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Meta Search Engines: The No-Fluff Guide for 2024

A metasearch engine is a specialized type of search engine that aggregates results from other search engines. Learn how they help with SEO and see examples of some of the most popular metasearch engines.

May 8, 2024

5 m read

Did you know there’s life beyond Google?

It’s true.

Meta search engines have been part of the internet since the late 1990s and early 2000s. Daniel Dreilinger, a researcher at Colorado State University, developed SAVVYSEARCH, one of the earliest meta search engines.

SAVVYSEARCH was groundbreaking, allowing its users to simultaneously query up to 20 different search engines. This meant users could see results from several search engines all in one place.

Investigating meta search and meta search engines is like walking through the history of search. If meta search engines confuse you, this guide is for you. Below, I’ll cover what meta search engines are, when they matter for search engine optimization (SEO), and when they don’t.

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 they can specialize in a topic or vertical. As for the spelling, is it “meta search engine,” “meta-search engine,” or “metasearch engine?” Honestly, I’ve seen it spelled all three ways. I’ve even seen some people call them “mega search engines.”

Is Google a Meta Search Engine?

No, Google is not a metasearch 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 search engines, online databases, and other sources of online information. They then collate and index the various first-page search results that they gather and rank them using their proprietary search technology. Some use their own methods of ranking and clustering results, while others rely on the search engines they crawl 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 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. This includes:

  • Search results clustering. This allows SEOs to group search terms based on phrases and word derivations. This feature is particularly useful for conducting keyword research, especially in niche markets or specific industries catered to by the meta-search engine.
  • Comparing engine results. Meta-search engines that compare results from different search engines can help marketers understand user behavior, refine their keyword strategies, and optimize their content for better visibility and engagement across different online channels.
  • Keyword definition. Meta-search engines are also excellent sources with which to define overall keywords linguistically and textually. You can see how nearly everyone uses a keyword or a term across multiple search engines, not just Google.

How Do Meta Search Engines Work

Here’s a breakdown of how meta search engines operate:

  1. User Query: A user submits a search query to the meta search engine.
  2. Request Forwarding: The meta search engine forwards this query to major search engines such as Google, Yahoo, Bing, and others.
  3. Data Integration: Each single search engine processes the query independently and generates a list of relevant results based on its unique algorithms. These results go back to the meta search engine.
  4. Duplicates Handling: Since different search engines may return overlapping results, the meta search engine processes these results to remove duplicates. It applies its own algorithm to filter and refine the list of results.
  5. Ranking Algorithm: To determine the relevance and ranking of each result, the meta search engine may use its own ranking algorithm. This algorithm considers factors like the search engine’s ranking, the content of the web page, and other relevant criteria. It’s important to note that a website might appear highly ranked on one search engine and lowly ranked on another. This discrepancy occurs because search engines prioritize different criteria and methods for scoring, leading to variations in ranking across different platforms.
  6. Result Fusion: The meta search engine uses fusion techniques to merge and organize the results from different source engines. There are two main fusion methods:
    1. Collection Fusion: Meta search engines use this method when the source engines index unrelated data. The meta search engine evaluates the relevance of each source based on the query and ranks them. It then selects the most relevant results from each source to merge into a single list.
    2. Data Fusion: When search engines index common data sets, the meta search engine merges the initial rank scores of each document into a single list. It then analyzes these scores to identify the most relevant results. Algorithms such as CombSUM are often used to make these scores comparable, as different search engines may use different ranking criteria.
  7. Output: Finally, the meta search engine presents the user with a refined and merged list of search engine results, providing an overview of relevant information from multiple sources.

8 Top Meta Search Engine Examples

There are many metasearch engines out there. Popular metasearch engine examples include Startpage, Metager, Metacrawler, Dogpile, and Kayak. 

This metasearch engines list should give you an idea of what they have to offer:

  1. 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.
  2. DogPile: Dogpile is one of the oldest general metadata search engines out there. It pulls results from Google, Yandex, Bing, and more search engines. 
  3. 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.
  4. Mamma: This specialized metasearch engine provides business reviews, deals, and coupons.
  5. Kayak: A travel search engine aggregator, Kayak pulls booking information for flights, hotels, and more.
  6. MetaCrawler: This was the second metasearch engine created, right before the defunct SAVVYSEARCH. 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.
  7. MetaGer: MetaGer aims to curb censorship by combining results from multiple search engines.
  8. 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 really. According to Statcounter.com, 78% of US search traffic goes through Google. Since most of your traffic will likely come from Google, your SEO campaign efforts should be directed towards creating quality content and optimizing for Google search.

Ultimately, Google is the world leader — even the various metasearch engines consider how Google wants site owners to format and optimize their sites. 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 this rule, however. For example, if you’re a travel agency selling vacation promotions and packages, you’ll want to optimize for travel-specific sites (as well as traditional travel SEO optimization).

Getting Your MetaSearch 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 metasearch 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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