Finding Information on the Internet: A Tutorial
Meta-Search Engines
UC Berkeley - Teaching Library Internet Workshops


What Are "Meta-Search" Engines? How Do They Work?
Are "Smarter" Meta-Searchers Still Smarter?
Better Meta-Searchers
Meta-Searchers for SERIOUS Deep Digging
Make Your Own Meta-Search Engine & Finding Custom Search Engines

What Are "Meta-Search" Engines? How Do They Work?

In a meta-search engine, you submit keywords in its search box, and it transmits your search simultaneously to several individual search engines and their databases of web pages. Within a few seconds, you get back results from all the search engines queried. Meta-search engines do not own a database of Web pages; they send your search terms to the databases maintained by search engine companies.

Are "Smarter" Meta-Searchers Still Smarter?

"Smarter" meta-searcher technology includes clustering and linguistic analysis that attempts to show you themes within results, and some fancy textual analysis and display that can help you dig deeply into a set of results. However, neither of these technologies is any better than the quality of the search engine databases they obtain results from.

Few meta-searchers allow you to delve into the largest, most useful search engine databases. They tend to return results from smaller and/or free search engines and miscellaneous free directories, often small and highly commercial.

Although we respect the potential of textual analysis and clustering technologies, we recommend directly searching individual search engines to get the most precise results, and using meta-searchers if you want to explore more broadly.

The meta-search tools listed here are "use at your own risk." We are not endorsing or recommending them.

Better Meta-Searchers

Meta-Search Tool What's Searched
(As of date at bottom of page. They change often.)
Complex Search Ability Results Display

(formerly Clusty)

Searches Bing, Ask, Open Directory, and Yahoo (as of 6/15/10).
Accepts Boolean operators AND, OR, NOT, and limiting by "filetype:" and "site:". Results accompanied with subdivisions based on words in search results, intended to give the major themes. Click on these to search within results on each theme.

Searches Google, Yahoo, Bing, and (as of 6/15/10). Sites that have purchased ranking and inclusion are mixed into the results. Watch for "Sponsored:".

Meta-Search Engines for SERIOUS Deep Digging

Meta-Search Tool What's Searched
(As of date at bottom of page. They change often.)
Complex Search Ability Results Display
A better than average set of search engines.
Can mix with educational, US Govt tools, and news sources, or many other categories.
Accepts " ", +/-. Default is AND between words. I recommend fairly simple searches, allowing SurfWax's SiteSnaps and other features to help you dig deeply into results. Click on source link to view complete search results there.
Click on to view helpful "SiteSnap™" extracted from most sites in frame on right.
Many additional features for probing within a site.
Copernic Agent
Select from list of search engines by clicking on Advanced, then "Modify search engine settings".
ALL, ANY, Phrase, and more. Also Boolean searching within results under "Find in results" > "Advanced Find" (powerful!). Must be downloaded and installed, but Basic version is free of charge. Table comparing versions.

CSEs: Make Your Own Meta-Search Engine

Google Custom Search Engines (CSEs) focus on selected websites within the Google database. They are easy to make at Google Custom Search. You will need a Google account or Gmail account. Make specialized search engines instead of using giant meta-searchers or huge search engine databases. Use them to focus on pages on a subject.

How Do You Find Custom Search Engines

Search Google using the following limiter commands, followed by keywords focusing on your topic:

inurl:cse inurl:cx   anthropology
inurl:cse inurl:cx   physics

Try searching or browsing in one of these CSE Directories:

Quick Links
Search Engines |Subject Directories | Meta-Search Engines | Invisible Web

Copyright (C) 2010 by the Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved.
Last update 08/18/10.