This post is going to take a look at how far the top 4 search engines have gone with integrating images into their blended search results. I’ve put it together as part of my background research for my presentation at SMX West on the panel on images and blended search.
What I did was take 10 different search terms and tried them out. One of the search terms ended with the word “pics”, four ended with “pictures” and five ended with the word “images”. So let’s start by looking at the raw data:
|Search Engine||Search Phrase||Results||Source||Comments|
|Yahoo!||white mountain pics||3 images up top||Flickr|
|white mountain pics||0 images||N/A|
|Microsoft||white mountain pics||0 images||N/A|
|Ask||white mountain pics||3 images up top||Ask image search||videos and news on right, image results same as white mountains pictures, do not match the image search results for white mountain pics|
|Yahoo!||white mountains pictures||3 images up top||Flickr||pictures are from California, the Alps, and upstate NY|
|white mountains pictures||0 images||N/A|
|Microsoft||white mountains pictures||5 images up top||Live Image search|
|Ask||white mountains pictures||3 images up top||Ask image search||encyclopedia, videos and news on right|
|Yahoo!||acne pictures||3 images up top||Flickr (2), Medlist.com|
|acne pictures||0 images||N/A|
|Microsoft||acne pictures||5 images up top||Live Image search|
|Ask||acne pictures||3 images up top||Ask image search||encyclopedia, videos and news on right|
|Yahoo!||acne vulgaris pictures||3 images up top||acne.republica.pl, scf-online.com, cosmetic.medicine.jp|
|acne vulgaris pictures||3 images up top||history.amedd.army.mil, library.med.utah.edu, aafp.org|
|Microsoft||acne vulgaris pictures||5 images up top||Live Image Search|
|Ask||acne vulgaris pictures||3 images up top||Ask image search||encyclopedia, videos and news on right|
|Yahoo!||psoriasis pictures||3 images up top||dogflu.ca, dermnetnz.org, dermatology.co.uk|
|psoriasis pictures||0 images||N/A|
|Microsoft||psoriasis pictures||4 images up top||Live Image Search|
|Ask||psoriasis pictures||3 images up top||Ask image search||encyclopedia, videos and news on right|
|Yahoo!||Moon images||3 images up top||smm.org (2), us.movies1.yimg.com|
|moon images||3 images up top||hoax-slayer.com. carpecrustulum.wordpress.com, nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov|
|Microsoft||moon images||5 images up top||Live Image Search||3 are of cartoon (anime) character Sailor Moon|
|Ask||moon images||3 images up top||Ask image search||videos and news on right, First item is a picture of a moon snail|
|Yahoo!||stanford images||3 images up top||d.yimg.com (2), us.movies1.yimg.com|
|stanford images||2 images up top||star.stanford.edu, serc.carleton.edu|
|Microsoft||stanford images||4 images up top||Live Image Search|
|Ask||stanford images||3 images up||Ask image search||videos on right|
|Yahoo!||mit images||3 images up top||Flickr (2), cs.virginia.edu|
|mit images||3 images up top||images.google.com|
|Microsoft||mit images||4 images up top||Live Image Search|
|Ask||mit images||3 images up top||Ask image search||videos on right|
|Yahoo!||forest images||3 images up top||ucmp.berkeley.edu||2 are basically half size for some reason|
|forest images||3 images up top||mass.gov (2), hickerphoto.com|
|Microsoft||forest images||4 images up top||Live Image Search|
|Ask||forest images||3 images up top||Ask Image Search||videos and news on right|
|Yahoo!||trees images||3 images up top||Flickr|
|trees images||no image results||N/A|
|Microsoft||trees images||5 images up top||Live Image Search|
|Ask||trees images||3 images up top||Ask Image Search||videos and news on right|
Let’s try to summarize this. Here are my observations about the above data:
- Yahoo and Ask picked up on the phrase “white mountain pics” and rendered images for that search. Google and Microsoft did not.
- Microsoft did offer inline image results up above the web search results in all 9 cases other than the “pics” case.
- Google provided image results only 50% of the time, in spite of the leading words “images” and “pictures”.
- Yahoo and Google provide a substantial portion of their results directly from third party web sites, as opposed to their image search properties.
- Microsoft and Ask provided 100% of their results from their respective image search engines.
- There were only two anomalies across all 40 searches performed:
- Ask provided the same results for “white mountain pics” as it did for “white mountains pictures”. Interestingly enough, even though they provide all their results from their image search engine, “white mountain pics” and “white mountains pictures” do NOT provide the same results in their image search.
- Microsoft shows two pictures of an Anime character, Sailor Moon, in response to “moon images”. I’d think that they would only call up Sailor Moon images if someone actually typed in “sailor moon images”.
Another interesting aspect of all this is that if you dig in a bit deeper and repeat these searches on the image search engines, you find that the results integrated into web search are NOT, generally speaking, the first 3 results that come up for the exact same search within image search.
For example, if you look at the “acne vulgaris pictures” results from Microsoft, the five images presented in the web search results are the 1st, 5th, 7th, 9th, and 10th results if you search on the exact same phrase in image search.
Overall the result quality was high. When someone provides such a leading indicator of what they want (i.e. “images” or “pictures” is part of the search query) most vendors picked up on that cue (C’mon Google!) and presented reasonable results.