Five Search Alternatives

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Google is the first choice in search for more than 65 percent of the Web, while the shared efforts of Microsoft and Yahoo have earned Bing the market’s only other significant share. But the most successful Web professionals are those who explore all of their options; and for additional choices in search, look no further than the following list.

Blekko

When Blekko launched back in November 2010, there were plenty of doubters who didn’t expect the startup search engine to last more than a year. While that may not be guaranteed just yet, Blekko is making good on its promise of creating a new and exciting alternative in search.

Blekko’s mission, some three years in the making before its actual launch, was to enlist human editors in an effort to eliminate spam and personalize and socialize the search experience. The team of 25 or so employees includes former Google and Yahoo search engineers and the project has received significant backing from some of the best-known investors in the tech world, including Marc Andreessen and Ron Conway.

The magic behind the Blekko vision was to use programmingrelated slashtags or topic tags to create the most relevant search verticals for users. Those very users would be among the editors curating and maintaining the slashtags, and after three months Blekko reported that it had more than 110,000 human-curated tags.

Blekko clearly could not compete with the size and scope of Google’s or Bing’s indexes, but what it could — and does — do is produce more relevant, more accurate, better search results. Before Google made headlines around the globe with its Farmer Update algorithm changes, Blekko had removed the very same content farms (and many more) from its search index as a matter of standard practice — and to much less fanfare.

But what it may lack in publicity Blekko has made up for in terms of a devoted user base. Its January 2011 numbers indicated an average of 1 million queries per day and between 10 to 15 queries per second. And Google and Bing’s own publicity does them as much harm as good — the controversy over Bing’s “stolen” search results and Google’s paid links scandal with J.C. Penney being just two recent examples.

Perhaps that’s why Blekko and the alternative search options below have become favorites for many SEOs and Web professionals of every kind.

DuckDuckGo

Blekko recently forged a partnership with fellow startup search engine DuckDuckGo (DDG), in which the two companies share technologies and information in the name of improving the quality of search results for users. The partnership is sure to evolve over time, say the CEOs of both companies, but right now DDG receives access to Blekko’s auto-fired slashtags in seven categories (health, colleges, autos, personal finance, lyrics, recipes and hotels) in return for use of DDG’s proprietary feature, zero-click info.

Similar to Google’s Instant Search, zero-click info gives users the most relevant information on websites and search terms without having to click on search results. Local business listings from Yelp, word definitions from The Free Dictionary, Wikipedia entries and content from 13 additional StackExchange sites are some examples of information users can find with zero-click results.

Like Blekko, DuckDuckGo has developed quite a following and averages more than 5 million searches per month.

Greplin

Greplin is a user-authorized search engine that can search and index social services and applications such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Gmail, Google Docs, Evernote, Basecamp, Salesforce and more, and it’s adding more all the time. The startup recently announced the addition of a Chrome extension to its search presence so that users can now search their social data directly from the browser without having to go to Greplin’s website. The creation of a 19-year-old entrepreneur from Israel, Greplin may be the best known of a growing number of services such as CloudMagic that are designed for searching users’ social graphs for personal data and those hard-tofind items that often get lost in the cloud.

Wajam

Wajam is another socially driven search tool, but unlike Greplin it returns its results as part of your experience with Google or Bing. Where Greplin searches only the applications that have been preauthorized by the user, Wajam searches the entire Web but with an emphasis on returning personalized results from Facebook, Twitter and other social sites a user has bookmarked. It is used as a browser extension available for Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Internet Explorer, and injects these social results into the search queries submitted to larger engines.

Quora

Quora is the extremely popular new platform that strives to be the definitive question-and-answer site for just about any topic on the Web. Like Blekko, it is largely human-driven and invites users to ask questions, provide answers and share their knowledge and comments. Questions are organized into different categories that can also be created by users, leading to a wide range and growing index of topical information.

Nobody believes that these solutions will threaten Google’s dominance in the world of search any time soon, least of all the people behind each service. But most of them seem to be much more focused on improving the Web by providing a better way to access information.

Just like Google was when it first launched.

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