Study: Google remains undisputed king of search

Yahoo, Microsoft lag behind in annual U. of Michigan user satisfaction survey

Google search is holding tight to its top position in the hearts of U.S. consumers, according to a new study.

The annual University of Michigan study, which was conducted by ForeSee Results, shows that for the second year in a row, Google scored a strong 86 out of 100 on a scale of customer satisfaction. That's nine points higher than the second-place finisher, Yahoo.

The study was conducted before Microsoft's Bing search service was released earlier this summer.

Nevertheless, Larry Freed, president and CEO of ForeSee Results, said that it will be a long uphill climb for Bing to hurt Google's place among satisfied search users.

"Google is unquestionably king of search, so the only competition is for second place," said Freed, in a statement.

"The research was done before Bing entered the market, so we don't know what effect its entry will have. But Google's customers are pretty happy and have little reason to try something new, so Bing has a real uphill battle ahead."

The university noted that Google, Yahoo, Microsoft (75 for its older search technology) and Ask.com (74) each maintained their ratings from last year year. AOL, with a 1% rise to a 70, was the only portal or search engine to show an increase.

The study is based on responses from 11,000 U.S. computer users surveyed during the second quarter of this year.

The ongoing search battles between Google, Microsoft and Yahoo have intensified this year.

Last month, Microsoft and Yahoo announced that they are partnering up on a search and online advertising deal.

The long-anticipated deal will have Microsoft's Bing search engine powering Yahoo's sites, while Yahoo sells premium search advertising services for both companies.

The deal is geared to hit Google with a united force much greater than either Microsoft or Yahoo could muster alone. Individually, neither company has much of an effect on Google's overwhelming search market share. Together, though, they hope to at least make a dent.

But Google hasn't been sitting on its laurels as its competitors shifted gears.

Last month, Google took the training wheels off several key hosted Google Apps offerings that have spent years in beta-test mode.

The beta label came off some main Google Apps services, including Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Talk and Google Docs. Analysts were quick to note that it's a move geared to making Google Apps more appealing to enterprise users.

And then earlier this month, Google kicked off a month-long ad campaign for its online suite of enterprise office applications.

The campaign will have the search giant leasing billboard space in four major U.S. cities -- New York, San Francisco, Chicago and Boston. Each work day will have a different message for commuters to take in.

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