If a universe of digital information is only keystrokes away,
finding the best sources among a search engine's rankings can
sometimes feel like looking for the brightest star in the sky --
while suffering from conjunctivitis.
Any search engine on the Internet can produce information about
high-heeled shoes, but suppose a shopper wants to find a specific
brand for the cheapest price at a local retailer? What if the hunt
is for a picture of those dream shoes posted on an online forum
months before the actual purchase? How are consumers, researchers or
anyone else online seeking highly specific information expected to
know which one of millions of search results will provide the exact
"Think about the last time you tried to buy an MP3 player or a
digital camera or a car," said Eric Silver, founder and CEO of North
Shore-based consumer search engine company Pikimal.
"The amount of education you have to do to make a decision is
really intense. And if it's a decision you make infrequently, like a
car, I think we've kind of just gotten used to it. But for the other
decisions we make, we're not used to it. I think search engines
really fail us there."
The science of search has come a long way since the early 1990s,
when companies such as AltaVista and Lycos used keywords as the
primary criteria for rankings.
Once Google came on the scene and began using a website's
popularity in terms of links from legitimate sites in 1999, it set a
standard where today search engines use hundreds of metrics,
including popularity, to pan for the best rankings and most
Chris Hornak, director of operations for South Side-based
Internet marketing company Eyeflow, said Google's changes have
prevented scammers from faking their way to the top of rankings
through keyword abuse and have helped the best websites succeed.
The country's online seekers apparently agree with that
assessment, considering Google was responsible for 66.7 percent of
the country's searches in May, or 11.7 billion quests for
information, according to Reston, Va.-based Internet research firm,
"Google put more weight on the strength of the brand. They want
to know, do [brands] have a social media profile on Facebook,
Twitter or LinkedIn? Is that profile active? Does it have followers?
Are a lot of people talking about your brand? If a lot of people are
talking about your brand, there's a good chance people want to see
your website in search results," Mr. Hornak said.
Despite Google's constant retooling, a new crop of search engines
geared toward the specific could be emerging as the next leaders to
Pikimal, which ranks product searches according to criteria set
by users such as price and durability, provides detailed
descriptions and comparative information for more than 350 products,
from appliances to charities. Once a user decides on a product or
service, he can simply click on links to go to a site where it can
be found for the best bargain.
Pikimal, which launched October 2010, joins the likes of Valley
Forge, Pa.-based DuckDuckGo.com, which uses information from crowd-
sourced sites such as Wikipedia to provide relevant search results,
and Blekko, a Redwood City, Calif. …