Originally published in MediaPost’s Search Insider; it continues in the extended entry. Feel free to share your favorite engines in the comments.
IT’S TIME TO STEP down from the lectern and take a break from the
futurism and pontificating. This column’s about search, so this week attention
shifts to "search" as a verb. Here’s a quick review of personal picks
for the most useful search engines for a range of specialized searches that can
come up day to day, grouped by the overall goal these engines can help
Technorati‘s a must here. Blogpulse is useful, and Google Blog Search keeps getting
better (I can’t wait for it to include charts — where’s the connection with Google
Trends?). I also like Outside.in when looking
for blogs in a certain geographical area.
(on site): When I want to find content within a specific blog,
I’ll often use the site search functionality in Google, entering site:URL
(replacing the URL with the Web site address to be searched) in the standard
Google search bar. On my own blog, or when I see the option on others, I’ve
found that Rollyo and Lijit both work well; Lijit’s stats can be
useful complements to others I collect, including those from Sitemeter and Google Analytics.
research: Often enough, the search query is a URL. Quantcast provides an overview of who’s
using a site and how. As a bonus, it will often display the most popular
queries people enter on that site (which often, but not necessarily, relate to
how people found the site through a search engine). Quantcast also shows the
composition of traffic and the share of visits that come from what it calls
addicts, regulars, and passers-by as a gauge of how loyal the audience is. I
don’t use Quantcast’s numbers as absolutes, but rather in context, especially
when comparing the traffic levels with Compete,
which doesn’t offer as much information about a site. One of the most
underrated site research tools is del.icio.us,
which you can use to see how people tag a site and what else they bookmark. At
times, it feels like spying on a focus group; you can learn a lot about a
person from their bookmarks. Along with del.icio.us, you can use Cloudalicio.us to view how people tag a
given URL over time.
I rarely search for video, and when I do, it’s usually through a major search
engine, though I’ll try a number of video sites including YouTube, ClipBlast,
and Blinkx. Still, most of the video I
watch online is through discovery. In time, sites like PodZinger will also grow more useful to
monitor mentions of brands in video clips.
I use image search mostly when creating new slides. Google Images and Flickr both come in handy, and then I’ll
often use Yahoo Images as a
backup. I’d love for Like.com‘s image search
for shopping to expand beyond retail; there, you can set preferences for color,
shape, or pattern, among other refinements.
Along with the major engines, LinkedIn
is especially helpful when searching for people, along with MySpace and Facebook. I get email alerts from ZoomInfo all the time but never use it. It
seems like everyone is getting into the people search business — even Seth
Godin just launched such a site with SquidWho,
his offshoot of Squidoo.
a Client to Lunch
I’m a sucker for MenuPages (even with
its Stone Age search capabilities). Zagat.com
has been useful more often lately as it keeps expanding its content offerings,
and I haven’t abandoned CitySearch
yet. I’ll use OpenTable to determine
certain restaurants’ availability.
and Errands (after work, of course)
IMDB is one of few sites
I’ve been searching for at least a decade. I still out of habit often type the
URL as us.imdb.com, since imdb.com years ago defaulted to the UK version.
Pages: I stick to the major engines, rarely going to a local
site directly, but I’m convinced one day I’ll become hooked on Yelp. It comes in handy periodically, but I’ve
yet to become a regular user. Friends in the Bay Area swear by it.
Ixquick works well for a metasearch
engine. Its privacy features are also useful when conducting secretive
searches, such as engagement ring shopping.
Bands: Who can resist a chance to win a spot in ‘N Sync alum
Joey Fatone’s MySpace top friends list? Instead of just searching for him, you
can search with him now
(maybe he’ll get you on "The Singing Bee" in a future sweepstakes).
Fine, that last one might not be in my
del.icio.us bookmarks (at least, not in the public list), but maybe there’s a
use for it yet. Someone can pontificate on that in a future column (then again,
no one would ever
write about celebrity