Krystallina decides to take a different approach regarding scans, and decided to test some search engines all thanks to a tweet.

Anime Results o Sagashite: Finding the Best Search Engine

It started with this tweet:

No, this isn’t another official vs scanlation debate. But as this image shows, someone who was just looking for more information about this series called My Hero Academia might naïvely assume Google would be showing them good, reliable websites. But this image shows that VIZ Media’s official page shows up at #6, below scanlations and information site.

So, which leads us to the question of the day: how do official results rank in Google and other search engines? Is it easy for someone searching for sites relating to manga and anime to be led to official sites? Which search engine is the best for this type of information?

Experiment time!

The Test Subjects

So, if I want to look things up on a search engine, I need some search engines. Google was obviously going to be included since it’s the most popular search engine in the world. Based on various web rankings and the referrers to my own blog, here were the other three I wanted to examine:

Bing – #2 (English) search engine, also powers Yahoo! and AOL

Ask – a minor portion of searches, but used to be known for its question-answer format

DuckDuckGo – gaining popularity since it doesn’t track results

Well, now that that’s settled, I had to have some search terms. Since I wanted to see if there were any differences between the two, I wanted to only look at series that had both manga and anime versions. I then selected three of each of the following options:

Currently airing series – these are series likely to have a lot of searches going on right now

Most popular of all time – should have a lot of data from all the years, pulled from MAL/ANN

Shoujo/Josei – because otherwise series would be shounen/seinen heavy

Classic shows (90s) – see any difference between new and old series

My choice – add some more variety of genres and publishers

Based on this criteria, here were the 15 titles I chose:

Attack on Titan Popular
Chi’s Sweet Home Choice
Death Note Popular
Fullmetal Alchemist Popular
Fushigi Yugi Classic
My Hero Academia Current
Netsuzou Trap Choice
One Piece Current
Rurouni Kenshin Classic
Sailor Moon Shoujo
Skip Beat Shoujo
Welcome to the Ballroom Current
Yona of the Dawn Shoujo
Yowamushi Pedal Choice
Yu Yu Hakusho Classic

The Test

Using a private window in Mozilla Firefox, I would open a tab to each of the four search engines. I would first search for the title by itself (T), then the title plus the word anime (A), and finally the title plus the word manga (M). I was looking for a link that was either:

  • The publisher’s site or official site
  • The place hosting the legal stream/publication
  • A store listing with to the DVD/Blu-ray or manga volume

Stuff like Wikipedia and databases like MAL didn’t count. I also skipped any news articles or generic links to search on Amazon/eBay/etc. In addition, Ask usually included shopping results on Amazon. I did not count them, but if you were to include them, most of the manga (and some anime results) would be 1 instead of the number listed.

The Results

Attack on Titan Chi’s Sweet Home Death Note Fullmetal Alchemist Fushigi Yugi My Hero Academia Netsuzou Trap One Piece Rurouni Kenshin Sailor Moon Skip Beat Welcome to the Ballroom Yona of the Dawn Yowamushi Pedal Yu Yu Hakusho
Google T 2 2 1 6 5 2 3 1 5 3 3 7 3 4 4
Google A 4 1 4 9 5 3 n/a 1 7 5 3 11 3 3 5
Google M 3 1 3 4 7 6 13 2 3 4 5 5 5 7 2
Bing T 3 1 6 4 5 2 17 2 3 3 2 3 2 4 5
Bing A 4 4 6 6 9 1 28 2 3 6 3 31 4 4 3
Bing M 2 2 1 14 10 4 30 6 7 12 16 11 1 14 12
Ask T 3 1 2 13 21 3 2 2 14 3 2 7 3 4 3
Ask A 5 2 3 28 4 3 29 3 6 n/a 2 n/a 3 3 4
Ask M 4 2 3 4 7 8 n/a 2 3 5 4 3 5 8 2
Duck T 3 2 4 4 5 2 9 2 4 4 2 4 1 4 3
Duck A 4 4 6 9 10 1 26 1 6 7 3 31 4 5 3
Duck M 2 3 2 5 11 5 16 8 10 9 13 7 1 18 13

Items of Note:

In almost all the searches, Wikipedia was the #1 hit. I’m sure companies would rather have their official website be the first result in the search engine, but at least most Wikipedia articles include who the US licensors are.

