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Myriad Search: Meta Search Your Way

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A new meta search engine allows you to compare results from the four top web search engines, and tweak their relative importance in the mix by adding to or subtracting from the relative importance of each.

Myriad Search is a brand-new and relatively untested meta search engine designed primarily to help search engine optimizers with competitive intelligence research on keywords. Want to know which competitor is ranking well on specific keywords? Myriad Search will show you, presenting search results with their relative rankings from Ask Jeeves, Google, MSN Search and Yahoo.

While this is similar to what you'd see with Dogpile, Clusty or other meta search engines, Myriad Search also displays the result description or snippet for each page found, making it easy to see how each engine presents a particular web page.

For example, Google typically displays snippets of text extracted from a web page, while Yahoo or MSN may pull descriptions from meta tag information or directory listings. Until now, you've had to check each engine separately to do this type of comparison.

In addition to the multiple descriptions, Myriad Search also sums up the "authority" value of a web page as determined by its position in all of the search engines. By default, #1 ranking pages get a score of 10; if all four search engines checked by Myriad Search return #1 rankings for a page it gets a score of 40, and an authority value of 100%. This simple math offers an interesting perspective on the relative importance that search engines assign to web pages.

But what really sets Myriad Search apart from other meta search engines is the ability to skew results by adding or subtracting "bias" values that will cause a results from a particular engine to become more or less important in the overall mix.

This means that if you can override the usual ranking algorithms used by meta search engines by boosting your favorites and demoting those you like less. For example, you could boost Ask Jeeves' bias ranking to +5, leave MSN Search and Yahoo at 0 and demote Yahoo by -3 (or any other number between 0 and 5). Your results will now skew more toward the top ranked results in Ask Jeeves and away from those in Yahoo.

It takes a bit of playing around with this feature to really understand what's going on. And while it offers a degree of control over search results not readily found elsewhere, that control and the subsequent measure of "authority" is largely an illusion based on the current state of each search engine's relevancy algorithms.

Why? Search engines are constantly tweaking the way they measure relevancy. What's considered authoritative today may not be tomorrow, especially if spammers have figured out a way to game a particular search engine's results.

That said, it's still fun to play around with the various controls, to see how results change when you dial bias inputs in or out of your preferred search result mix.

Myriad Search also claims to report total numbers of results returned by each engine for your query. While the numbers are generally accurate compared to what MSN and Ask Jeeves report on their own sites, the numbers returned by Myriad Search for Google and Yahoo aren't even close to what the services report when you search directly on their home pages.

Myriad Search is an interesting tool, and is fun to play around with. It's likely much more useful for search marketers than as a Dogpile or Clusty replacement for searchers. More information about the service can be found in the Myriad Search FAQ.

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