How Do Metasearch Engines Work?

Posted by Darko Radić
how do metasearch engines work

Believe it or not, metasearch engines have been around since the early days of the internet. And yet, they mostly stayed in the shadows, losing the popularity contest to Bing and Google.

However, a quality metasearch engine can be a goldmine of valuable data for SEO specialists and marketers. Of course, other users can also benefit from metasearch, so let’s see what it’s all about.

Find in this article

  • The fundamentals of how metasearch engines work
  • How to use metasearch engines for SEO
  • What’s the difference between meta and traditional search engines?
  • What are the pros and cons of metasearch engines?
  • How to find the perfect metasearch engines
  • What are the most used metasearch engines?

What Does a Metasearch Engine Do?

As you might have guessed, we have the ancient Greeks to thank for the term meta. Nowadays, the word is present in various areas of life, from linguistics and philosophy to the movie industry. For instance, SEO experts rely on meta descriptions and meta tags to provide extra information about the content on a page. 

But what does a metasearch engine do? Well, these online services are not technically engines because they don’t perform the actual search. Instead of communicating with databases to fetch data, meta engines reach out to the traditional search engines when trying to respond to queries.

So, in essence, metasearch engines combine and compile information from other search engine databases, displaying the results in a single list. Admittedly, this definition might sound confusing, so let’s go into more detail. 

What Are Metasearch Engines?

Metasearch engines are like web portals, given that they only filter out the data collected from other search engines. By performing a metasearch, you only communicate with other search programs without scanning databases and repositories to answer the query. Also, many metasearch engines don’t use complex search syntax. Instead, they merge data from several sources, saving you time in the process.

So, as we’ve already mentioned in our definition of metasearch engines, metasearch engines aggregate the results already processed by standard search engines.

Like everything else in life, metasearch engines have their pros and cons, and we’ll get to them shortly. But before we proceed, it’s essential to learn how meta engines work and how they can help you deal with the ever-changing search engine ranking factors.

How Do Metasearch Engines Work?

Nowadays, we can choose from dozens of metasearch engines with proprietary algorithms, and it’s challenging to see what’s going on behind the scenes. Yet, the concept remains the same, regardless of your choice. 

In general, these search engines will respond to your query by aggregating data from other search engines and merging the information to display a list of results. That’s why many define metasearch engines as aggregators or web portals.

In some cases, metasearch engines will use an internal system to consolidate results and rank the websites by specific criteria. After all, the standard search engines use algorithms and ranking factors, affecting the results and ranking websites differently for the same keyword. On the other hand, modern metasearch engines can blend and rank results from social media alongside Bing, Yandex, or DuckDuckGo.

Is Google a Metasearch Engine?

Although metasearch engines like MetaCrawler or Dogpile are as old as Google, the latter has become a king of online search. More precisely, this tech giant holds 87.76% of the global search engine market share. However, Google is a crawler-based search engine and uses spiders to scan content and index pages.

Plus, unlike the most popular metasearch tools, Google has a massive database and a network of platforms and services. So, when you search for something on Google, the algorithm browses the database to look for search-related content. After that, the system creates a list of results, ranking the websites from the most to least relevant. 

For that reason, search engine statistics show that many SEO experts use apps like SerpWatch to improve positions and rank as high as possible on Google. 

Metasearch Engine vs. Search Engine

As you could’ve seen by now, several elements differentiate meta engines from traditional search engines. It all starts with the actual nature of the service, given that metasearch engines analyze the results provided by others. On the other hand, platforms like Google, Bing, or Yandex do the legwork and analyze massive volumes of data before displaying answers to queries.

For instance, the Dogpile metasearch engine scans through several traditional search platforms, showing results in one place. 

However, most users consider metasearch engines as alternative search engines. Although meta algorithms provide more data coverage and display results from multiple sources, they require more time and often favor sponsored results. Also, the consistency of ranking positions can be an issue for SEO specialists and marketers when they need accurate data for reporting.

What Are the Benefits of Using a Metasearch Engine?

From the SEO perspective, metasearch engines can be a valuable research tool. After all, search engine optimization starts by learning which keywords could generate the best ROI and how to improve website ranking. Therefore, some advertisers use metasearch when brainstorming to discover clusters of related terms.

Arguably, the increased visibility of sponsored links is among the crucial advantages of using a metasearch engine. In other words, PPC marketers can boost their campaigns by appearing in metasearch results.

Then again, most marketers agree that the essential advantage of metasearch is convenience. In short, you’ll get results from multiple engines by performing a single search, protecting your privacy along the way. Thus, metasearch engines are also time-saving and cost-effective. If that’s not enough, we should also mention that most metasearch engines filter out duplicate results.

What Are the Disadvantages of Metasearch Engines?

Despite the benefits they provide, metasearch engines also have a range of limitations. That’s why Google and similar engines dominate the market. Namely, metasearch engines depend on traditional search engines for data collection and processing. So, for example, if Google prevents access, which happens from time to time, some metasearch engines can be dead in the water.

Another drawback is the lack of proprietary query syntax, preventing metasearch engines from understanding complex queries. Remember, when we tried to define metasearch, we mentioned that these platforms create virtual databases by merging pre-analyzed results. So, even though some metasearch engines apply post-processing, the fundamentals remain unchanged.

Also, metasearch prominently displays sponsored links, hiding organic results and making the search inefficient for SEO specialists and marketers. Similarly, most metasearch engines feature an ad-filled interface. As a result, the data aggregation often lasts longer than with the traditional search platforms.

What Are Metasearch Engine Lists?

By crawling other search engines and online databases, metasearch engines gather and collate search results and display them in a list. In a way, the lists are synonymous with search results pages displayed by the traditional search platforms.

We mentioned earlier that meta engines include many sponsored links, and these entries can offset the search validity. For instance, if you want to consult a travel metasearch engine, paid links will show plenty of hotels and websites that might not be on the list otherwise.

Nonetheless, metasearch lists can be a viable option for anyone looking to save time and perform multiple queries at once. These information retrieval tools will rank results and even create clusters of related concepts. But, in general, you should see a list of colorful entries after performing a metasearch.

What Is the Best Metasearch Engine?

SEO statistics show that marketers and SEO experts use various tools in their day-to-day operations. From keyword explorers to rank trackers, all sorts of apps and services help to improve search engine optimization and digital marketing ROI. Metasearch engines are among those tools, but not all metasearch platforms are made the same. So, it’s essential to find the best ones to meet your specific needs.

For instance, some of the best metasearch engines on the market are Dogpile, FuzzFind, MetaGer, and InfoSpace. But, of course, the list of metasearch engines includes many other names, such as WebCrawler, PolyMeta, and Surfwax. Plus, many people also take DuckDuckGo into account, although this particular engine is more similar to traditional search platforms.

Nevertheless, finding the perfect one could require some testing. In other words, users should try various options before deciding on the platform. 

Final Thoughts

Although metasearch engines might not be as powerful as full-fledged search platforms, SEO specialists can still benefit from metasearch. Metasearch engines can expand keyword research, but these services can also reveal many other details you might miss when using Google or Bing. For that reason, marketers worldwide should add metasearch engines to their SEO toolbox.


ChristiaNet, Diib, Grammarly Blog, Libguides, L-lists, Statista, Techopedia

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