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How Meta Search Engines Work

written by: Tarun Goel•edited by: Amy Carson•updated: 10/5/2011

What is a meta search engine? Learn how meta search engines work and how your search criteria is used by these engines to find information from multiple sources. Also find out how these meta search engines use a virtual database, taking advantage of existing search engine databases.

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    The meta search engines work by using the search string that you enter into the site engine to query more than one search engine database. Meta engines are also called second generation search engines. Meta Search Engines give a way of searching multiple search engines, with the anticipation that searching more than a few different engines will provide better results than any one alone. If you depend on a single source obviously your search results will be limited, both in quality and quantity. The working method of a meta search engine differs considerably from that of a conventional search engine.

    The meta search engine uses several other search tools and resources to deliver gathered information from these sources as your search result. Meta search engines employ a virtual database method by using a query to search other search engines where the actual databases are located.

    Once the search has been started, the meta web site will search a list of existing search engines to find matching and relevant links. The search yields a variety of results from various sources, increasing the opportunity of finding obscure or unpopular information. The search results displayed to the user are a mixture from a number of sites. Meta search engines combine the information and employ the services of the database-driven search engines to deliver links.

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    You fire a query and meta engine starts pulling relevant results from different search engines, compiles them, and returns the best results available from different search engines.

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    How a Search Engine Works

    Search engines work by taking the search criteria that you enter which scans through an index that the engine has created. The search engine indexes are huge databases of information that has been accumulated and stored. This is what makes the search via Google different from that of say Yahoo. In general the feedback information will be similar but often will vary based on the database indexes.

    Searching via different search engines can produce varied results due to the way the databases are indexed. Another factor to bear in mind with the search results is the algorithm employed by the search engine. This will vary and produce different results. Sometimes webpage results can appear to be out of date. This will happen when the website has not updated the database and will vary from website to website. The algorithm will determine what information to feed back based on the user input.

    Most of the online users do not know about the effectiveness of using a meta search engine. Just consider an example, you are trying hard to search something online but your luck is in a bad mood and you just get commercially hyped and search engine optimized results that actually lack content and reliability. What do you then? It is one of those situation when relying on meta search engines help because meta engines pull results from more than one conventional search engine and that reduces dependency and increases the chances of getting better and reliable results. Following are the conditions under which you should consider using meta search engines.

    • Whenever your favorite search engine fails you, switch to meta search engines.
    • Sometimes you don't know what to search for, meta engines can help you locate keywords and form an effective search query based upon your little inputs.
    • Searching obscure and narrow topics at meta search engines is very effective as it pulls relevant results from different search engines and you get a good number of relevant results enabling you to find the desired information.

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    Meta Search Engines

    There are many other meta search engines out there, two examples here of meta search engine sites include:

    • Browsys
    • Dogpile

    Dogpile works by collecting information from websites such as Ask, Yahoo!, Bing and Google, saving you the effort of trawling through each search engine individually gaining time and providing a more thorough search. The search results are not duplicated, if the same website is recruited from different locations, this will be filtered out in the result.

    Browsys works by collating different search engines and providers in one location. Browsys offers additional services including custom folders, favorites and other options like sharing folders. Some of these engines can suffer from requests timing out occasionally due to the high traffic and the fact that they are newly created and probably need more tweaking to perform better.

    Webcrawler, Excite, Mamma, LeapFish, and Metacrawler are some of the other popular meta search engines.

    So next time if you are frustrated with your regular search engines and irrelevant results appearing on your screen, just try one of these meta engines to make things work.

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