they were launching Universal Search, correct? So far I’m not impressed.
  • Yahoo: Searching for [cancun] hits upon another Shortcut that I really like. There’s a link to the Yahoo Travel Visitors Guide, plus hotel information, flight info, a restaurant guide, and yes, a map! Yahoo even gives me the three top-rated things to do. A nice touch.

Who does Travel/Destinations better? Yahoo.

Final thoughts: In the battle of who does blended search better my vote has to go to Ask.com. They seem to be the only engine really "getting it" right now. Yahoo is setting itself up as one to watch, though. They’ve launched a few impressive Shortcuts lately that are helping to bring blended and multimedia types results on the SERP. And for all the hype, Google seems to be the engine least invested. What’s up with that?





5 responses to “Who Does Blended Search Better?”

  1. Derick writes:

    I was going to ask where Live.com was. Then I went and did all of these searches there and discovered why you left them out – total crap.

  2. Steven Bradley writes:

    Now if only Ask had a clue about advertising.
    But seriously Lisa. A Long Island girl who listens to country music and roots for the Red Sox and Patriots. Where’d you go wrong?

  3. Lisa writes:

    Derick – Um, yeah, Microsoft really was left out for their own good. If you have nothing nice to say…

    Steven — I think Ask should put me in charge of their advertising. You agree, right? Okay, you go pitch it!

    And about that other stuff — don’t think I can’t find you, because I can. ;)

  4. Steven Bradley writes:

    I’ll pitch you as the advertising director for Ask. You’d do a better job than whoever currently holds the position.
    As a former Long Island boy I couldn’t resist on the other stuff. I was thinking of starting some Yankee/Red Sox trash talking too, but I held back.
    I’m guessing before you started rooting for the Sox you were a Mets fan.

  5. Lisa writes:

    [shudder]

    Please don’t make me relive all those years wasted at Shea Stadium in my father’s box seats. He never did quite understand why his children didn’t enjoy them as much as we were supposed to. And I emphasize “supposed to”.



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