A meta search engine is not technically a search engine, it is a website that aggregates the results of all search engines for a keyword or phrase from many different search engines using its own algorithm. This way, you don't have to use each search engine separately to get the search results you want.
How it began
The first meta search engine, the MetaCrawler, was developed by two American researchers at the University of Washington in 1995. A year later, MetaGer launched a project for a regional computing center for Lower Saxony, Germany. The MetaGer meta search engine is still running at this time. The unification of the search engine market at the beginning of the millennium resulted in several genuine search engines such as Excite or Webcrawler being turned into meta search engines.
How does it work
If the user enters a definition or search phrase into the search slot of a meta search engine and starts the search function, the machine will send the request to many other search engines. Before the meta search engine can return any results, its servers arrange to wait for responses from each requested search engine. In some meta search engines, the results list keeps updating as the results of other meta search engines arrive.
Depending on how they are adjusted, the meta search follows certain guidelines in presenting the results. For example, the results can be compiled based on the popularity of the requested search engines. A pre-evaluated list of search results is also feasible. A meta search engine also filters out duplicates so that a URL does not appear twice in the search results list for a search query.
With various meta search engines, such as MetaGer, you can even choose the search engines to be used for the meta search, and in this way, you can influence the search results, or adapt them to your needs.
The advantages of a metasearch engine
For Internet users, meta search engines have the advantage of running a search query on multiple search engines simultaneously. The results are displayed in a uniform structure. While saving time, search engines offer the opportunity to use lesser-known search engines. In this way, you can get results and you can discover websites that otherwise would not have been found with the same search request in a standard 'single search engine'.
In a broader sense, comparison websites or portals that cover specific topics on the Internet can also be considered meta search engines. This is known as "vertical search." If you are looking for specific news, for example, you can find relevant news from news websites for a specific keyword using the Google News search. Similarly, if you want to buy something online, you can find the provider with the best price for your desired product using a price comparison search engine. The topic for the vertical search would be "shopping" in this case. However, meta search engines should not be confused with link directories or link-hubs.
Examples of meta search engines
- Ixquick: Ixquick is a Dutch meta search engine that processes search queries anonymously and renders results with a stellar system. The more stars an entry has, the more prominent this result will be with the search engines evaluated by Ixquick. An interesting feature of Ixquick is the various configuration options, such as advanced search, powerful refinement, and limitation to European servers.
- Metager: A German meta search engine, developed by SUMA eV in collaboration with the University of Hannover. Searches are also anonymous with this service. Of particular note is the web associator, which displays terms semantically similar to the search query and the code search displayed by open source.
- Metacrawler: A meta search engine that aggregates German and international sources and offers a professional search.
- Yabado: A meta search engine from Germany that performs anonymous searches in about ten different sources.
- Dogpile: Dogpile is an American meta search engine that offers a variety of functions. For example, Preferences (search preferences), Intellifind (search recommendations), or Favorite gets (searches by other users).
- Zoo: This meta search engine comes from the same company as Dogpile (InfoSpace LLC) and is another interface of the same search engine technology. Webcrawler and Webfetch also belong to InfoSpace.
Meta search engine for SEO
Meta search engines can be useful for SEO in many ways. By researching specific topics and texts you have quick and easy access to specialized search engines with a meta search engine. On the other hand, meta search engines can help with keyword optimization, because they generally have a great diversity of sites for a particular topic or keyword. This makes it easier to discover possible synonyms or meaningful phrase combinations for a specific keyword. A not underestimated side effect of meta search engines is the time savings that occurs because many search engines do not need to be individually searched "by hand."