Google Slips, AOL Gains in Customer Satisfaction

July 26, 2010

Google lost its top position in US customer satisfaction among search portals in 2010, according to analysis of the 2010 American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) by ForeSee Results.

Google Hits Lowest ACSI Level Since ’02
Since Google’s inclusion in the Index in 2002, it has been the industry leader in customer satisfaction every year but 2007, when Yahoo was ranked number one, and this year, when it has been overtaken by the All Others category. The All Others category (dominated this year by niche websites like Dogpile, GoodSearch, MyPoints, and Swagbucks) outscores Google by two points this year.

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While Google still outscored any other individual search portal on the Index in 2010, it fell 7% in its ACSI score from 86 in 2009 to 80 in 2010. This matches Google’s lowest score to date, originally set in 2002. However, by scoring 80, Google still places in the top third of all companies rated by ACSI.

Google’s closest individual competitor, Bing, debuted in third place this year with an ACSI score of 77. ForeSee says this strong debut indicates Bing has a real chance to challenge Google’s search dominance.

AOL Surge May Not Be All Good News
Meanwhile, AOL saw a 6% year-over-year increase to match its previous ACSI record score of 74 from 2006. This also represents a strong 32% increase in satisfaction since it was first measured in 2002.

Although AOL has halved Google’s lead from 12 points in 2009 to six points in 2010, ForeSee analysis suggests AOL’s performance may not be as strong as it appears. According to ForeSee, usually when an industry laggard reports increased customer satisfaction, it’s because all of its customers have left except for the truly loyal and satisfied base.

Other Findings
Some other study findings are positive for Google and Yahoo, but negative for AOL.

  • Google has the most loyal following, with 80% of its users citing it as their primary search engine.
  • AOL users have the oldest average age, while Yahoo users are youngest as a group.
  • Thirty percent of the Google users surveyed reported having used Bing in the last month, while 56% of Bing users reported having used Google in the last month.

Microsoft’s Search Share Jumps 50% Annually
Microsoft’s share of the US search market increased 50% between 2009 and 2010, according to data from The Nielsen Company. While the top two US search providers, Google and Yahoo, experienced negative year-over-year relative growth in their share of the US search market between June 2009 and June 2010, number three provider Microsoft (represented by MSN/Windows Live/Bing) experienced a dramatic increase in its share during the same time period.

Between June 2009 and June 2010, Microsoft’s market share grew from 8.9% to 13.4%, a 50.9% relative increase. Most of this growth came at the expense of Yahoo, whose share slipped 15.8%, from 16.2% to 13.7%. Leader Google experienced minimal change, dropping 1.7% from 66.1% to 65% market share.

About the Data: The American Customer Satisfaction Index is a national economic indicator of customer evaluations of the quality of products and services available to household consumers in the US. Data from interviews with approximately 70,000 customers annually are used as inputs into an econometric model to measure satisfaction with more than 225 companies in 45 industries and 10 economic sectors, as well as more than 130 federal government departments, agencies, and websites.

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