Why do search engines give different results?

Different results for Bing and Google

Numerous factors explain why Bing gives different results than Google. Two of the main reasons are covered on this post.

Search engine specific bots and indexes
Bing and Google, two popular, crawler-based search engines have unique bots which ‘crawl’ and store keywords within their own index. Each index is therefore a search engine’s representation of how they see the web. So search engines “see” the web differently.
Unique algorithms place different weight on different things. Most search engines are different because they have unique bots and indexes which rank websites in their own way.
Bing powers Yahoo but their results are different. This is because each search engine uses different algorithms, ranking queries uniquely, so a search for “belfast” on Yahoo will be different from “belfast” using Bing.
Personalisation
Personalisation adapts a system to a specific computer. Calculations predict likes and dislikes to contextualise search results. So a political searcher who searches for “brown” are more likely to get results on Gordon Brown whereas a landscape artist who searches for “brown” are more likely to get information on art products and paint colours.
Although you might be using a global search engine, for example Google, your results are tailored to your geographic location. IP addresses play the largest role in doing this. Each IP address is similar to a house address. Search engines can find out where these IP addresses are located and personalise results based on this location. Results are therefore different for people who are in different countries.

Since personalised search can lead to relevant information, a feature of quality information, personalisation is not necessarily a negative feature.

SERP of different search engines.

SERP of different search engines. Source.

Search engines give different results because bots crawl and have different representations of the web. Search engine specific algorithms rank keywords differently so the same search is presented differently.

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Reference

  1. Ostrow, A. (2010) Bing Now Powers Yahoo Search. [Online] [Accessed on 18th August 2013]
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