Saturday, November 29, 2008

Search engines - some alternatives to Google

St Paul's Cathedral from the Tate Modern cafe

Every now and again I take a look at the use of different search engines by people who visit my blog. Here's a summary of what you use and some suggestions for alternative search engines. Of the people arriving at Making A Mark as a result of a search
  • just under 70% had used Google
  • 25% had used Yahoo
  • just over 5% had used a variety of other search engines (MSN, AOL, AOL UK, and Windows Live)
If you can't find a site on Google or Yahoo, or maybe you feel like you're using Google a bit too much here are some alternatives to using Google or Yahoo as a search engine. In essence, they are about finding new ways of stripping out some of the visual noise and/or bias of Google results.

Search engine alternatives

Dogpile : I recommend giving Dogpile a try - it's a quite a bit slower at start up but returns all the results from all the main search engines. (Google, Windows Live, Yahoo! Search and Ask.com).

What this means is that if Google is being silly about a site (which it does periodically) and not showing it then you'll probably find it if you use Dogpile. I find it the best one for finding sites which are proving elusive. There is also a UK version of Dogpile.

From a personal perspective, the big bonus of Dogpile is that it tells you where your own website is showing up in different search engines. For example it shows this blog as being found on Google, Windows Live, Yahoo! Search but not in Ask.com

It appears to me to be uncluttered by the sort of 'advertisement' entries which appear to becoming more and more prevalent in Google. It also highlights those entries whose only claim to fame is that it can be found on "Ads on Google". I find I tend to get a much 'cleaner' search on Dogpile.
It also shows popular searches of the moment on its front page.

I know it's an unfortunate name, the story about how it came about is equally silly!

Metacrawler is a new one I've only just found (by putting 'best search engine' into dogpile!) I like this one because it places this blog above that new upstart website for all the people who mark exams! ;)

Like Dogpile it indicates which search engines a site can be found on.

What's also interesting for me is that it also identifies the search engines which have indexed particular blog posts on this blog. I now know the reason why certain posts get such heavy traffic!

Clusty: Another good one is Clusty - mainly because it creates sensible groupings of links. This post by Vivismo explains how Clusty came about and how it works. I am still amazed at what it does. It's a revelation if you're used to conventional search engines.

This one is very good if you're trying to find a site which sounds or has the same name as something else.

Give me back my Google is an excellent site written by Oliver Humpage for getting rid of all those nuisance entries from all the major selling and comparison sites and affiliate links. They have the site clout to muscle their way to the top of the front page - but they can also really confuse your search results in a major way.

Give me back my Google basically takes your search query and then adds in an algorithm (with the syntax "-inurl:(site1|site2|site3...)" ) which excludes responses from the likes of kelkoo, bizrate, dealtime etc etc. Basically if a site is purely a comparison site, with no extra useful information, it gets removed from results. It leaves in all the pure paid for and obvious adverts.

I keep this one permanently on browser menu for those times when Google gives me the screaming abdabs!

Ask.com This is not one I usually use much. Partly because it has too few results per page relative to adverts and partly because it's impossible to get out of the UK site. However it is good at suggesting related searches.

Are there any more out there?

I'm always interested to hear of different search engines which have emerged. Do leave a comment if you know of a good one and please say why you have found it to be a good alternative to other search engines.

[Note: Producing the sketch at the top of this post was not without problems. In fact it was quite similar to the sort of visual noise you sometimes get when doing a search. You can read about the problems of drawing buildings in the dark from inside a cafe in my post this week on Urban Sketchers - St Paul's Cathedral at night]

11 comments:

John Salmon said...

Thanks for the heads-up on Clusty.

I am most impressed with this search engine and was able to get far more information than with my old Google.

It digs further than I have become used to and can see this becoming my search engine of choice.

It's a bit like what I used to experience on Google before it got too big and clever.

Thank you for opening my eyes again.

laureline said...

Katherine, I checked out all the search engines you listed and was fascinated by the different results each produced. I agree with John about the utility of Clusty---it's going to be very helpful to me, I can tell.
I think we should make YOU into a search engine. Your store of data would give Google a run for its money!

Katherine Tyrrell said...

It's odd isn't it, the way they all return different results. I keep getting very fed up with Google as it's not actually as good as it makes out - and you really begin to realise that when you start looking at other search engines.

Clusty is really a revelation!

I'm still trying to work out how to make my information into a database of some sort. Maybe I need a search engine?!

linda blondheim said...

I've used Dogpile for years. It's great.
Love,
Linda

Julie Oakley said...

I found that very interesting. I tried my name out on all of the sites, my blogs and website come to the top with Google but not necessarily so with the others, so I felt that the ones that put sunglasses higher (than me) were not as intuitive. Clusty was very interesting and I'll certainly consider using it together with bring back my google. But my goodness Google did change everything – the algorithms and search results are so much better than they were when Yahoo used to be the main search engine.

Robyn said...

Your night sketch of St Pauls has a beautiful silver glow, Katherine. I'd never have known you were struggling with window reflections. I recognised it as your work immediately scrolling through Urban Sketchers.

Of course I had to try Dogpile immediately ;)

Anonymous said...

Have you checked http://find.com yet? It's a newly relaunched search engine that offers a fresh, clean layout and bigger fonts. It is also a content directory. They got a very smart name for a search engine - don't search for it, FIND it!

peter said...

TheHub.net is a new search engine, I've been using it for a few weeks in place of Google.

Katherine Tyrrell said...

I just checked it and it's not got a very clever name/URL - it's easy to get confused with a number of other sites when looking for it in Google

That's why browsers have to have very unique names!

Amie Roman said...

I just ran across this post, Katherine, and tried clusty... and found it has been replaced by yippy. You might find the wiki page about it interesting.

And dogpile seems to have more advertisements than your original post might have indicated; however, still looks like a reasonable google alternative.

Cheers!
Amie

Katherine Tyrrell said...

Thanks for the update Amie

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