Alright, maybe not life entirely without Google but let’s face facts (and I’m sure even the folks over at Google would agree) there are lots of great minds out there and not all of them work at the Googleplex (shocking I know). I’ve recently been giving quite a bit of thought to all the different ways I search for things and decided to finally cover a couple of my favorite “Google Alternatives” in a blog post. The purpose is not to get you to stop using Google which would be:
a. pointless, and
b. hypocritical. I use Google as my primary engine but there is a time and a place for other choices.
So let’s get to it and hopefully you’ll end this article with a few new ways to search for information and perhaps even pass back a few of your own tips.
When I first heard about the launch of GenieKnows soon-to-be-announced map embedding for webmasters back at SES San Jose it flooded back to me how great innovations are occurring among many of the lesser-known engines and unfortunately a lot of these great features are lost to all but those “in the know” (read: immersed enough in the Internet community to even hear about alternative and vertical search engines). Jim Hedger wrote a great piece on the new product launch by Genie Knows over on the Metamend blog so I won’t cover that here. What I will cover is the usefulness and innovation of this engine.
I suppose I should note, it’s their map functionality that completely won me over. If you haven’t checked it out yet I highly recommend doing so. Here’s an example of how I’ve used a non-Google function from another engines to make my life dramatically easier:
I go to a lot of conferences. The fact of the matter is, I spend VERY little time at the hotel and thus, can rarely justify the cost of staying at a hotel like the Hilton. Now I’m not a cheap person but seriously – If I can save $100/night that’s an extra $100 I have to either leave in the company or spend while I’m at the conference on more entertaining or useful endeavors. So the predicament becomes, how do I find a hotel that’s less expensive and yet still within an easy walking distance of the conference?
Once upon a time I would use Google maps and Expedia. I’d look up the various hotels on Expedia and map them out with directions on Google maps and one-by-one enter them in and see what I could get and for how much. And then I discovered GenieKnows. The joy of this engine is I enter a phrase such as “seattle hotel” and it shows me a map with a grid. In the middle of each cell is a number – that is the number of hotels in that area so all I have to do is find the conference area on the map and click that square and now I know the location of all the nearest hotels and can much more easily look them up without having to lookup hotels only to find out they’re 15 miles from where I need to be. A huge time saver every time I travel and it’s not restricted to hotels, it works for restaurants, etc. I can’t recommend enough testing it out next time you’re traveling or looking for something when location is an issue (and when isn’t it?) If you’ll take my advice you can head over to GenieKnows.com. You won’t regret it.
I know I know – from one major engine to another. The point of listing Yahoo! Answers though isn’t specifically to tout this feature of Yahoo! though it is a good one. Rather, it’s to point out that within the major engines there are specific search capabilities and sources of information that you likely don’t know about.
I’m sure many of you, the readers here, have used Yahoo! Answers at some time or another or at the very least, a similar service – but most people haven’t. I have found answers in the search results on Google and I’ve even taken the time to answer a few questions but it was when I saw my 10-year-old boy looking up game clues and tips for Pokemon version 18-billion Red (in case you don’t know – this isn’t an actual game of Pokemon but with the number coming out, it probably will be soon) that it really hit home how useful this was for the average searcher. He got frustrated looking for information on Google and found that he could ask questions or often find others who had and get the answers quickly on Yahoo! Answers. The message was clear, when your query is really a question that requires an expert answer (even if that expert is just some kid who plays too many video games) then Google may well not be the first place to go for a fast and accurate answer.
As another plus (and this is as a parent) – if you’ve ever seen the ads on the gaming sites you too will be happy to find your son on Yahoo! Answers.
Take this as advice to check out the specific offerings of your favorite engine(s). Blog search, news search, advanced search options and MUCH MUCH more await and once you explore them you’ll find searching a far faster, more accurate and enjoyable experience. Even if it is on Google but you’ll have to forget I wrote that or the title loses some of it’s life.
Alright, I had to show that I do have a sense of humor. I’m not even going to make this one a link as it’s not worth it. Cuil had a lot of promise with ex-Googlers on the dev team and money behind it but it didn’t live up to even half of what it attempted to be. Google-killer? Heck, it’s not even a Dogpile killer.
And A Few Good Lists
In the end what I’m hoping you’ll take from this is a solid belief that there is more out there than just Google or whatever your favorite engine is. Each job has the right tool and different engines offer different opportunities.
I can’t possibly list off all the great engines out there and what they do but here are a few useful lists of some of the better alternative engines out there so you don’t have to weed through the horrible ones to get to the good:
- Spock.com – Top Vertical Search Engines (page no longer exists – link removed)
- SmashingApps.com – 13 Most Unusual Search Engines You Should Remember
- Vertical Search – A search engine of vertical search sites. A good place to go if you don’t know where you’re going.
In short and I think I’ve made it pretty clear, while about 95% of all my searching is done on Google – there’s a place and a time for alternatives. Knowing those alternatives can make your online experience infinitely more enjoyable. Explore, investigate and enjoy. There’s probably a lot more out there than you think, or at least – easier ways to find it.
SEO news blog post by Dave Davies, CEO @ 11:42 am