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Google and Yahoo continue to be the dominant search engines and are extending their close rivalry to local and image search, according to a survey rating consumer satisfaction with search companies.

Keynote, an online performance services company, found Google received a 92 per cent satisfaction rate among its regular users and 82 per cent from people relatively unfamiliar with the search engine.

While noting the power of the Google brand, Bonny Brown, director of research at Keynote, said the rating was based more on actual experience. “People really enjoy the way it is treating ads and minimising their impact.”

Consumers appear to be turned off by sponsored links appearing too prominently on search engine sites. Ask Jeeves received the greatest jump in brand perceptions from new users trying its site, with the results improving after it reduced the number of sponsored results at the top of the page.

“Users feel this is distracting or in the way and don’t like it if they can’t tell if it’s an ad or an organic result. While this leads to more clicking on ads for the search companies, it is inversely related to people enjoying the experience.”

The survey tested the perceptions of 2,000 users spending 45 minutes on each website. When searching for an image, 63 per cent of Yahoo users and 56 per cent of Google ones turned to the image sections of the sites but only 39 and 28 per cent respectively went to local link when needed. Despite this, those that did gave “rave reviews” to the interactive maps available, said Dr Brown.

Google ranked first, with Yahoo second, followed by Ask Jeeves, MSN and AOL.com in overall search. Keynote said it plans to rate music and video searches.

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