August 23, 2004 -- A new study says that Americans are increasingly satisfied by the results hauled in by their online search engines - especially when they Google something.

Customer satisfaction in three areas of e-business jumped an aggregate 1.5 percent over the past year and 5.6 percent since 2002, according to the University of Michigan's American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). Led by market leader and now public company Google, search engines garnered the highest average satisfaction levels in the e-business category, scoring an 80 out of 100, a 17.6 percent increase over the past two years, outdistancing the other two e-business subcategories: portals (71) and news and information sites (75).

"Google retains its status as the industry leader with a stellar score of 82, not surprising for a site that has entered the lexicon as a verb," said online satisfaction expert and study sponsor Larry Freed in a statement. "Google has not rested on its laurels, but instead has taken the stance of aggressive innovator."

Freed, who is CEO of Foresee Results, added that Google's ability to satisfy customers in the years ahead will likely depend on how well it competes with online retailers like Amazon and portals like Yahoo!(78) and MSN (75) that categorize search results based on a customer's preferences.

While search engines improved their customer satisfaction levels, the scores for news and information sites like ABC (74), CNN (74) and the NY Times (72) remained relatively unchanged over the past two years. The results showed that search engines trump their e-business cousins because their customers are 15 percent more loyal.

"These sites have no personality and no real differentiation," said Freed. "Loyalty to news sites is relatively low for the category compared to search engines. They're doing next to nothing to give users a preference."