Meta-search engine is a web-based service that aggregates data from a number of search engines. A meta search engine doesn't have a database of indexed pages of its own. Instead it "sends a user's query to multiple search engines and blends the top results from each into one overall list."

Being in Search Engine Marketing, you may want to know how meta-search engines work, so here's a good reference source for you.

Some helpful features meta-search engines offer are:

  • search results clustering (i.e. search term grouping and classification based on the word derivations and phrases). Like I previously suggested, this feature can be effectively used for keyword research and brainstorming);
  • related term suggestions (also used for expanding keyword lists);
  • search terms linguistic and textual analysis (e.g. keyword definitions).

Besides, some newly launched meta-search tools offer a few really creative and innovative approaches: combining regular search engines and social media sites (e.g. FuzzFind) or outlining the results on a map showing the links between different search engines ( , etc.

However, most (if not all) meta-search tools are no better than an individual search engine as neither of them seemed to develop an effective blending technology and relevancy leaves much to be desired:

  Search engines Main feature More options Advanced search abilities

Relevance (my take)

Other search types
Clusty, Gigablast, Live, NY Times, ODP, Shopzilla, Yahoo news, Yahoo stocks Term clusters TLD stats Boolean operators (OR, -, +), filetype and language restricted search Low, too many "sponsored results" News,images, logs, shops
DogPile Google, Yahoo, Ask, Live Search suggestions (related terms); recent searches - Boolean operators ("", -) High Images, audio, video, news, Yellow Pages, White Pages
IxQuick All the Web, Exalead, Qkport,
Ask, Gigablast, Wikipedia,
Bebo, MSN, Winzy,
CNN, NBC, Yahoo,
EntireWeb, OPD
"Star" system (the more stars = the more search engines agree on the listing rankings). Multiple language support Boolean operators (OR, -, +) High Video, images
IBoogie AllTheWeb, MSN Term clusters "Add your source" option - Low Images, news
Kartoo N/A Search results on a map Term clustering - Low Images, video
SurfWax CNN, Yahoo news, HotBot, ODP, Yahoo news, MSN, AllTheWeb Snapping = displaying the summary of the page containing the search query - No Moderate -
Mamma,, Entireweb,, Gigablast, Wisenut, ODP Add/ Exclude any of the search engines "Refine your query" search suggestions Boolean operators ("", -, +), Moderate Video, Yellow Pages, White Pages
Search Google,, MSN, ODP - "Narrow/ Expand Your Search" search suggestions Boolean operators (OR, -, +, ""), filetype, language, update time, linkdomain restricted search Moderate Images, video, people, shopping, music, news, games
Meta Crawler Google, Yahoo, MSN, Ask - Preferences: Bold search on/off, recent searches on/off Boolean operators (OR, -, +, "") Moderate, too many "sponsored results" Images, audio, video, news, Yellow Pages, White Pages
Fuzz Find Google, Yahoo and MSN and from Sort the results based on any of the sources - No High No

So does meta-search have any future? Well, it does. In today's web 2.0 (and emerging web 3.0) Internet there are plenty of promising ways for meta-search to evolve:

  • aggregate data from several search engines and rate them based on social media voting (e.g. Yoople);
  • blend several social bookmarking services;
  • make up a really unique blending and ranking algorithm;
  • aggregate data from different vertical search engines, etc.

Ann Smarty is a search engine and social media consultant blogging at Search Engine Journal and offering SEO consulting services.