Study: Google users more frustrated in China

Google is rated highly rated by Chinese users, but a recent survey has shown many users feel frustrated by the search engine.

Google users in China find the search engine more frustrating to use than users in the U.S., hinting at differences between the versions of the search engine used in both countries, a recent study has found.

Overall, the study conducted by Keynote Systems was very positive for Google's prospects in China, showing the company in a strong position to challenge the market dominance of rival Baidu.com, said Jeff Kraatz, the vice president and managing director of Keynote's Asia-Pacific operations, who oversaw the study.

In most of the areas that were studied, including general search quality, Google was rated higher than its three rival main rivals: Baidu.com, Alibaba.com Corp., and Sohu.com, Kraatz said. But there were several areas where Google, and its rivals, all need to do better, he said.

All of the search engines were found frustrating to use by a large percentage of the users that participated in the study, Kraatz said, putting the percentage of frustrated users at between 35 percent and 50 percent. "Chinese consumers have a lot of frustration," he said.

The frustration that Chinese users felt stemmed from several factors, including the poor ranking of search results (43 percent) and the number and placement of advertisements (35 percent), according to the study. Other factors that were sources of frustration were the duplication of search results (50 percent) and out-of-date results (36 percent). Specific figures for each company were not available.

The results of the study conducted in China differ from the results of similar studies conducted in the U.S. Kraatz put the level of frustration felt by North American users at 15 percent to 20 percent. "What this shows is that the North American companies have been paying attention to this, improving things," he said.

It also illustrates a stark contrast between the way Chinese users and North American users view Google's search services, Kraatz said, noting that there are differences between Google's search engines in the U.S. and China. "The plumbing is different, and they are trying to improve it," he said.

Google executives were not immediately available to comment.

A similar comparison cannot be drawn between the other three companies because they do not operate search engines in the U.S. However, Yahoo Inc., which last year transferred its China operations to Alibaba, does fall within the same range as Google in the U.S., Kraatz said.

While the study indicates a big difference in how users in China and North America view Google's search engine, Kraatz said the Chinese market is relatively new and is developing quickly. "All it says is that this is a new search market in China," he said, noting that all four companies analyzed by the study now have the opportunity to improve the quality of their services based on the study results.

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Sumner Lemon

IDG News Service
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