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The battle between Google and Bing kicked off when Bing began powering Yahoo’s searches, accounting for almost a quarter of searches in the US alone. Google then fought back with the unveiling of Google Instant which allowed the search engine to predict search terms before users had even finished typing them in.


Back in 2009 when Microsoft first launched Bing, User Centric conducted an eye tracking study to compare the amount of attention on Bing and Google search results. In this initial analysis, the biggest difference between these two search giants was the amount of visual attention given to sponsored listings on the right of the page with more participants looking at them on Bing than on Google. It also demonstrated a greater interest in Bing’s “related searches” results than Google’s.

One thing that could’ve played a part in these statistics however is that the Google users in it had never used Bing before, which would explain why participants spent more time uncovering its various features.


In more recent research, and in order to level the playing field, participants of the study were experienced users of both Google and Bing. All 24 involved conducted an average of 48 online searches per week using both Bing and Google, with at least five searchers per engine.

Their eye movements were recorded with Tobii T60 eye tracker integrated in a 17 inch monitor and the analysis included the specific areas on the screen where participants were looking, as well as the time length of their gaze.


The findings…

  • The five areas of the search results interface that were of the most interest were the sponsored results at the top, sponsored results to the right of the organic search results, organic search results, left pane, and on-hover flyouts (Bing).
  • Google’s top sponsored results got more attention than Bing’s, however this could be down to long listings with Google’s usually consisting out of two lines of descriptive text and Bing only one.
  • There was not a significant reaction to the sponsored results found on the right of the search engine pages with only 28% of participants looking at them on Google and 21% on Bing.
  • More time was spent on Google’s organic search results in each search which could demonstrate that it took them longer to find what they were looking for.
  • Bing’s left pane proved to be more popular than Google’s which could be down to it containing more relevant information such as “related searches”.
  • Flyouts on Bing failed to attract attention which may be down to them not being noticeable enough on the page. Google has also recently implemented their click activated version of the Flyout called “Instant Preview” which is a more recognisable feature on the search pages.

While this information may not be of particular interest to everyday users of the internet, it is extremely important to online advertisers.

So if you are going to base your upcoming online advertising campaigns on these results, we suggest placing your ads at the top of the organic (natural) search results. This area has a three times higher hit rate and a five times longer gaze time than on the sponsored links found on the right.

When it comes to deciding between Bing and Google – we say don’t put your eggs all in one basket. Despite the fact that Google attracted 22% more attention in this study, spreading out your efforts over both search engines as well as concentrating on both organic and paid searches will get you much better results and ROI.