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Search satisfaction high as Google rules the group

Overall satisfaction levels with Internet search providers are high among U.S. consumers, but Google has a healthy lead over the rest of the competition.

Americans are apparently quite happy with their Internet search options.

That's the conclusion reached by a survey of U.S. consumers conducted earlier this year by the American Customer Satisfaction Index and scheduled to be released Tuesday. The Internet portals and search engines category--made up of Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft--scored an 83 on the index, far ahead of the score of 75 amassed by the PC industry.

Google leads the industry in both market share and customer satisfaction, posting a score of 86. That's one of the highest satisfaction scores recorded by any one company, said Larry Freed, president and CEO of ForeSee Results, which interpreted the survey results. "What's interesting is that Google has really set an expectation with consumers and they've done a good job living up to it," he said.

Yahoo's search was second among listed companies, with a score of 77, while Microsoft's former MSN search ranked 75. The survey was conducted before both the launch of Bing as well as the search deal that will see Microsoft taking over search on Yahoo's pages, so next year's results should be particularly interesting, Freed said.

Overall, however, customer satisfaction with search is relatively high despite the fact that most search companies believe the experience could be greatly improved. "The simple definition of satisfaction is it's a combination of what you get and what you expect. Consumers are used to not finding what they expect" the first time they go to a search engine, Freed said.

That opens up opportunities for newcomers like Bing to win customers with a better product, Freed said. But they'll have a tough time going up against Google because the company's brand image is so strong and because the public continues to think highly of Google's product, he said.