Nov 16, 2009

The Search For Search, Part II.

Last time, we took a quick tour through several new search engines, each departing from the usual search algorithms with a focus on decision-making, categorization, calculations and/or images. As a small- or medium-sized business owner, it’s important for you to know how each actually organizes and displays results for your site. To illustrate this, we need a topic that’s very distinctive – and current. Something like…”cluster ballooning.”

Cluster ballooning is an unusual, some would say ‘extreme’ sport: think hot air ballooning, but with as many as 150 smaller, helium-filled balloons tied to a lawn chair – then you float away, controlling your flight (sometimes across state lines) by popping the four-foot-high balloons, selectively of course. It’s the stuff of movies, rallies and media events. Let’s see how some of the search engines treat this topic.

Picture 1Type in “cluster ballooning”, and Google offers a respectable set of results: beginning with an Introduction at, a Wikipedia entry and several image results. Then a smattering of sites from a few of the experts on the sport, a couple of recent blog posts and video results from YouTube. Next, we’ll try Kosmix, which features a dashboard of news, reviews, videos and tweets on a given topic. It provides the same results from Google but simply groups them together into Web Search, Images, Video, News & Blogs, etc., as well as recent Twitter results.

Picture 2But what if you need real-time results, not those based on popularity over time? Try Collecta, which continuously monitors the Web for new blog posts, tweets and news updates. In a matter of seconds, a handful of results appear: from Twitter, Reddit and more – today, a month ago, etc. Or maybe you need real-time and more overall results on cluster balloons? IceRocket delivers that, with an emphasis on Blog results, even a cool News item that didn’t show up elsewhere.

Picture 12Since cluster ballooning is such a visual topic, may offer another perspective. A “visual search engine”, it does allow you to preview websites, videos and images instantly, before you click through, particularly if you are searching for a specific photo or graphic. How does Bing stack up? While the weighted search results are similar to Google’s, the biggest difference with Bing includes built-in features offering a very different user experience. Compared to the Google UI, Bing SERPs are generally cleaner, more visually appealing. “Similar” searches are listed in the right sidebar, along with a “Table of Contents” in the upper left, and users can easily access their own search history.

Next: Comparing Google, Bing, Yahoo

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