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Image search – Who is #1?

Annie Wakefield
Digital Marketing Manager
6 August 2009

I am a huge fan of image searches and my favourite search engine is quite often determined by their image search results. MSN have always had a good image search function and Bing improved that service even more when it was release and naturally, Google had to respond. And they have, but how do the two image searches stack up against each other? Let’s investigate…I did a search for “Evan Dando” in both of them and this is what I found…

Bing Image Search Results

Bing Image Search Results

Bing

As I mentioned above, I have always been a fan of Microsoft’s image search functionality because of it’s layout and all of the extra search options available to me. Then Bing was unveiled and the service improved even more!

Some of the very cool features that are available to you include:

1. Related People

As you can see in my screenshot Bing gives me a list of related people (that is pretty spot on!) as an extra slice of information to help me find exactly what I am looking for!

2. Size, Layout and Colour

Although these features have become pretty standard for image searches, I don’t think Bing is quite up to scratch with regards to them. Their ‘Colour’ setting only allows me to pick between ‘Colour’ and ‘Black & White’ while other search engines allow me to be a little bit more specific. (As you will see later on in my post.) The ‘Layout’ feature is really handy because sometimes only a landscape image will work and being able to differentiate is great! Although not referred to as ‘portrait’ and ‘landscape’, it’s pretty easy to use the option they do give you ‘tall’, ‘wide’ and ‘square’, so well done Bing!

3. Style

This only allows you to distinguish between ‘photographs’ and ‘illustrations’ which might not sound like much, but it really does the trick for me…Google Images might have the advantage in this department though, but we’ll get to that a little later.

4. People

This feature is another of the reasons why I do like Bing’s image search, because often I only need a headshot of someone, other times you might need head and shoulders and occasionally a full body shot is required. Bing’s three options ‘ Just Faces’, ‘Head and Shoulders’ and ‘Other’ are all that you need and the results are quite accurate.

So those are the options that Bing will extend to its users, so what about Google Images? They have recently improved their image search, so let’s take a look at what great gadgets they have equipped us with!

Google Image Search

Google Image Search Results

My first impression is a little confused, because Bing’s options are right there waiting for you in the left hand navigation bar, I only then realise I need to select ‘Search Options’ for the Google goodness, it works, et voila! A left hand navigation bar similiar to Bing’s and so far so good for Google, but let’s get down to the nitty gritty. There is no ‘Related People’ option and that disappoints me a little if I am honest, but none the less, we need to keep pushing on.

1. Size

Google’s size options are more specific that Bing’s and you can specify an exact size (not that you would use it too often, but this post is about what is offered) and that would have to be advantage Google. So taking into account that there are no “Related People” for me to have a look at in Google, it’s level pegging.

2. Type

Now Google doesn’t have as much detail as Bing does, but their ‘Type’ feature is fantastic, it has all the options I need, nothing more, nothing less. The four options available to you are

  • Face
  • Photo
  • Clip art
  • Line drawing

Google incorporates two of Bing’s sections into one in this and although you can’t search for ‘Head and Shoulders’,  etc, I think they give you sufficient options and they are effective, so I would have to side with Google again on this one. So Google appears to be in the lead, even if it is only marginally.

3. Colour

This might just be the deal breaker in my opinion. Bing offers a distinction between ‘colour’ and ‘black & white’, Google takes it one step further and actually lets you choose individual colours to search for as well as the ‘colour’ or ‘black & white’ option. So another win for Google.

So, which is actually the best, so far it would appear that Google just sneaked it, BUT – and this is a very big BUT – Bing’s results load on a single page, no clicking through to page 2, then 3, then all the way to 20. All you need to do is keep scrolling down, which I think is particularly handy.

Is that enough to sway the vote to Bing’s image search? Honestly, no. Google’s improvements have worked and I think they have the best image search of all the search engines, but what do you think?

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