In SEO, many of the practices implemented prioritise the improvement a site’s ranking on Google over most other search engines, such as Yahoo, MSN, and Bing. There are a multitude of reasons as to why Google is the primary choice of search engine for SEO; however the distinction of the brand name plays an instrumental part in its dominance. The credence of a brand name often contributes to audience opinion, regardless of its performance.
To gain a deeper understanding of this effect, we have analysed the results of a 2009 study conducted by Jansen, Zhang & Schultz, which investigates the impact of brand name and its effect on user perception on search engine performance. Referencing the 2002 works of Wildemuth & Carter who state “design of the search engine pages were seen to have little impact on user opinion as in studies of search engine interface usability, the results among various search engines have been similar,” it was established that most search engine interfaces comprise of similar layouts and back-end technologies.
Show and compare design of different search engine landing pages
Most people would admit that they always use Google when searching for a specific website. Why is this? If we look at three popular search engines – Google, Yahoo and Bing – we can see that they have similar layout, features and results. Studies have shown that Google is the most popular simply because it has the strongest brand name. As a result, when optimising your website, factor in Google’s algorithms, and Goggle’s E-A-T score over other search engines to ensure you rank higher.
Through elimination of these factors, the question was then posed as to what the distinguishing aspects are in determining users’ search engine preferences.
Jansen, Zhang & Schultz found that, indeed, brand was a major factor in the searching process. The study investigated four particular stages as a way of gauging the users’ perception of the search engines; search engine selection, search engine results page evaluation, individual link evaluation, and evaluation of the landing page. For each focus area, brand was seen to affect the users’ perception of the overall search engine performance. Regardless of which search engine a participant used for a particular domain, the results for each query were the same, yet brand was still found to have significant influence on a number of all links examined, organic links examined, sponsored links examined, all links clicked, and sponsored links clicked. Furthermore, it showed that users seemed to place a high degree of trust in major search engine brands (such as Google & Yahoo); however, they were more engaged in the searching process when using lesser-known search engines (such as MSN & an in-house search engine). Of the 32 participants 10 were Yahoo! users and 31 users for Google. With these results as evidence, Jansen, Zhang & Schultz saw that the implications of their research findings gave empirical weight to the notion that affective and cognitive user perceptions affect user interaction with systems. Essentially, what they found was that the stronger the brand of search engine, the stronger the perceived performance by the user.
Using their findings, it can be understood as to why Google is used as the primary search engine of choice for SEO. Amongst search engine users, Google’s brand enhances its perception of performance in comparison with its competitors. This was supported by the verbal responses of the participants which indicated that brand recognition drew a direct correlation to the product or service’s perceived quality. These findings are consistent with those of the previous SEO TV series, in that greater brand equity sees an increase in a consumer’s ability to recognise or recall a brand which is central to purchasing decision-making. The majority of web users are drawn to use Google due to its strong brand and associate that directly with the perception of it being the highest quality. Essentially users associate the top ranking sites on Google as those with the best product or service. Adhering to these consumer attitudes and beliefs, SEO agencies predominately operate with Google’s ranking in mind to maximise a positive audience perception for their client’s website.
Jansen, B.J., Zhang, M. and Schultz, C.D., 2009. Brand and its effect on user perception of search engine performance. Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology, 60(8), pp.1572-1595.
Wildemuth, B.M., & Carter, A.R. (2002). The perceived affordances of Web search engines: A comparative analysis: SILS technical report 2002-02