Let us say that you are an average American consumer, and you have taken it on yourself to purchase a combination shotgun/rod and reel so that you can recreationally kill two kinds of wildlife at once. During a commercial break near the end of the evening’s episode of Law & Order: Canine Hangman Squad, you log on to your nearest internet-enabled device and bring up the search engine of your choosing. Intending to type “fishing rod what shoots people” into the search box, but you only get as far as “f” when you remember that there is still a BBQ Shake-Ups Lunchable in the fridge that your kids might not yet know about. You hit Return, and instead of pumping $750 into the wavering economy, you spend the rest of the night playing Candy Crush Saga on Facebook.
Yes, as this ironclad scientific scenario proves, Americans are so lazy that they will literally buy the first thing that pops up on their browser rather than take the time to type out an entire word. That’s why, from a marketing standpoint, it is vitally important to know what various search engines suggest via autocompletion when you enter one single letter int a search field. Which is what I spent today finding out.
AOL: Yes, millions of people — many of them veterans of the First World War — still use America Online as both their internet service provider and their primary search engine. Unfortunately, AOL’s search algorithms are tied into nebulous, ephemeral current events feeds, and often suggest a currently popular search term rather than one that has accumulated millions of successful hits over the years. Thus its first suggestion for typing “A” into the AOL search field is “Andrea Sunderlin”, the pot-smoking mom whose period of national notoriety will be over by the time you finish reading this sentence. AOL is also the first, but not the last, site to not have its own name come up as the most popular search for its initial letter.
Bing: Despite heroically optimistic advertising campaigns by its parent company, Microsoft’s Bing is still a third-string also-ran to Google, and paid suggestions that we “Bing it!” go over about as well as Chevy Chase’s elderly crank character on Community suggesting Encarta as a fact-finding tool. Bing does have one up on AOL, however, in suggesting “AOL” as the first hit for “A”.
Google: The big poppa of the search engine world is the default for billions, to the degree that its brand has become a name — the kind of linguistic drift that’s worth its weight in advertising gold. Easily locating the side of its bread containing butter, Google suggests “Amazon” as its first “A” hit.
Yahoo!: Still technically alive despite a series of business decisions substantially less effective and forward-thinking than the one that led to the construction of the Maginot line, the recently rebranded Yahoo! remains a popular search engine, primarily employed by people who aren’t quite sure how to spell “Google”. It, too, suggests “AOL” when you type “A” into its search field.
Wikipedia: While Wikipedia is actually an encyclopedia and not a search engine, it is nonetheless very often employed as one, particularly by students who will do anything rather than read a book they have been assigned. Its primary “A” hit is “animal”; in your faces, vegetables and minerals!
AOL: “BMW golf tournament 2013”. A reminder: AOL subscribers are very old.
Bing: “Bank of America”.
Google: “Bank of America”.
Yahoo!: “Bank of America”.
Wikipedia: “Brazil”, thus setting the tone for the theme that most Wikipedia users are extremely lazy geography students.
AOL: “Colorado flooding”.
AOL: “dehumidifier recall”. You can’t eat that!
Bing: “Drudge Report”. It seems impossible that any search engine could have more users who are credulous morons than Yahoo!, but here’s the proof.
Wikipedia: “departments of France”. Could French geography students be even lazier than American ones?
AOL: “Elizabeth O’Bagy”. No, I didn’t know either. Apparently she is a Middle East policy “expert” employed in the Syria war rollout who fraudulated her own credentials.
AOL: “Freddy Figuerdo”, a recently deceased firefighter and Hollywood stunt coordinator. AOL is setting the bar very, very low.
Yahoo!: “Facebook”. There’s no escaping it.
AOL: “German word for time”. Why so many AOL users are so preoccupied with the word “zeit” is a question I fear the answer to.
Bing: “Google”. How embarrassing for you, Bing.
Google: “Google”. Why are people using Google to google Google? This is too meta even for me.
Yahoo!: “Google”. No respect.
AOL: “Holly Madison”. A professional breast parlayer of some variety.
Bing: “Hotmail”. Who is still using Hotmail? Is this 1997?
Wikipedia: “Hispanic (U.S. Census)”. A bewildering trip through America’s obsession with race, this one.
AOL: “iPhone 5C”.
Yahoo!: “iTunes”. For the first time, Yahoo! breaks with its slavering devotion to repeating Google’s every suggestion and picks another institution that will never make money for Yahoo!’s shareholders.
AOL: “Julie Chen”. Yes, the perky Big Brother hostess is perplexingly still alive, and swallowing the bitter pill of her former career as a serious journalist with the cold comfort of being a top hit on AOL.
Bing: “JC Penney”. The low-rent retailer is thriving in low-rent search engines.
Google: “John L. Scott”. Here, Google’s razor-keen demographic targeting algorithms cost it in the universality department, as it suggests a Washington state real estate agency rather than everyone’s favorite less-classy-than-Sears, more-classy-than-Kmart discount department store.
Yahoo!: “JC Penney”.
