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Abstract

In this research we investigate the effect of search engine brand on the evaluation of searching performance. Our research is motivated by the large amount of search traffic directed to a handful of Web search engines, even though many have similar interfaces and performance. We conducted a laboratory experiment with 32 participants using a 42 factorial design confounded in four blocks to measure the effect of four search engine brands (Google, MSN, Yahoo!, and a locally developed search engine) while controlling for the quality and presentation of search engine results. We found brand indeed played a role in the searching process. Brand effect varied in different domains. Users seemed to place a high degree of trust in major search engine brands; however, they were more engaged in the searching process when using lesser-known search engines. It appears that branding affects overall Web search at four stages: (a) search engine selection, (b) search engine results page evaluation, (c) individual link evaluation, and (d) evaluation of the landing page. We discuss the implications for search engine marketing and the design of empirical studies measuring search engine performance.