Look Beyond Google: Meta-Search Engines Can Help Online MarketersFor businesses that market wholly or partially online, it may seem that three words are the only way to get more customers: search engine optimization (SEO). Typically, the search engines being referred to are: Google, Yahoo, and MSN. These three engines have almost become interchangeable with the phrase "do a search", so much so that the word "Google" has entered the English lexicon as "find information".
There are actually hundreds of search engines, not just the Big Three that many Internet users think of (Google, Yahoo, and MSN). By focusing only on the most well known search engines for your online marketing strategy, you may be missing out on as much as 30% of the billions of searches being done online every single day.
While not the oldest search engine on the internet, Google does have the reputation of being the granddaddy. However, it is worth investigating alternative search engines - niche engines, meta-search engines, and human-powered engines.
Niche search engines focus their searches on a particular subject matter, such as blogs (www.blog-search.com) or articles (www.goarticles.com). Meta-search engines compile results from multiple search engines (www.dogpile.com, www.widow.com). Finally, human-powered search engines are composed of directory pages with link and general information, put together by humans who search for the most relevant content (www.mahalo.com, www.dmoz.org). These alternative search engines tend to have pretty high page ranks, which give more credence to the fact that online marketers shouldn't overlook them.
There is also the fact that some Internet searchers do not want to use Google because of personal or political views. Because of Google's popularity, it can (incorrectly) be perceived as having a monopoly on the search engine market. That perception, combined with opposition to a seemingly growing "corporate world", turns off some potential customers and eliminates your potential to reach them, if you focus only on Google or other big search engines.
As part of SEO, using keywords to bring in consumers is all the rage. Businesses spend a great deal of time and money researching keywords, keyword density, and effects on page rankings in results lists. Guess what? It's not only a pain for the businesses to constantly be looking for which words may get them more hits and higher rankings; it's quickly becoming over done.
Consumers are fatigued with seeing keyword-loaded articles and websites tagged with anything that could possibly be related to their search terms. This online marketing strategy may make sense in the short-term, but chances are good that by the time the strategy is perfected by your marketers, there will be a different trend altogether that needs to be learned. Marketing with the intent to only increase your page rankings, by any means necessary, is only a quick fix and could be quite expensive.
SEO tactics are starting to turn customers off. If SEO is the main priority of a marketing campaign and keyword-dense content was the impetus for the customer finding the website, this hurts the site's credibility with the consumer. Perhaps they'll buy from you once because you showed up at the top of the results page, but will they remember you next time or just do another search?
Another concern with search engines is the program spiders that crawl the Internet, looking for relevant pages for search results. Even the largest of the search engines can only cover a portion of the internet. According to Wikipedia, no search engine can search more than 16% of the net! (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spidering)
In addition, the spiders have a massive amount of searching to do, which can be a slow and taxing process on the sites they are crawling. By the time a spider finishes crawling the Internet, the information collected can be outdated - pages and links have either been deleted or new information added. Spiders are certainly not a perfect means of finding good results with one search engine.
Searching just one engine at a time is time-consuming and not very cost-efficient for searchers looking for the most appropriate information or businesses to suit their needs. Enter, meta-search engines. As mentioned earlier, meta-search engines compile results from multiple engines.
Among these, dogpile.com is probably the most well-known. The problem with dogpile, as I see it, is that it spits back the top 10 results from each of the Big Three engines. This results in a lot of sponsored results at the top of the result list, followed by a mix of "normal" results and more sponsored results. The truth be known, I simply consider dogpile to be really annoying, so I avoid it.
In comparison, widow.com uses a different sort of math equation that sorts through search engine results for the most relevant information and ranks them in their results page. In an unscientific but entertaining comparison I performed, I plugged in "celebrity gossip" to both dogpile.com and widow.com.
On dogpile.com, I felt like I had to search through commercials to find the content. The results on widow.com were much more relevant, giving me results with the desired content. Plus, I didn't have to look between the annoying sponsored results to find the information I wanted.
Utilizing meta-search engines can be very time-efficient and cost-effective for online marketers, especially when doing market research, even for keyword research.
More importantly, if you can also rank in the meta-search and smaller niche search engines, you have a better chance of reaching the approximately 30% of searchers who do not use one of the Big Three engines, as their search tool of choice.
The niche audience may be smaller than the quantity of consumers you're exposed to on Google, but if you can gain an audience in the niche search engines, you are likely to find consumers intent on buying what you are selling. It's a good general marketing strategy to remember that "quantity exposure" does not always equate to "quality exposure". It's also a good general marketing strategy to never rely on only one advertiser to help you reach your target audience.