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What is a Metasearch Engine? A Comprehensive Guide

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What is a Metasearch Engine? A Comprehensive Guide

Read time 10 min read
What is a Metasearch Engine? A Comprehensive Guide

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What is a Metasearch Engine?

Many people usually associate metasearch engines with typical search engines even though there is a clear distinction. So, what is a metasearch engine? A metasearch engine or a search aggregator is a web portal that aggregates the web search results for a phrase or keyword from different search engines using a proprietary algorithm. It simply retrieves information from other web search engines. It also allows the user to input a single query and find the result from several sources allowing the user to get the best answers quickly from a breadth of information.

Metasearch engines have been around since the early 1990s, and Daniel Dreilinger of Colorado State University came up with a project called SearchSavvy. This was the earliest metasearch engine and aggregated the results of 20 different search engines and directories. It was a pioneer in the field however, it was not very reliable since it was restricted to simple searches.

MetaCrawler was launched in 1994 by a student and a professor at the University of Washington. It was a narrower and more accurate improvement of the SearchSavvy. It had its own fair share of limitations and over the years, numerous metasearch engines have been launched to correct the previous mistakes.

Metasearch engines work by sending requests made by a user in the search slot of a metasearch engine to numerous other search engines. The servers of the metasearch engine wait for answers from the requested search engines before they can show the final results. The results are presented based on certain guidelines depending on how they are adjusted. Duplicate results are filtered to prevent a URL from appearing twice in the search result list for a query. The image below shows the process visually:

What is a Metasearch Engine? A Comprehensive Guide

(Image Credit: Wikipedia)

How Do Metasearch Display Their Results?

Metasearch engines display their results in two ways, including single and multiple lists. Most meta search engines present results in a single merged list from which duplicate entries have been removed. Others do not combine multiple engine results but instead display them in separate lists as they were from each engine. This may however result in multiple entries.

Is Google a Metasearch Engine

When it comes to search engines, Google leads the way in terms of the number of users and popularity. Some people wonder whether Google is also a Metasearch engine. So is google a metasearch engine? And the answer is no, Google is not a metasearch engine but a search engine.

Difference Between Search Engine and Meta Search Engine

The difference between a search engine and a meta search engine is that a search engine like Google uses robots to gain enough information to create a record or database of the visited sites. The data and corresponding algorithm is then applied to form a basic index. Metasearch engines on the other hand, build their index from the results of other indices rather than from the web. They get the result from a collective grouping of various search engines. The algorithm displays the data to the user according to their preferences.

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Metasearch Engine Examples

As pointed earlier, numerous metasearch engines in the market today. Here are metasearch engine examples.


Metager was developed by SUMA in conjunction with the University of Hanover. It is a German metasearch engine that processes searches anonymously. Its key feature is the web associator that presents semantically identical items to the search query and code search, which shows the open-source code. For example:

What is a Metasearch Engine? A Comprehensive Guide

(Image Credit: Restore Privacy)


lxquick displays results with a star system and processes them anonymously. More prominent results get more stars. Its outstanding feature is the different setting options including powerful refinement, advanced search and limitations to European servers.


Metacrawler offers a professional search and aggregates German and international sources. It was originally developed in 1994 at the University of Washington.


Yabado is a German metasearch engine that processes searches anonymously in about ten different sources.

You will be interested


This American metasearch engine offers several functions to users. The Intellifind gives search recommendations, Preferences sets search preference, and Favorite Fetches function that displays searches from other users. For instance:

What is a Metasearch Engine? A Comprehensive Guide


Zoo is an American metasearch engine launched by InfoSpace LLC. It uses the same interface as Dogpile.


IBM originally developed Yippy. Its key feature is the cluster method of search.


Surfwax is one of the early metasearch engines, and its key feature is its specific search indexing and local site search usability.


Vroosh metasearch engine can be used by anyone however, it does not contain web or image. It offers a country-based search for more relevant results. The image below shows what the homepage of Vroosh looks like:

Turbo Scout

This is one of the biggest search engines since it takes information from other metasearch engines like Mamma, Ithaki etc., it offers images, web, products, news, and blogs. It offers a heap of information that most other metasearch engines do not provide.


Unabot is a consolidation of all metasearch engines. It has a large number of metasearch engines on the list. It processes search by country to offer more relevant and accurate results.


Vivisimo processes results from major search engines and organizes them into categories automatically. It is efficient and easy to use. For example:

What is a Metasearch Engine? A Comprehensive Guide

(Image Credit: Semantic Scholar)


Kartoo metasearch engine shows results visually with sites being interconnected by keywords.


