A meta-search engine is a search tool that searches the databases of other search engines and/or directories. Unlike individual search engines and directories, meta-search engines do not maintain their own database of web pages; they do not collect, crawl, or index the web and they do not accept URL submissions. Instead, search queries are sent simultaneously to several search engines and/or directories.
With that in mind, let´s analyze how a meta-search engine works:
Upon receiving a query, the meta-search engine translates the syntax and sends it simultaneously to a set of multiple search engines and/or directories. All results gathered from the varied sources are then collated to remove duplicates and ranked according to its algorithm. Finally, an organized and sorted list of web pages is presented to the user. There are many other details, but a thorough explanation of how a meta-search engine works is beyond the scope of this page.
The extraordinary growth of the internet has made it difficult, if not impossible, for search engines to keep up with its immense size and pace. Thus far, the major search engines have only been able to index a fraction of all the data that is available on the internet. Therefore, chances are you will occasionally fail to find the desired result if you rely on only one search engine. Thus, the key to effective internet searching is not to rely on one, but rather on multiple search engines.
However, it can be time consuming and tedious to individually visit and perform a search on multiple search engines. A meta-search engine solves this problem by providing a central place and interface where users can search several search engines at once. This benefits users by saving them time from having to individually learn and visit multiple search engines.
Another benefit of a meta-search engine is its ability to access a cross section of results from several search engines. Rather than being tied to one database, meta-search engines combine results from multiple databases, thereby enhancing the coverage and relevancy of your search. Additionally, the ability to access multiple databases provides the most up-to-date results.
Whether you are a photographer wanting to keep up with the latest trend in digital cameras. Or a college student in need of research information about molecules. Or maybe a mother looking for cake recipes to prepare for her child's birthday party. Meta-search engines can fulfill your desire for information in any kind of situation.
For those of you who are extremely loyal to traditional search engines and can not imagine switching to meta-search engines. You should still considering using meta-search engines as an alternate source for information for the following reasons:
Depending on your search criteria and the meta-search engine itself, results are ranked differently by a variety of methods according to the engine´s algorithm. The objective, of course, is to return results most relevant to the user´s query first. Each meta-search engine has its own method of ranking results. Most meta-search engines rank web pages according to how popular that page is ranked by its sources. If a page is ranked highly by its sources, most likely it will also be regarded as relevant by meta-search engines.
It requires more time mainly because a meta-search engine must wait for results to arrive from all the queried sources before they can be processed and ranked. Whereas, results of a traditional search engine are stored in databases of their servers and page rank is often pre-determined, making retrieval time much quicker. Therefore, it can be said that meta-search engines are only as fast as the search engines and/or directory they search.
A source engine or source database is a resource from which a meta-search engine retrieves results. Meta-search engines usually declare where their results originated at the bottom or somewhere near each listing.
Take ZapMeta as an example:
The sources are listed at the bottom of each listing.
The number next to a source represents the site´s ranking in that particular source engine.
Meta-search engines do not crawl the web or maintain a database of web pages. Rather, results are retrieved from a number of different source engines and then combined to formulate a list of results.
Since meta-search engines do not maintain a database of web pages, URL submissions are not accepted.