Did you know there’s life beyond Google?
Meta search engines are a strange topic because many of these sites started as direct competitors to Google back in the late 90s and early 2000s. Investigating metasearch and meta search engines is like walking through the history of search. But if meta search engines confuse you like Inception confused me, this guide is for you. I put together this no-fluff article on what meta search engines are, where they matter, and where they don’t.
Join me as I explore this fascinating subject!
What Is Meta Search?
Like so many other things, we can thank the ancient Greeks for the word “meta.” In general, the Greeks used the word meta to attach the idea of “beyond” to an existing concept. For example, metaphysics is the study of things beyond the physical, like time, space, and identity. Deep, I know!
Today, meta has evolved to describe something that’s self-referential. So, metadata is data about data and metacognition is thinking about thinking. In the same way, meta search is search about search.
What Is a Meta Search Engine?
A meta search engine searches the indexes of other search engines. More specifically, a meta search engine is a specialized form of search engine that aggregates results from the data of other search engines. Meta search engines can either be generalized, as most search engines like Google are, or specialized in a topic or vertical. That’s so meta, bro!
Is it “meta search engine” or “metasearch engine?” Honestly, I’ve seen it spelled both ways. I’ve even seen some people call them “mega search engines” or hyphenate to “meta-search engine.”
Is Google a Meta Search Engine?
No, Google is not a meta search engine. Google is a traditional search engine that pulls its search results from its own index and not from other search engines.
What Does a Meta Search Engine Do?
Meta search engines crawl other search engines, online databases, and other sources of online information. They then collate and index the various search results that they gather and rank them using their proprietary search technology. Some use their methods of ranking results and clustering results while others rely on the search engines they crawled for ranking.
Ironically, the technology behind the early meta search engines has been crucial in the development of database technology and with the proprietary search engines found on individual websites – such as Amazon.com and eBay.
How Do Meta Search Engines Help With SEO Research?
Meta search engines can offer a goldmine of valuable customer and keyword data to SEOs and SEMs. Meta search engines can offer lots of great tools to SEOs, such as:
- Search results clustering – search term grouping based on phrases and word derivations. This is a great way to brainstorm while conducting keyword research and is especially useful for narrow client verticals that the meta search engine services.
- Comparing engine results – sites such as Langreiter.com compares Google and Yahoo results, or Fuzzfind, which compares social media and search. The value of comparing terms between social media and search engines is clear.
- Meta search engines are also excellent sources to define overall keywords linguistically and textually. You can see how nearly everyone uses a keyword or a term, instead of just Google.
8 Meta Search Engine Examples
There are a diverse bunch of metasearch engines out there. Popular metasearch engine examples include Startpage, Metager, Metacrawler, Dogpile, Kayak, and more. This metasearch engines list should give you an idea of what they have to offer:
- DuckDuckGo: DuckDuckGo is known for its privacy stance, but it’s also a metasearch engine that pulls in results from its own web crawler, as well as Bing, Yahoo!, and WolframAlpha.
- DogPile: Dogpile is one of the oldest general metadata search engines out there. It pulls results from various search engines like Google, Yandex, and Bing. It has been through several acquisitions and university studies.
- Startpage: Startpage claims to be “the world’s most private search engine. Originally known as IxQuick, this engine is notable for maintaining European Union privacy standards.
- Mamma: A specialized metasearch engine that provides business reviews, deals, and coupons.
- Kayak: A travel search engine aggregator that pulls booking information for flights, hotels, and more.
- Metacrawler: The second metasearch engine created, right before the defunct Searchsavvy. This was originally a project out of the University of Washington and was an essential landmark in the development of semantic search. Now metacrawler is owned by Infospace Inc.
- MetaGer: MetaGer aims to curb censorship by combining results from multiple search engines.
- Wolfram Alpha: A self-described “computational knowledge engine for computing answers,” Wolfram Alpha provides answers to academic or factual queries.
Meta Search Engine Optimization – Is it Important?
Frankly, not that much. According to Statcounter.com, 86% of US search traffic goes through Google. Since most of your traffic will go through Google, most of your SEO campaign efforts should be directed towards creating quality content and optimizing for Google search. Since Google is the world leader, even the various meta search engines consider how Google demands that websites format and optimize. Google is still the king of search at the end of the day, and that is where most of your SEO resources should go.
There are always exceptions to rules, however. For example, if you are a travel agency selling vacation promotions and packages, you would want to optimize for sites like Hipmunk (as well as traditional travel SEO optimization). On the other hand, contractors running small business SEO services anticipate traffic coming from homeowners searching for home improvement professionals. As a result, they should spend some effort optimizing for a meta search engine like Trust Mamma. Always optimize for where your customers are.
This means that if 86% percent of your traffic comes from Google, 86% of your SEO resources should go to Google SEO. The last 14% of your resources should be used for meta search engines.
Getting Your Meta Search Engine Questions Answered
Here at our SEO agency, we feel that you should leave no stone unturned with your SEO education. The SEO world is always changing, and being armed with the knowledge of how meta search engines work will help you find your customers and help them. Check out our SEO services and learn why SEO matters.
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