CurryGuide is a metasearch engine for various subject areas and is available in both the US and some European countries. It can save your search results for easy rerunning in the future.


This metasearch engine offers a customizable and highly flexible interface to a wide variety of information sources. It ranges from the general web results to specialized resources in a number of subject-specific categories.


Gimenei metasearch engine queries various search engines and removes duplicates from the results. Its key feature is an advanced search that enables you to limit your search to a specific country.


IceRocket metasearch engine has a Quick and thumbnail display. It also displays results anonymously so it’s hard to know where they are coming from. Its services include WiseNut, Yahoo MSN, AllTheWeb, Teoma and AltaVista. For instance:

What is a Metasearch Engine? A Comprehensive Guide

(Image Credit: Economic Times)


This metasearch engine offers results from 14 search engines and sponsored directories, including Ask Jeeves, Google, Kanoodle, Yahoo, About, LookSmart, Overture and Open Directory. It also offers news, shopping, eBay, audio and video search.


This metasearch engine has a clever feature that allows you to click on any listing of your choice using the P icon next to the title. It is easy and convenient to make a custom result set. It can also show listings in up to three columns across the screen allowing you to view all the results. For instance:

What is a Metasearch Engine? A Comprehensive Guide

(Image Credit: ZDNet)

Best Meta Search Engine 2019

The best meta search engine 2019 allows you to choose which search engines to use and can search in multiple languages. They also support and utilize the searching syntax of each search engine including wildcards, Booleans, phrase searching, field searching, pluses and minuses, date limits, and proximity operators.a good metasearch engine should consolidate and remove duplicates from the results and rank the results automatically.

If you are looking for a good metasearch engine, check out the metasearch engine list below. Here are the best metasearch engines for 2019.

Meta Search Engine Advantages and Disadvantages

Metasearch engines have proven useful for gaining access to a lot of information within a short time. However, they are not perfect. Here are meta search engine advantages and disadvantages that you should know about.

Advantage: Unlimited knowledge Base

Using the internet for research or studying is great since you get broadband unlimited access to knowledge and information. However, it takes a lot of time to compare different results from the various search engines. Different search engines have a different crawler, a different index, a different algorithm and the list go on.

Advantage: Don’t Miss Any Information

Using a single search engine to conduct a search may leave a chance of missing out on important information simply because the search engine does not rank prominently enough. The biggest advantage of meta search engines is that it eliminates this risk and gives you more information than a standard search engine would.

Advantage: Use Less Well Known Search Engines

Metasearch engines provide the ability to use less-well-known search engines. This helps the user to get more information and discover new sites that they may otherwise may not have been found with the same search request using a single search engine.

Advantage: Save Time

Metasearch engines are very useful if the user only wants to get an overview of the topic or get quick answers. It saves you the time of going through multiple search engines and comparing the results. A metasearch engine will quickly combine and compile the results by ranking them by their guidelines or listing from each engine queried with no additional pot-processing.

Advantage: Privacy Protection

Another advantage of meta search engines is that it can also provide privacy to a search by hiding the searcher’s IP address from the search engine queries. Metasearch engines also have helpful features that help to search linguistic and textual analysis, related term suggestions, and search results clustering.

Disadvantage: Limited to Basic Queries

Even with the advantage of a metasearch engine, they still have their limitations. When you compare them with search engines like Bing or Google, metasearch engines are still very simple. Users are limited to relatively basic queries as metasearch engines do not interpret syntax accurately or fully as standard search engines.

Disadvantage: Fewer Results

Even with access to a huge amount of information, metasearch engines still produce fewer results than standard search engines. This disadvantage undermines the main advantage of a metasearch engine. They also prioritize sponsored results and feature them more prominently.

Disadvantage: Identical Results

Metasearch engines can present identical websites and pages into their aggregated results. This is because they enter the same query to do different search engines, and most of the time, the results are almost similar.

Meta Search Engine Code

The meta search engine code can be written in various languages such as PHP depending on the developer’s preferences. A metasearch engine takes a search request and then passes it on to another search engine’s database. It generates a federated database system of data integration from different sources rather than creating a database of web pages.

Duplicates are usually generated since every search engine is unique and had

different algorithms for generating ranked data. The metasearch engine then processes the data and removes duplicates by applying it to its own algorithm. The final list is generated as the output for the user.

Search engines respond in three ways when they are contacted by a metasearch engine. The search engine and metasearch engine can both cooperate and grant complete access to the interface. The metasearch engine gains private access to the index database and gets notified if any changes are made.

Search engines can also fail to cooperate with the metasearch engine in a non-responsive way where it will not deny nor give access to the interface. Lastly, the search engine can deny complete access to the metasearch engine to its database, and in extreme situations, legal actions may be taken.

