Let’s talk about the word “meta”. You’ve probably heard it before – meta-humour, or even (particularly relevant to the world of SEO), metadata. In all of these contexts, meta means the same thing: That the term the prefix is attached to is self-referential or self-reflective. Meta-humour is humour about humour, and metadata is data about data.
A metasearch engine is a search engine that searches search engines; fun to say and fun to think about. You’ve probably encountered metasearch engines before – flight aggregators like KAYAK and Skyscanner are metasearch engines that aggregate results from travel agencies and other websites that offer flights.
Other metasearch engines aggregate results from the big search engines – and those are the metasearch engines we’re going to focus on today. We’re going to explore how these metasearch engines work, why people use them, and how they affect SEO. That’s a lot of ground to cover, so let’s get meta as fast as possible.
How metasearch engines work
When a user makes a query using a metasearch engine, the engine presents that same query to a number of different search engines. Using an algorithm, it then aggregates the results from the search engines it queries and presents them to the user. The metasearch engine results page looks very similar to a standard search engine results page, displaying the results that the metasearch engine deems most relevant on the first page.
No two metasearch engines are exactly alike – they may pull results from different search engines, and they’ll use different algorithms to determine which results they should display. You’ll also see variations in functionality – some allow you to use Boolean operators, others will enable you to restrict your searches to particular domains, while others still may allow you to only search for specific file types.
Another notable difference between metasearch engines is how they handle sponsored results. Some metasearch engines display no sponsored results, while others include sponsored content. As you explore different metasearch engines, you’ll be able to find one with the right balance of features and search results for your needs.
Why people use metasearch engines
Consumers generally don’t know that metasearch engines exist – almost everyone uses Google, and the few strays who don’t, use search engines like Bing (or more regionally focused search engines like Baidu).
Those who do know about metasearch engines use them for a variety of reasons. One of the biggest ones is privacy. Many metasearch engines promote themselves as guardians of user data. The metasearch engine is the one making the query – not the user – so you can make searches without cookies, location data, and other factors influencing the search. What’s more, the search engines themselves can’t track data about what you’re searching for.
The more obvious reason to use metasearch engines is that some users are dissatisfied with search results from a single engine. Why not get an aggregate of the results from all of the best search engines in the world?*
*(The answer, in this writer’s opinion, is that Google tends to give better results alone and that other search engines bring down the quality of average results – but that’s just one user’s mindset. I also like Google’s rich results. Normally, I don’t write in the first person or address my readers directly, but hey, this is an article about metasearch engines, so I figured now is the perfect time to get meta.)
Metasearch engines and SEO
Now that we know why regular search engine users might be interested in metasearch engines, it’s time to consider how they can be used in SEO.
Here’s one thing we need to be clear about: You should not try to optimize for metasearch engines. Optimize for Google – it’s what (basically) everyone uses. Trying to optimize for a search engine that aggregates results from other search engines is just asking for headaches.
What you can use metasearch engines for is keyword research. Most metasearch engines will present a number of queries related to your search before the search results – you can use this list of results to find long-tail keywords and to find keywords related to narrow niches.
Some metasearch engines will also allow you to run your query through individual search engines with the click of a button and to compare search results between search engines. This can be useful if you are (for some reason) trying to optimize for search engines like Bing.
Examples of metasearch engines
Interested in metasearch engines? Our SEO agency in Winnipeg has compiled a few you can try:
We’ve chosen these metasearch engines because they give you a good diversity of features, search engines queried, and more. Try them out, and see what you can learn!