Whilst Google sees its share of the search engine market continually increase, a number of smaller search engines are taking an unorthodox approach to search. Here, copywriter Jack Adams takes a look at how young upstarts Blippex, Blekko and DuckDuckGo go about delivering results.
Where do you go to find information on the Internet?
Probably not – that was like, so, 1999.
Nah. No one wants to ask a long-winded question every time they search – even if the answers are served up by a charming English butler.
How about MSN?
Oh right, that’s long gone, and been replaced by Bing.
That’s more like it.
The search engine landscape has changed pretty significantly in the past ten years.
Former favourites have become the dearly departed, with engines like AltaVista being prime examples.
But Google, and to a lesser extent, Yahoo!, have remained constants, in that people still flock to them to find out more about, well, just about everything.
As everyone’s well aware, Google is the dominant force and has been for a long while.
comScore figures have shown the search giant’s share of the US market during June stood at 66.7 per cent.
Although it’s pretty difficult to see this changing anytime soon, it’s not always been this way.
Just over a decade ago Google’s fortunes were quite different. It lagged behind Yahoo! in the search market stakes, and somewhat ironically, it even powered the latter’s search results.
Yahoo! held a 36.4% share, which saw it the perched relatively comfortably on the coveted search engine throne.
The gap between first and second place has increased by almost ten times – from 5.2 per cent in May 2002 to 48.8 per cent for June – which quite clearly shows two things: Google has got search right, and fortunes can take quite a drastic turn.
So, does this mean we could see a challenger to Google’s organic search dominance in the future?
In the past couple of years a number of new search engines have launched, and rather than try to tackle Google head on, they’ve taken a rather different approach to combing the web.
But, who are these young upstarts, and what kind of new noise are they generating to make them stand out?
Noisy Upstarts or Genuine Future Challengers?
Blippex – Blippex is so new, co-founders Max Kossatz and Gerald Bäck, are probably tearing away the shrink-wrap as you read this (well unless you’re reading in 2015!) The search engine launched just last month (July).
It takes a completely different approach to search. Rather than using a traditional search ranking factors – i.e. keywords and links – it uses an innovation dubbed DwellRank.
It works like this: volunteers install a browser extension, which anonymously reports to the search engine which websites users have been browsing, and how long they’ve been browsing them for (or, you could say, how long they’ve been ‘dwelling’ on them).
Blippex then takes this information to index and rank pages within its SERPs.
It doesn’t store IP addresses, URL referral or browser user agent string information.
The developers have described it as a search engine ‘by the people, for the people,’ and its focus on privacy could make it a go-to alternative in the coming months – especially in light of the recent slew of privacy scandals.
For digital marketers and webmasters, it’s only going to emphasise the need for captivating and interesting content that provides genuine benefits, hosted on high-quality websites that cater to user experience to keep people coming back, for greater amounts of time.
DwellRank relies on heavily on users installing a Firefox browser extension. Although it can be used without the browser extensions, the reliance on the extension – for providing relevant search results – could which could be a hurdle in its quest for widespread popularity.
Blekko – Blekko’s main distinguishing point is the way it categorises results in its SERPs.
Rather than attempt to mimic the traditional search engine SERP layout – i.e. eight to ten results, a la Google – Blekko returns results in colour-coded categories.
For example, a search query consisting of ‘Barclays Premier League’ returns four categories – a set of top results, a set of soccer results, results categorised as specifically relating to football, and the latest news.
However, seeing as football and soccer are the same thing (Americans: yes, they are), some of the categories are a little, to be polite, pointless.
These results are delivered by a mix of traditional search algorithms and direct user interaction. They are partly defined by an innovation known as slashtags or ‘/.’ Slashtags can be created by users when they login.
Notably, Blekko also made the first move to rid its results of spammy material in SERPs, banning content farms back in January 2011. Though, the impact of this brazen move was negated, somewhat, when Google launched its Panda search algorithm.
With its combination of traditional search algorithms and user interaction to determine the top results, Blekko could well grow into a mainstream option.
DuckDuckGo – Its combination of a catchy name, a simple and memorable mascot, clean layout, and a focus on search anonymity makes DuckDuckGo a sound alternative for those worried about having their search data harvested.
It was created in 2008 by Gabriel Weinberg.
The search engine uses infinite scroll, which Google has previously experimented with.
From an SEO point of view, it’s a useful feature for those ranking in positions that would typically see them placed on pages two or three. Users are more likely to make the effort to scroll down the page than they are to scroll down the page and click multiple times to get to page four.
It would certainly boost the visibility of smaller companies fighting the behemoths of their industries for SERP space.
Whilst clean, DuckDuckGo’s SERP interface is largely free of adverts – with one sole ad displayed per page. And even this is syndicated through Yahoo!, displaying that even upstarts turn to elder statesmen on occasion for guidance.