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Meta search engine. What it is and why it is important

Although Meta search engines may not be so widely used anymore, they can be the key to optimizing SEO for your websites. Their ability to gather data from multiple sources also helps with federated search technologies such as travel aggregators and torrent search engines. So let’s dig deeper and understand Meta Search engines – what they are and why they are still important today.

What is a Meta Search Engine 

A Meta search engine is an aggregator of data from different search engines and other sources for a keyword phrase query. Some metasearch engines also use their proprietary algorithm to post-process results with their rankings. There are several advantages to using a meta-search engine:

  • Commonplace: Users do not need to enter their query in different search engines. Metasearch engines will aggregate all the results for you.
  • Search space: Meta search engines provide more coverage of data and increase the search space.
  • Vertical search: Works well in vertical search such as in price comparison websites.
  • Useful for SEO: Can help with keyword optimization because search results are presented into topics of similar synonyms or phrase combinations. This can be useful in determining the right keyword phrase to use.

Now that we have an idea of how metasearch engine can be useful, let’s take a look at how it works.

How a Meta Search Engine Works

General operation:

  • Metasearch engine first starts by accepting a single search query request from the user.
  • The query is then passed to a Federated database system which integrates data from different search engines.
  • The results are then post-processed using their proprietary algorithm. Since different search engines use their ranking system, aggregated results may include duplicates. Therefore, the metasearch engine uses fusion techniques to generate more accurate results and yield their ranking mechanism.

Search engine policies:

When the search engines receive the requests from the metasearch engine, it can react in three ways:

  1. Full co-operation: yields all information including private access to their index database
  2. Non-cooperative: Limited access to their search interfaces
  3. Completely opposed:  Will refuse the metasearch engine entire access to their database and may also seek legal means.

Fusion:

Fusion is the technique used to filter data from results for more accuracy. The main two techniques used are:

  1. Collection Fusion: Focuses on search engines that index unrelated data. To determine how relevant these sources are, this technique crawls the content and ranks the data based on the relevance of the query. The chosen links are then combined into a list.
  2. Data Fusion: Focuses on search engines that retrieve information from indexed common data sets. The initial ranking scores of data are recorded and merged into a list. It then traverses the list again and documents are analyzed with their original ranks. It uses an algorithm called CombSum to normalize the scores of the different search engine rankings.

Meta Search engines for SEO

As mentioned previously, metasearch engines can offer a great tool for SEOs. They use the following techniques when retrieving results:

  1. Keyword clustering – results are grouped into keyword phrases or synonyms. This provides a useful way to articulate the best keywords to use and narrow down the most accurate results.
  2. Comparison of results – when choosing certain keywords, you can see which terms rank highest in general for all the used search engines.

List of Meta Search Engines

I have combined a list of the major meta-search engines that all produce something unique in the way the results are retrieved or shown. Some of these have even won Best Meta Search Engine award from Search Engine Watch.

1. DogPile

Dogpile is one of the longest standing meta-search engines. It extracts results from Google, Yahoo, Yandex and Bing. Winner of Best Meta Search engine award in 2003, Dogpile was created back in 1996 by Aaron Flin who decided to create a search engine to combine results from web search engines that had varying rankings. Since then, Dogpile has been acquired by multiple companies but continues to remain useful. It categorises results in specific topics such as news, audio, videos and more. It is also capable of making suggested keyword phrases based on your search.

2. Yippy

As mentioned in one of our earlier articles, Yippy is a metasearch engine capable of providing the results in the form of clusters. It clusters the queries into topical categories dynamically using hierarchical clustering algorithms. What is good about this technique, is that it makes it easier to explore the deep web that is unindexed and cannot be crawled using traditional web search engines.

3. Startpage

Startpage built a meta-search engine that has complete privacy. It uses the most widely used search engine, Google, and pays them to use their search results and remove tracking and logging information. This engine keeps with the European Union privacy standards.

This means that you can search privately without having annoying ads appearing in your search results based on your history and your data is not mined by third party companies.

4. Mamma

Mamma featured as an honourable mention for the Best Meta search engine in 2002. Founded in 1996, Mamma is one of the oldest meta-search engines to date.

Mamma searches using a variety of crawlers, directories and specialisation search sites. Today it has become a business review search engine.

5. Surfwax

Surfwax performs searches from different major search engines or provides users with the ability to choose from hundreds of search engines. You can register for an account for free. Using a term they use called Sitesnaps, it analyses which terms appeared in the results or documents. You can also save results for later use.

Final thoughts and considerations

Metasearch engines may not be anywhere close to being as reliable as Google or other major search engines. They know this, and that is why their philosophy is to use a combination of these major search engines to benefit from having a larger search space. They also have the added benefit of using their algorithm to aggregate and rank the results in their unique way.

It is the reason why this technique of using multiple sources for searching and aggregating results, can be found in comparison and aggregator sites. Metasearch engines use a technique of clustering results into related keywords. It is this unique feature that can be a helpful tool for SEOs to assess the best keyword phrases to use.

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