Streamline Web Searches Using Meta-Search Sites

If you’re like most Internet users, you use major search engines like Google, MSN, or Yahoo to search the Web. (“Search engine” is the name for the software that does the searching when you go on these sites.) And these resources are great.

But frequently you’re overwhelmed with hundreds of thousands of results. There are numerous repetitions. And – even if you aren’t aware of it – you may not be getting all the important information that’s out there.

The best solution to this dilemma is to supplement your major search engine results with “meta searches.”

What Are Meta-Searches?

Simply put, meta-search engines search a series of content sites. They then compile those results and display them for you, either by source or by integrating them in a uniform manner.

Meta-searches eliminate duplicates and re-sort your results according to relevance. It’s like using multiple search engines … all at the same time. You get a snapshot of the top results from a variety of search engines, which provides you with a broad scope of information.

Meta-search engines let you use inexact search terms. You’ll probably get fewer results, but those that you get will be more applicable to your needs. (Who needs 10,000,000 results?)

Instead of returning every possible result that contains your search term, meta-searches return the most trusted results from the Internet. They allow you to compare the kinds of results available on different engine types (indexes, directories, pay-for-placement, etc.).

They’re also great for making sure you haven’t missed a great resource you might have missed with your favorite search engine (because it’s buried on page 123).

Overall, meta search engines are a great way to save time and find exactly what you’re looking for.

Some of the Best Meta-Search Sites

  • Mamma.com (www.mamma.com): Mamma calls itself the mother of all search engines. It simultaneously searches a variety of engines, directories, and deep content sites.

    You can specify 1 of 5 different areas to search: Web, News, Images, Yellow Pages (business addresses and phone numbers), or White Pages (people’s addresses and phone numbers).

  • Dogpile (www.dogpile.com): Dogpile searches all the best-known search engines, including Google, Yahoo, MSN, and Ask Jeeves. Its compiled results are much easier to use for general results. For example, a search on “green tea” yielded 19,200,000 results on Google, but 115 on Dogpile.

    Dogpile allows you to search: Web, Images, Audio, Video, News, Yellow Pages, and White Pages.

  • Beaucoup: (www.beaucoup.com): Similar to Dogpile, Beaucoup can search all the major search engines at once. But it also allows you to use 10 individual search engines if you need to (including AOL).

    Beaucoup has an extensive list of content areas to click on and investigate, including Geographical, Society, Media, and People.

  • MetaCrawler (www.metacrawler.com): MetaCrawler searches the major search engines, including Google, Yahoo! Search, MSN Search, Ask Jeeves, About, MIVA, and LookSmart.

    MetaCrawler has “Advanced” options that allow you to search for “all the words” or “the exact phrase.” It also allows you to save your preferences on the website (if you have “cookies” activated on your browser). These preferences include number of results per page, adult content on or off, and spelling correction.

With MetaCrawler, you can search: Web, Images, Audio, Video, News, Yellow Pages, and White Pages.

Which of these meta-search sites is best? Each has its strengths and weaknesses – so test them all. Though you may settle on one as your favorite, there will be times when one of the others may do a better job for you.

The best way to use meta-searches is as a starting point for your research. Mine the results for important ideas and concepts. Then, if you still need more, search those words in your regular search sites like Google or Yahoo.

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Published: April 10, 2006

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