Why Google is still far better than MSN Search

Alright, I saw Robert Scoble’s rather self-aggrandizing post about an ostensible April Fool’s joke at MSN search and did an MSN Search on ‘Dave Taylor’. Predictably with such an incredibly common first and last name, I am mixed in with various other Dave Taylor’s, including a trombonist, a hockey player, and one of the key programmers of the original game DOOM.
But check out the ads and you’ll instantly see why Google is still far ahead of MSN Search.
On MSN Search you see ads like this:

MSN Search: terrible ad matches

Now maybe it’s the case that these merchants have just blanket paid to have ads show up in every possible result, but that’s poor advertising and in this case it’s certainly poor targeting too: I am 100% confident that you can’t buy me or any of the other Dave Taylor’s at Dealtime, for example.

But that’s not all. There’s another set of ads that MSN automatically associates with this search that are equally far off target.
You might be thinking “so what?” but realize that the basis of Google’s massive market capitalization / value to the investor community is based almost completely on its ability to intelligently target advertising (through its AdWords program) to specific searches, thereby completely changing the dynamics of the advertising marketplace.
If MSN cannot match Google’s ad targeting and is actually polluting its search results with inane and offtarget results, it’s detrimental to both the advertiser (I’m sure “LowLender.com” and “Dealtime” are not happy to be displayed on an irrelevant search) and most of all the user of the search engine. If the results aren’t focused and targeted, users will just move along to a different, better search engine.
Oh, the ads to the right of the result for my vanity search on MSN Search are:

MSN Search: terrible ad matches

Now, to show you what I mean about Google doing such a better job, do the same search on Google and compare the results.
This time there are no “sponsored” placements at the top of the page (Google uses those, but knows not to target them with this particular search) and the sponsored ads on the right side? They’re far better targeted overall:
Google Search: pretty darn decent ad matches

The third match for an eBay affiliate isn’t too great, but the other two are spot on and make sense. Two for three decent contextually relevant ads is a far better result than MSN’s two for seven, isn’t it?
I realize that this is just one search, and I also realize that I’m not Tom Cruise, George W. Bush, or even Paris Hilton in terms of popularity and the odds that a company would target advertising for people seeking me, but there’s a core lesson here nonetheless in our new digital advertising economy:
      The site with the best ad targeting is going to win.
And at this juncture, I still see that Google’s the company to beat.

4 comments on “Why Google is still far better than MSN Search

  1. Amen and amen.
    MSN has been having some terrible relevancy problems for both their natural and paid search listing. It seems like things are slowly getting better, but they are still far from anything presentable in my opinion.
    I agree with you when it comes to relevancy. As more searchers become savvy searchers we will see rapid migration to the most relevant results.
    Google is, by far, the company to beat. I will be very interested to see if the addition of the click-through-rate metric to ad serving by Yahoo! will lead to some relevancy improvements on Yahoo!’s paid listings.
    I guess we will see in Q3…

  2. I find myself leaving Google to search MSN and finding better results these days. I think most of the people who are putting Google on a pedestal are mostly those who are currently getting a good amount of traffic in Google’s SERPS. Don’t forget, someone is bidding on those paid listings. I just did a search on my own name and there was only one paid listing, “books”. Nobody is bidding on my name. It’s all hype. Most of these people talking about Google being so great would surely do an about face if they were getting most of their traffic from MSN Search tomorrow. The truth is Google is not that much better than MSN in terms of relevancy at all, if at all. It boils down to personal preference and who can generate the most buzz, and webmasters in top Google search results generate allot of buzz.

  3. Very interesting post.
    I have just recently blogged about this very same issue as well, as I seem to notice many irrelevant AdWords/AdSense adverts on Google SERPs.
    Please read the whole post and judge for yourself. I think Google needs to improve on this front and know that they can.
    PS: Dave – I think you are the Paris Hilton of the blog world! All you need to do is shave the beard. 🙂

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