Keep Your Search Engine Options Open To Find Better InformationGone are the days when all research was done in the library and with encyclopedias. These days, students can almost avoid the library altogether throughout their education. The Internet is the main reason for this - online libraries, databases, and the World Wide Web have made nearly unlimited information available to its users. Of course, along with any type of good searching and researching practices, users must be cautious with the information they obtain.
It's absolutely true that there is a lot of information on the web, but it's equally true that not all of it is valid, usable, or based on fact. It is also valuable to switch up your search/research tactics from time-to-time, to find the strategy that produces the most desirable results for you.
The so-called "Big Three" search engines are: MSN, Google, and Yahoo. These three engines are popular for a reason. Nearly 72% of searchers use these three sites for results. At this point, all three of these engines are massive and moneyed.
They are able to employ powerful spider programs that can crawl the Internet, looking for and returning search results. Their funding makes them able to afford more computing power, better spiders, and whatever new technology evolves to comb the Internet in an automated fashion.
The downside to these popular engines is that results lists are becoming highly advertising-focused. The big marketing term that online marketers are consumed with is "search engine optimization" or SEO. With a focus on SEO, search results can lead to articles that are heavily laden with "keywords".
These keywords are often specifically implanted to draw better and higher placement on results pages. That doesn't necessarily translate into valuable or desired information for you, the searcher. In addition, the big three search engines incorporate sponsored-placed results in their lists. If searchers don't notice the "sponsored" classification, they may believe these results are part of the desired information, instead of merely advertisements.
An often-overlooked tool for searching the Internet is a Meta search engine. These Meta engines don't have the budget of the big engines, which is one reason they're frequently overlooked or simply ignored.
Another reason I believe they're overlooked is because they compile the results of multiple search engines. There's no benefit, in the eyes of the Big Three, to meta search engines, because their results are combined with their competitors'. Unless they can guarantee that their particular search results would be the highest ranked, they'd rather not deal with meta engines at all.
Meta search engines dampen the brand power of the bigger search engine companies. Plus, bigger search engines don't want you to find out that you prefer a different engine over theirs!
These underused meta search engines offer different perspectives and results than what you've come to expect from other search engines. Some of the best meta search engines currently available are: www.dogpile.com, www.widow.com, www.clusty.com, and www.surfwax.com.
Dogpile.com is perhaps the best-known of the meta engines. It complies the top 10 results from various sites, including the Big Three. As a comparison, widow.com uses a different mathematical equation to compile results, eliminating the sponsored results found on dogpile.com and minimizing repetition of content.
Clusty.com also compiles results, but separates out the sponsored results at the top of the page, making it far less confusing for users, as compared to digging through dogpile's mix of sponsored and unsponsored results. Finally, surfwax.com lists one-line results, giving you a large quantity of results at an eye's glance.
For a searcher who needs to find and sort through a great deal of information available online, meta search engines are the way to go. They ultimately save time for the researcher, who doesn't need to type in the same search terms over and over in each individual search engine. It also helps to cut down on repeat results if you use the right meta search engine (widow.com, for example, does a better job of not having repeats than dogpile.com, in my experience).
Niche search engines offer different results than the typical search engines, as well. For many Internet users, these niche engines are not even known to exist. However, hundreds of niche search engines do exist, on a wide-ranging set of topics or niches.
Some popular niche engines you may have heard about (and not realized were niche engines) include: www.technorati.com, www.healthline.com, and www.blog-search.com. Technorati.com focuses on the blogosphere of tech topics. Healthline.com is comprised of all things health and medical related. Blog-search.com focuses on, well, just what it sounds like - blogs!
Finally, human search directories offer yet another perspective for your searches. If you are not familiar with these, you really should give them a try sometime.
Directories like www.mahalo.com and www.dmoz.com are two examples of human search directories. In these, actual human beings research topics, providing pages with the most relevant results. They can be really interesting and spot-on, but they can also be highly subjective, according to who is assigned to a topic. As always, be cautious with the information you receive, as there is real potential for human error and human opinion to affect the search results.
Finally, when deciding which search engines to use for your searches and research, think of quantity versus quality. Some search engines will give you a high quantity of results, but they can contain a good portion of sponsored results, and a lowered portion of content results.
The purpose of researching a topic online is to learn new information, and if you are relying on the Big Three search engines, you might just find that there is nothing new to be seen under the Google, Yahoo or MSN.
A quality search engine should save time for the searcher, so keep your options open to less traditional search engines to get a more in-depth understanding of your topic!