Sunday, June 17, 2012

Comparing Search Engines

One of the topics I return to frequently, is a comparison of various search engines. I have been using a search for one of my ancestors as test. In thinking about this, I decided it would be a better test to look for specific items that I know are available on the Internet. Obviously, I want to use something that is really obscure or there would be no point in making a comparison.

Wikipedia has a page that lists dozens of search engines. I suppose an exhaustive comparison would include a large variety, but I will narrow my comparison for practical reasons. One of the challenges is separating out those search engines that use Google as a basis for their returns. I am including the genealogy search engine, Mocavo.com, along with some lesser known search sites.

Here is the first item for the search. It is a very rare book published in 1915.

Lessons in Genealogy, The Genealogical Society of Utah, Third Edition, Salt Lake City, Utah 1915.

I will use the search terms "lessons, genealogy, society, Utah."

Here are the results:

Google.com: the book came up number three on the list with a listing of its availability as a digitized item on Archive.org.
Yippy.com or Clusty.com: These seem to be related. The book came up third on the list on Amazon.com, the Archive.org copy came up seventh on the list. This is really a meta-search engine and combines results from different sources.
Dogpile.com: Hmm. Another meta-search engine with results that are almost exactly like Yippy.com.
Answers.com: This was a bust. A lot of ads and no references to the book on any of the first few pages.
Ask.com: Better than Answers.com but none of the results on Google.com, Yippy.com or Dogpile.com. It did find my blog post references to the book on about the third page of results.
Yahoo.com: Lots of ads, but nearly the same results as Google.com which is not a surprise since Yahoo.com reportedly uses Google.com's searches.
CompletePlanet.com: Another bust. No results at all.
Search.com: Another bust. Nothing on the first two or three pages except general results. Also lots of ads.
AltaVista.com: Comes back with a Yahoo.com search so it is the same as Yahoo.com.
Excite.com: Looks like another Google.com search. The same list as Google.com and Yahoo.com. Lots of Ads.
Lycos.com: Hmm. This one actually had all of the positive results from Google.com et al. and had three references to the book as numbers one, two and three. Pretty impressive. Not too many ads either.
AOL.com: Looks like Search.com with fewer ads. No results until the second page where it found my posts on the subject.
Bing.com: Looks like Lycos.com results, very good positive results with the first three entries being the book.
Mocavo.com: I had to sign up for a "free" account to see my results. Actually had a copy of the book to read as a results of the search. Pretty impressive.  There were even other copies of earlier redactions and editions.

Certainly a mixed bag of results. How about a search for another item. This time a name. I won't use my Great-grandfather's name because I know the results of that search. I will use one of my Great-grandmothers who wrote a surname book. Her name is Margaret Godfrey Jarvis Overson. Points for references to her and more points for finding a reference to her book. I will search for "margaret godfrey jarvis overson" including the quotation marks. Here is the citation to the book:

Overson, Margaret Godfrey (Jarvis). George Jarvis and Joseph George De Friez Genealogy. Mesa, Ariz: s.n, 1957.

I will go down the same list:

Google.com: Over 800 references and they all seem to relate to the right person. A huge variety of sources including the book and many relatives websites.
Yippy.com or Clusty.com: Results look very similar to Google.com.
Dogpile.com: The same results that look like Google.com and Yippy.com.
Answers.com: No useful results at all. Nothing. A lot of general junk.
Ask.com: This time the results came back with Ask.com but very similar to Dogpile.com and Google.com
Yahoo.com: Ditto to Ask.com.
CompletePlanet.com: No results. Nothing not even general information.
Search.com:This time the search results look just like Google.com and the others above.
AltaVista.com:Came back with a Yahoo.com search and ditto to the above.
Excite.com:Another duplicate set of results, the same as Google.com et al.
Lycos.com: Another set of relevant and well presented results. If you like neatness and order, Lycos.com is for you.

AOL.com: Ditto to Google.com et al. above with more ads.
Bing.com:Many fewer results than the other search engines but almost all were relevant. They have also cleaned up their interface and have far fewer ads.
Mocavo.com: Really impressive. References to the person and the book. All of the references are to both and no extraneous material at all. Much improved over my last searches.

Summary. Almost all of the search engines did the job to some extent with some notable strike outs. It looks like to me, that there are really only two or three different search engines since the results were so identically the same. Mocavo.com moved way up in my estimation. I also liked Lycos.com as the only distinctive site in the whole list other than Mocavo.com.

It probably depends on your own preferences and how familiar you get with your choice. But Google still wins on shear numbers and coverage. But if you want to try to knock out some of the ads and extraneous results, you might try both Lycos.com and Mocavo.com.

1 comment:

  1. I tried these same two searches using my preferred search engine, duckduckgo.com

    For the Lessons in Genealogy book, the first result was a link to the Wikipedia article about the Genealogical Society of Utah, then an ad for ancestry.com, and then Amazon.com's page about the book. Unfortunately, it didn't find anything from archive.org.

    For "margaret godfrey jarvis overson," the results are very similar to lycos.com

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