Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Search Engine Shoot Out

Its that time again. Time to check out the various search engines and see if has any serious competitors. Now, does that sound like I have an attitude? Oh, probably. Like usual.

Here's the rules of the game. I use my standard search term, my Great-grandfather, Henry Martin Tanner as the basis for comparison. I also check the Alexa standings and some online rating services, to see what the rest of the world thinks. What is my criteria? I assume, probably correctly by the way, that a search engine is supposed to search. But in addition, I further assume that it is supposed to find stuff. So why do I use my Great-grandfather as a search term? Because I have been using his name as an example now for a few years and I have a pretty good feel for how many different websites there are out there that have mentioned or featured his name. Therefore, if the search engine can't find what I know is there, I won't waste my time trying to use it to find things I don't know.  Not a perfect system, but better than some.

OK, off to high noon on the Internet.

Here is the ranking for several search engines. Alexa ratings change almost every day depending on the traffic measured, so your results may vary, as they say. This time I am throwing in the genealogy search engine to see how it is progressing. If you want to see a huge list of search engines, go to Wikipedia:List of search engines. My selections are entirely arbitrary and capricious. You might notice that I include some popular ones, some metasearch engines like Dogpile. Some of the search engines I used to compare have disappeared or been absorbed into larger ones. The ranking is first the world and then the U.S. Number 1 and 1 Number 26 and 15 Number 51 and 33
Yahoo! Number 4 and 4 Number 68 and 36
Dogpile  Number 3,761 and 1,071 Number 126 and 54 Number 1,629 and 746 Number  79,586 and 14,192 Number 62 and 18

They all have very respectable figures. is definitely growing. So what about the rankings online? Well, it turns out that most of them are based on the rankings so the list is redundant, but here they are in order:

Of course, I have left off your favorite. But that's life. You can always tout your own favorite in a comment.

Here goes the search comparison of the known subject: Henry Martin Tanner. For this search I will add the term "arizona" to give a somewhat more focused search. If you like, you can dig back in my blog archives and find my previous comparisons, but, of course they are woefully out of date.

I will do an exact search in each search engine and give the number of results. Total 3,010 Total 26
Yahoo! Total 26 No total given but about 30 Total 2,960 Total 128 Total 26
Dogpile  Total 84 Total 0 Total 710

I have to admit that the search was rigged. I already have a very good idea of how many websites contain a reference to my Great-grandfather. I have done this search as a demo so many times I am pretty confident that has the closest number. did very well and is ranked right up there with Google actually, and is moving up in the world and should be looked at. The rest fail miserably. In doing an online name search, they just aren't worth the effort.

Will keep moving up in the genealogical search world? I am convinced it will. Will I start using AOL? Not likely unless there is some way to get rid of their offensive ads.  Will any of the other companies figure out how to do websearches? There is always hope. Hint: There is a good reason why Google is number one.


  1. Was this test done with or without cookies enabled, since if you have already done a number of searches on Google for Henry Martin Tanner (and clicked some links), then when you do the search again their algorithm will pick up on that and may aggregate search terms differently. Also the ordering of results will be different depending on what you have previously clicked on.

    So in the case of Yahoo! or Bing it may be that you don't generally use those search engines which means they don't tailor the results as much or they may suppress some of the results.

    1. I have conducted this test on various occasions with a variety of computers including some on networks with firewalls that do not allow cookies. I always get similar results.

  2. Surprised you didn't mention GenealogyInTime Magazine's two search engines:

    the Genealogy Search Engine for ancestral records

    and the Family Tree Search Engine for online family trees and genealogy forums

  3. isn't a search engine so it is no wonder it didn't turn up any searches for genealogical information on Henry Martin Tanner. A search on will only bring up written/edited content on (and its partner sites) - content which is primarily focused on how to accomplish something. It doesn't operate as a search engine and crawl the web.

    Also, AOL contracts with Google for its search results.