Ranking Architecture

Highly ranked web pages are more likely to be more relevant in offering more valuable information. Even so, search engines use different ranking scores, which are not the same. A webpage can be highly ranked on one search engine but at the same time have a lower rank in another. Metasearch engines depend on the consistency of the scores so the variations present a huge problem.


In order to filter data for more efficient results, metasearch engines use a process called fusion. There are two main methods for fusion, including data fusion and collection fusion. Data fusion uses information from search engines that index common data sets. The process involves merging the initial rank scores of data in one list and then the original ranks are analyzed. The selection includes data with high cores and relevancy level. Algorithms are used to normalize the scores and come up with a list since search engines used different policies of algorithms which result in scores being incomparable.

Collection fusion deals solely with search engines that unrelated data. The process analyzes the content and ranks the data on the likelihood of providing relevant information to the query. Collection fusion picks up the best resources from what is generated and then merges the resources into a list.

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This is the intentional manipulation of search engine indexes. There are several methods used to manipulate the relevance of resources indexed in a way that is not aligned with the indexing system. This is frustrating for users and limits search engines since the return contents have poor precision. The user may eventually find the search engine unreliable and dependable. Search robot algorithms are made more complex to tackle spamdexing and they are constantly modified to eliminate the problem.

Spamdexing interferes with the Web crawler’s indexing criteria, which are used to format ranking lists. It also manipulates a search engine’s natural ranking system and places websites higher than they would be placed naturally. There are three methods used including content spam, link spam and cloaking.

Content Spam

Content spam changes the logical view of a search engine’s contents. The following techniques are used:

  • Invisible text– involves using tiny font size, using the same color as the background, or hiding it in the HTML code to disguise unrelated text
  • Meta-tag stuffing– involves using unrelated keywords to the sites contents or repetition of keywords in meta tags
  • Doorway Pages– these are low-quality web pages that contain little content but relevant keyword or phrases
  • Scraper Sites– these are programs that allow websites to copy content from other websites and create content for a website
  • Article spinning– this is rewriting existing articles rather than copying content from other sites
  • Machine translation– this involves using a machine to rewrite content in different languages to create illegible text

Link Spam

These are links between pages available for other reasons other than merit. Techniques include;

  • Link Farms-pages that reference each other
  • Link-building Software-Automating the search engine optimization process
  • Hidden links– involves inputting links where users cannot see them
  • Sybil Attack– involves forging multiple identities for ill reasons
  • Spam Blogs– these are blogs created for commercial promotion
  • Page Hijacking– this involves duplicating a popular website but redirecting web surfers to irrelevant and possibly malicious websites
  • Buying Expired Domains– involves purchasing expiring domains and replacing with links to irrelevant websites
  • Cookie Stuffing– involves putting an affiliate tracking cookie on a website on a user’s computer without their consent or knowledge
  • Forum Spam– these are websites that can be edited by users to add links to spam sites


The cloaking technique sends different materials and information to the web crawler and web browser. It tricks the search engine to give a certain site a higher ranking or to visit a web site that is different from the search engine description.

Diib®: Fine Tune Your Metasearch Engine Game!

Whether you’re using a Metasearch Engine or only one search engine, the results you get are what count. Diib Digital can help you see where you stand on any search engine and give you actionable analytics to help you improve your ranking and overall traffic. Here are some of the features of our User Dashboard that set us apart from the crowd:

  • Technical SEO monitoring, including your search engine score
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Some examples of metasearch engines are: Skyscanner and Kayak.com. They compile search results of online travel agencies.

A search engine searches information from its own database only, while metasearch engines aggregate the information into the top results from multiple search engines.

DuckDuckGo is a great Google replacement and one that doesn’t track, or rather target, your IP address or search history. You won’t be caught in a filter bubble. allowing you to see more results.

There are three basic types of search engines. 1) Crawler based 2) Human powered directories 3) Hybrid search engines.


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Daniel Urmann

Author Bio:

Daniel Urmann is the co-founder of Diib.com. Over the past 17 years Daniel has helped thousands of business grow online through SEO, social media, and paid advertising. Today, Diib helps over 150,000 business globally grow online with their SaaS offerings. Daniel’s interest include SMB analytics, big data, predictive analytics, enterprise and SMB search engine optimization (SEO), CRO optimization, social media advertising, A/B testing, programatic and geo-targeting, PPC, and e-commerce. He holds a Master of Business Administration (MBA) focused in Finance and E-commerce from Cornell University – S.C. Johnson Graduate School of Management.

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