AOL: “Knish filling”. This may seem like an odd choice at first, but remember, 56% of AOL users are elderly Jewish women from West Palm Beach.
Google: “KING-5”. Locality targeting again, with a Seattle-area TV station.
Yahoo!: “Kohl’s”. In the kingdom of the blind, the off-brand retailer is king.
Wikipedia: “Keyboard instrument”. This seems like a weird choice, Wikipedia. What, nobody wants to learn about Kenya?
Bing: “LinkedIn”. Here we see a major search-engine divide, between people looking for a home improvement chain closer to their house or the local McDonald’s than Home Depot, and people looking for a way to get hired at age 56 after being out of work since Friends ended.
Wikipedia: “List of sovereign states”. Oh, kids. Crack a book.
AOL: “Miley Cyrus ‘Wrecking Ball'”. That naked girl on a piece of construction equipment will never get you your fishing gun, Rufus.
Bing: “MapQuest”. My friend Meg used to make fun of me for using ancient, doddering MapQuest instead of sleek, modern Google Maps. NOW WHO IS LAUGHING, MY FRIEND MEG? NOT BING! NOT BING!
Wikipedia: “Mollusca”. This is such a bizarre result that I suspect the hand of internet pranksters.
AOL: “NFL Week 2 picks”. This would appear to have something to do with the sport of foot-ball.
Wikipedia: “New York City”. First in population, first in their own egos.
AOL: “Orbitz”. Ha ha, what, AOL? Why are you autosuggesting the ninth-most-popular travel site of 2005?
Bing: “Outlook”. Way to shill, Microsoft. You keep it subtle like that.
Google: “Old Navy”. The letter O is just an embarrassment all around for the internet.
Yahoo!: “OMG”. Oh, Yahoo!, no.
AOL: “Powerball numbers for 9/11/13”. Not our first hint that AOL is popular with troubled gambling addicts.
Google: “Pandora”. Now here’s a conflict in which I have no interest whatsoever!
Wikipedia: “Poland”. (“Never forget” — George W. Bush)
Google: “QFC”. Just to be different, Google changes the middle letter, driving millions in business to an overpriced Kroger subsidiary in the Pacific Northwest.
Wikipedia: “Quebec”. Canadian infiltration of Wikipedia should alarm us all.
AOL: “Rotomontade”. Okay, now AOL is just fucking with us. I refuse to believe that anyone, much less everyone, is choking the internet with searches for an obscure synonym of bragging.
Bing: “Roblox”. From this point forward, Bing more or less gives itself completely over to shilling for ad-stuffed online mom games.
Yahoo!: “Redbox”. Yeah, you just keep sucking up to Google, Yahoo!. See where it gets you.
Wikipedia: “Race and ethnicity in the United States”. Right now some dude is using this page to bolster his argument that “Irish guys are discriminated against as much as blacks, bro.”
AOL: “Seaside Heights fire”. If you live in Seaside Heights, RUN! THERE’S A FIRE!
Bing: “Study Island”. Located right in between MILF Island and that island where you can hunt people for sport.
Google: “Seattle Times”. A bone of contention, this letter S.
Yahoo!: “Southwest Airlines”. See what I mean? Even the craven Yahoo! is staking a claim with the serpentine letter.
AOL: “Thursday Night Football”. There’s a Thursday night now?
Bing: “Toontown”. This Disney Kids website doesn’t even exist anymore and Bing is whoring for it. Good ol’ Microsoft.
Wikipedia: “The New York Times”. The use of the definite article here instead of “N” for “New” is, uh, interesting.
AOL: “USPS”. The dying postal service gets lots of love from the internet.
Bing: “Urban Rivals”. Yet another gamer-crack site.
Wikipedia: “United States”. Aww, patriotic! Now shelf those Jordan Air 2012s.
AOL: “Voyager I” In spaaaaaace!
Bing: “Verizon E-Mail”.
Google: “Verizon”. Their online presence is what we call ‘diversified’.
Yahoo!: “Verizon Wireless”. They really do get you going, don’t they?
Wikipedia: “Village”. It takes one to raise hell.
AOL: “went at full speed crossword”. Olds, folks.
Bing: “Webkinz”. Don’t even ask.
Google: “Walmart”. A Study in Contrasts, that.
Wikipedia: “World War II”. Remember that? Good times.
AOL: “X Factor”. What, the blue-hairs don’t like Idol anymore?
Google: “Xbox”. Hey, Microsoft, happy to help, don’t mention it.
Yahoo!: “Xbox”. Yahoo! will always go you one better in the groveling department.
Wikipedia: “X”. Well I’m sure I don’t know what you’re getting at, Wikipedia.
AOL: “Yom Kippur”.
Wikipedia: “YouTube”. We’d finally have a unanimous decision if it weren’t for that damn Broward County vote.
AOL: “Zooey Deschanel”.
Yahoo!: “Zillow”. I’m going to pretend these are all made up.
Wikipedia: “ZIP Code”.