Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

How Search Engines Stack Up Does Google Really Produce the Best Search Results? a Look into Bing, Yahoo and Other Engines

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

How Search Engines Stack Up Does Google Really Produce the Best Search Results? a Look into Bing, Yahoo and Other Engines

Article excerpt

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 information needed?

"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 legitimate sites.

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, Comscore.

"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 navigate cyberspace.

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, which uses information from crowd- sourced sites such as Wikipedia to provide relevant search results, and Blekko, a Redwood City, Calif. …

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