Battle of the search engines

“Googling” may have become a verb in its own right, but that isn’t stopping other search engines from trying to steal the Internet giant’s crown.

Yahoo and Microsoft, which handle 20.4% and 8.2% of all Internet search queries respectively, are both on the cusp of unveiling new technology that will enable their results to be displayed in relevant groups rather than a list of links. Microsoft’s new search engine is rumoured to be called Bing, and will replace the current search engine Live. Not much is known about Bing yet, although Chief Executive Steve Ballmer is due to speak at the All Things Digital conference later today, so he may soon reveal more. A search for “web copy writer London” (we’re sticking with the industry we know!) via Bing may display information about how to write for the web, alongside details of copy writers local to London, and web copywriting blogs. Such a search on currently generates a list of links related to copy writing – some relevant, some not – that users have to go through individually in order to find what they’re looking for.

Yahoo’s strategy is similar: the company aims to display images and answers from databases instead of a series of links. It is no surprise, then, that Yahoo and Microsoft are in talks to tackle Google by collaborating with each other on search. In fact, Sandeep Aggarwal, senior Internet research analyst with Collins Stewart LLC, thinks there will be a Microsoft-Yahoo search deal by the time the companies report their quarterly results in late July.

If competing search engines think Google is resting on its laurels, however, they could be in for a shock. New improvements are being made to the Google Suggest tool which was recently introduced to give users more control over their search results. Suggestions will now be provided when users make additional search queries from results pages whereas previously they were only offered when making a query from the Google homepage. Relevant past searches will be displayed when users have web history enabled, so they can repeat some of the searches they carry out most frequently. Sponsored links will also appear in the list of suggestions, which could help companies who want to target users most interested in their products and services with search engine marketing and pay per click ads.