Wikia Search: Wikia Dream? Or SEO Wake-Up Call?

Debbie Richman posted two social search engine analyses reviews of Wikia Search that didn't bash Wales and his Build-A Bare Engine Workshop.

VentureBeat's Saumil Mehta (product manager, vertical search engine competitor) has the most thorough user review of Wikia Search here that makes others superfluous. Bloggers, If you haven't reviewed the features yet, wait until the next release.

We say "Wikia Search", Saumil says "Search Wikia." Should Wikia Search call the whole thing off?

Jimmy Wales weighed in at TechCrunch where a great debate is brewing. So we'll give Jimmy's comments a wider audience here.

After the jump, Eli Feldblum will explain why SEOs (and corporations using SEOs) could make Wikia Search grow exponentially -- thru better search results -- but may stay on the sidelines, along with hundreds of millions of searchers.

Wikia Search will likely take the advice of Ask exec and former Search Engine Watcher Gary Price: in short, watch out for "manipulation." (by SEOs? by webmasters of the world? We'll look for more from Gary since Wikia Search will be a (4th Place) Ask.com Killer before it ever gives Google the Sweeney Todd treatment.

In TechCrunch, Jimmy Wales said: "(Wikia Search) is a project to *build* a search engine, not a search engine ... So the comparison to Google on day one is just mistaken. Google didn't launch a project to build a human-powered search engine, they launched an algorithmic search engine with a clever new idea. So they didn't have to wait for the humans to come in and start building it. We aren't even running with a real index yet, just a placeholder index. Yeah, the search sucks today. But that's not the point. The point is that we are building something different."

Eli agrees with Jimmy, kind of:

"So I tried the new Wikia Search today, and it is awesome. Well, it's awesome for SEO people. I think it kinda sucks ..." (more after the jump)

"..or is just unnecessary, for everyone else. What's revolutionary about Wikia Search: it's completely transparent, explaining in complex detail why a certain page was ranked where it was.

The algorithm behind your results is yours to see. If you don't come up number one for a desired search term, you can easily compare on- and off-page elements used for ranking your site against those of the top-ranking sites.

If that sounds exciting, you could've been as excited years ago, when Nutch, which powers Wikia Search, was launched in 2005.

Searches in Nutch return results which can be analyzed to see what on-page elements were factored and weighted to give a specific site it's ranking. Nutch also provides a list of in-bound anchors for each result, which Wikia Search does not, which can give you a further idea of why a specific site is ranked where it is.

Wikia Search does include a few features over Nutch, like “mini-articles,” which quickly summarize the topic you're searching for.

Future iterations include the ability to rate results, and possibly alter the rankings, although the feature isn't ready yet. Still, the best thing I got from Wikia Search, being an SEO guy, was an introduction to Nutch, which is bound to be an invaluable tool in gauging the SEO power of a site.