Meta Search Engines – All About Them

Two Heads Are Better Than One” – I don’t know who said it, but he definitely contributed (unknowingly) to the writing of this post.

In today’s world, people are too busy to wait for something. They are always in a hurry to complete a task and accomplish a goal.

Same applies to the online population. If they are searching for something, the only name that comes to their mind is Google.

Earlier, people used to say, “Everything is searchable.”  But with the advent and rapid transformations of Google, this phrase has changed into, “Everything is Googleable”.

Google’s capabilities and consistent performance have not only over-shadowed those of other search engines.  They have also left search-engines-of-search-engines i.e. Meta search engines lurking in the dark and deep dungeons of the web.

We seldom think of any other search engine or resource when it comes to searching online. The reason behind it is simple as well as behavioral — Google gives us accurate results and allows us to perform cumbersome tasks in a simple manner; we don’t need any other search engine.

But I am sure that you will change your perception once you are done with this blog (No hard feelings for “Google God”).

So let’s start off by the indexing capabilities of search engines. As a geek, you might know and as a layman, you might not know, that no major search engine indexes all the web pages existing on the Internet.

Google states that it indexes over 8 billion websites, Yahoo! claims more than 20 billion, MSN assert to be somewhere near 9 billion, Inktomi having a little more than 2 billion and so on. The variation in each search engine’s index is conspicuous as per the above data.

In fact, the eternal truth is nobody knows how wide and deep the Web is, not even Google, which is sometimes dubbed as a “Data Company” and not a search engine.

Therefore, it can be concluded that the major search engines index only a fraction of the web which is publicly viewable. The variation in the indices of major search engines can be attributed to the different parameters used by them to measure the relevancy of the resource in question.

Owing to this factor, it is clear that if you use only one search engine, you may miss the results which are found on the other.  So what’s the solution? One way is to use a Meta search engine.

What is a Meta search engine?

A meta search engine, also known as multi-threaded engine, is a search tool that sends the query to several other search engines, web directories (reputed ones) and sometimes to the deep web (online resources not indexed by search engines).

It then aggregates the results by removing the duplicate ones and displays the sifted unique results as a single list.  Here we have three important points to note:

1. Meta search engines function on the principle of aggregated results i.e. they believe that web is too large for any search engine to handle alone. Therefore, they crawl all the available resources and present the unique result.
2. Meta search engines don’t have their own database. They feed on the database of other resources.
3. Since they don’t have their own database, you can’t submit your website to them. If you want to be visible on a Meta search engine, make sure you are visible on other search engines and online resources.

Pros and Cons of Meta Search Engines

Pros: Since Meta search engines query variety of resources, they present a reasonable picture of what’s available across the web. Moreover, their aggregated lists save searchers a considerable amount of time that they would have wasted by querying the same string in the different search engines.

Cons: They don’t have their own algorithm to manipulate the results page. Further, they don’t support advanced searching techniques.

Types of Meta Search Engines: There are basically two types of Meta search engines depending on the method of display of the results:

1. Display the aggregated results (results from all the resources) in one page.
2. Display the results grouped according to the different search engines, directories or resources.

Some of the popular Meta search engines are:
Dogpile
Mamma
Kartoo
Metacrawler
Incrawler
Clusty

Now the question here is, if Meta search engines provide us with a set of comprehensive results, should the traditional search engines be used? The answer is, of course yes. The usage depends on the situation and the query being searched.

If you are looking for a quick reference, want to perform a simple search or when you are sure that the subject matter is not intricate, using traditional ones is perfectly alright. On the other hand, if you want to search for an obscure term or want to perform an in-depth analysis on a specific topic, using Meta search engines is recommended.

PS – This is for all the SEO fans. If your website does not appear in a Meta search engines, don’t begin to sweat. Continue with your SEO activities and concentrate on traditional search engines. If you do well on them, your site will automatically climb up in the Meta search engines.

Always remember, there is only one thing and that is SEO. There is nothing like Meta Search Engine Optimization or MSEO.

Shailendra Sial is a an Internet Marketing professional and authoring articles and blog posts is his hobby. Currently, he is working for BatchMaster Software Inc., a market leader in providing ERP solutions to the Process Manufacturing Industry.

Shailendra Sial

I am working as Search Engine Optimizer at BatchMaster Software Inc. with the responsibility of promoting the company's websites. Passionate about the possibilities that the World Wide Web holds, I am greatly enjoying working with social media tools. Do take some time to read articles I have authored at http://ezinearticles.com/?expert=Shailendra_Sial Other than the Internet Marketing work, I am keen on social work and have started an NGO - Youth Forum for RTI to create awareness about the Right to Information Act in India. An active member of Amnesty International, I have initiated a strategic partnership between the two organizations. I like to do things other than work and find that teaching is most gratifying. I work weekends teaching Advances in e-Commerce and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) as visiting faculty at Institute of Management Studies (IMS), DAVV, Indore (India). 

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