My Search Engines
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 accomplish.
Blogs: 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.
Blogs (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.
Site 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.
Video: 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.
Create a Presentation
Images: 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.
People: 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.
Take a Client to Lunch
Restaurants: 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.
Unwinding and Errands (after work, of course)
Movies: 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.
Yellow 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.
Metasearch: Ixquick works well for a metasearch engine. Its privacy features are also useful when conducting secretive searches, such as engagement ring shopping.
Boy 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 search engines).