I didn’t realize how popular fan wikis are. No wonder I see people quickly making wikis for new series; these rank higher in the results than I would have thought. While these usually do provide information on the English publishers, the ones I’ve seen often rely on information — and cite — scanlations and fansubs.

For most entries, the manga searches almost always brought up several scanlation sites before the official publisher’s page. VIZ Media and Kodansha Comics usually were the first official hit for their series; for manga from the other publishers, the first results were usually Amazon links to the first volume of the manga.

Crunchyroll typically came up around #1 or #2 for anime searches, right after Wikipedia. I was glad to not to see pages and pages of unofficial sites. However, for anime that isn’t available on Crunchyroll, it often took a while to find one of the links I was looking for.

Even with similar ranks, the results could be vastly different. For Fushigi Yugi, for instance, Google’s fifth result was Crunchyroll’s stream of the series; Bing’s was an Amazon result for Volume 1 of the manga. Ask took 21 hits to get a Right Stuf link, but if you wanted reviews or thoughts, they certainly provided a list!

Just by adding “anime” or “manga” to the search terms really could make a difference. On Google, Crunchyroll is the second result for My Hero Academia. Add anime, and it moves down to #5 while FUNimation’s site bumps up to #3 (#4 without).

Netsuzou Trap was extremely hard to find results for. If you count Crunchyroll’s news articles, then they had several around the #4 mark. However, the actual Crunchyroll link still hadn’t shown up after 100 hits — and neither had the Seven Seas site. Ask didn’t come up with any legal sites at all for the manga!

Google’s first result for Skip Beat anime was the Kickstarter page. I chose not to count this since the campaign is over, but if you were to count it since it functions like an official site, this would boost the entry to #1.

The Final Result

Well, first, for those which I couldn’t get a result, I gave them a score of 50, an arbitrary number. As I mentioned, one Google search was still MIA after 100+ results, but other ones I couldn’t find stopped way before that. So 50 is completely random, but it’s still almost 20 points higher than any real result.

With that in mind, here are the averages:

Google T 3.40
Google A 4.57
Google M 4.67
Bing T 4.13
Bing A 7.60
Bing M 9.47
Ask T 5.53
Ask A 7.31
Ask M 4.29
Duck T 3.53
Duck A 8.00
Duck M 8.20

The lower the number, the better. Now, if I average the three results for each of the four search engines, here are the scores:

Google 5.22
Bing 7.07
Ask 8.62
DuckDuckGo 6.58

With the best results, Google emerged the victor. However, all four search engines had series where unofficial or informational sites (wikis, fan pages, reviews) just dominated.  Ask emerged as the worst of the four, but if I were to have counted the shopping/sponsored results at the top (particularly for manga searches), its score would have been more in line with the others. Excluding that, though, Ask did not give the type of results I was looking for, so I found it the least official-friendly. As I mentioned, it’s really good if you want to stumble across new blogs and review sites though…

In addition, while not surprising, the results for the three most popular anime/manga of all time that I chose had the best results. Netsuzou Trap and Welcome to the Ballroom, both of which have anime currently running, really weighed down (well, up) the results. Welcome to the Ballroom was dominated by rehosting sites thanks to it being streamed on newer (and paywall-only) service Anime Strike. But were Netsuzou Trap results hard to find because some people may find the content objectionable?

Final Thoughts

All in all, it’s very easy for people to stumble across unofficial hosts and streams, especially for manga. Of course, for most series, there aren’t any free ways of reading them, making scanlation and illegal reader sites very appealing. If it weren’t for Amazon links, a lot of these numbers would be much higher, making any official resources harder to find. For most anime, Crunchyroll appears to give their series a lot of exposure. Despite all the realigning and changes going on right now, I imagine this optimization is very appealing to anime studios and broadcast companies.

What search engine do you normally use? Do you seem to see unofficial sources come up before official ones? Did any of the results surprise you? What would you recommend US companies do to get their sites ahead of illegal hosts?