If you’ve ever searched the same thing on multiple search engines, you’ve probably noticed that you can get very different results. For example, I tried to look this question up yesterday:  “What size is a standard movie poster?”

The Yahoo response didn’t really five me any answers at first. And it’s not surprising that the first results were ads.

yahoo-poster-result

I had to scroll down a bit to get an answer.

yahoo-poster-result-2

Let’s look with Bing. Bing comes up with the answer as the top result.

bing-poster-result-1

Google also comes up with a standard size and a link to an eBay article about movie poster sizes.

google-movie-poster

Now let’s try looking for Microsoft Tech Support.

For Yahoo, here are the top results.  None of these results are actually a link to Microsoft Tech Support. The actual link to MS doesn’t turn up until 7 results down.

ms-tech-support-search-yahoo

It’s the same for searching with Google. the first four results are not the actual Microsoft link. However, they are marked with a tiny ad icon.

ms-tech-support-search-google

Not surprisingly, Bing – which is owned by Microsoft, actually give you the correct information as the top result. But even Bing features promoted results near the top.

ms-tech-support-bing

The reason why you get varying results is that each of these sites uses a different algorithm (a formula or a set of rules for calculating) to determine the results. Among the rules that may apply are giving greater weight to people who’ve paid for advertising on the site. That’s why those tech support companies turn up at the top of the rankings.  Other factors include your past search history. So when you search for coffee shops, you will get a different result than your sister searching on another PC.

If you can’t find something on Google, it doesn’t hurt to try looking on Bing and vice-versa. But keep in mind that all of these results are biased to what the search provider thinks you want to see and what they are being paid to show you.

~ Cynthia