Is Google Still the Best Option for Search?

Ask.comSwitching from one search engine to another is simple, right?

Well, I thought I’d try a couple new options, but it was difficult. I had to consciously remind myself that I was going to use new (for me) search engines. If I didn’t think about it, Google is always where I ended up.

First on the list, the other two of the big three: Yahoo and Microsoft / MSN / Live (come on, Microsoft, I still don’t know what you want to be called here).

Honestly, I could find no compelling reason to switch. Both of them look very much like Google in design, layout, and even color scheme. The results are practically the same, and all three sites often throw in a few pictures at the top of the results for whatever it is you’re searching (if showing you pictures seems relevant). If I had been using Yahoo the past few years, then maybe I’d have a hard time switching to Google. The point is, they all seem noticeably similar; I’m just used to Google.

Next up: Ask. This is the search engine I have been impressed with as of late. It has a nice, slick look and presents information in a time-saving fashion. Ask gives up most of the valuable advertising real estate on the right side of the screen to bring you a snapshot of generally useful information. So you have your standard search results on the left and a column on the right with information organized in boxes that often include pictures, videos, dictionary definition, Wikipedia entry, current news, etc. One quick scan of the screen, and I often learn more about whatever I’m searching for than had I left the site by clicking on a result.

Speaking of leaving the site, Ask has the binocular feature which allows you to hover over a link and see a preview of the site without clicking through. And just yesterday, Ask announced new “unmatched” privacy control features that seem promising. All in all, I can safely say Ask is a real contender to Google for my search needs. But the problem? I’m hooked on Gmail, Google Maps, and Google Reader. Ask competes in some of these areas but not quite in the same marvelous way it appears to be competing in search.

Bottom line: I think I actually prefer Ask now but am still likely to use Google just because it’s where I am for other services. But that’s exactly what Google wants: users happy enough with all the superior freebies that we stay content with the plain-Jane search. I think I’ll start using what I think is better… if only I remember!