Yahoo and Google – Brands you can Trust?

While I was browsing the web yesterday, I came across an interesting study on the effect of brand awareness on the evaluation of search engine results (PDF). Basically, the entire study boiled down to a series of tests in which search engine users were provided identical results for a query, but those results were branded as coming from one of 4 different search engines, namely Google, MSN, Yahoo, and an in house search called AI2RS.


In the study the researchers found that given identical results, users are overwhelmingly more likely to trust those coming from Yahoo and Google over those coming from a different engine. In fact, users generally claimed Google and Yahoo results were superior to other engine results despite the actual results returned being identical. While you might say this was a foreseeable conclusion, it’s still interesting to note just how much branding effects a user’s trust when it comes to working with the Web.  This is very similar to a study performed last year in Germany that looked at MRI brain scans of people reacting emotionally to different brands.

So, what exactly does this mean for your online business?

I think clearly it shows that users on the web are no different than consumers walking into your average brick and mortar based business. They identify with brands and they establish a trust with those brands. This trust results in several things, but most notably is their willingness to do repeat business with the brand and also to implicitly trust their recommendations and enhancements.  

It’s these traits that you need to take into consideration when deciding many aspects of your web presence such as advertising your products and services or even simply where to focus your search ranking efforts. For example, what converts better sales, being number 1 on or number 15 on Yahoo? While you may get more clicks at Ask, you may not get as many converting customers simply due to the trust issue.

Food for thought, and definitely something every one of us needs to think about when running an online business. One thing I would be interested to try is all three companies have respective advertising networks, and I wonder if promoting Google products converts much better than converting the others? I’d wager on yes, simple because of the brand name associated with it…What do you think?

10 thoughts on “Yahoo and Google – Brands you can Trust?”

  1. yup, very true…the human mind is wired a certain way, and the internet really doesn’t change that….very interesting post

  2. As you mentioned in the post, even though we all recognize the power of these brands, this experiment really hammers that point home. And people have a hard time understanding why internet marketers are obsessed with Google 😉 Poor MSN, they just can’t get anything right…

  3. Brand is king. I’m even starting to blindly trust high profile bloggers simply because I’ve been reading them for a while.

    Dont worry Joshua, not even marketers are immune to this branding effect

  4. With that in mind, how does a new brand like say, the re-designed, hope to crack into the search and advertising market?

    Is their only opportunity to wait for Google to screw up and alienate customers?

    As long as Google keeps their customers satisfied, it only continuously improves their brand strength…

  5. We do trust Google and yahoo, and, I agree it is a matter of branding, but do you agree that the biggest thing google did to brand itself was get things right? I’ll admit I have only been paying attention to these things for the last 2 years or so, but isn’t google king because google is almost always right? That must be the best branding tool of all–getting it right.

  6. I personally think Google has so much clout because they are sort of the anti-corporation. I mean they are huge, they have tons of money, and they crush people like flies, but with a lot of their stuff they tend to give things away for free, cater to developers with API’s, and as you said, do things right with the user in mind and not the dollars in their eyes.

    At the end of the day though, and I think this is what many companies miss out on, by catering to your users and not your investors, you ultimately make both happy by making more money and dominating your field…

    A lesson I think a lot of the big guys still need to learn…

  7. Brand is king, I agree. But it’s important to look into how Google uses all information that they gather from the tools you sign your site up for to possibly better or worsen your situation. Personally I don’t trust any of them. As far as business trust, bigger brands usually have a bigger client base which leads to more testimonials/recommendations, and if the company is doing at least something right then people will flock to it.

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