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My Take On Cuil

Posted by on Aug 3, 2008

I read about this new search engine called Cuil (pronounced “cool”) in the New York Times and decided to go over and take a look. It was created by someone who used to work for Google, so it’s someone who should know something about search engines, right?

The first thing you notice is its black background, the antithesis of Google. The print is white and light blue, and it’s main logo is a light gray with one letter a light blue. So, it’s clean like Google.

I decided to start with a safe one by putting in a search term that my main business comes up as number one on Google. What you get back are 11 blocks of websites with the words of the particular page that Cuil has brought for you to review. A logo also comes up, but I realized pretty quickly that the logo isn’t necessarily the business. I figure I know which site it has decided is number one, but after that I’m not sure if you go across or down in determining who’s number two. Not that it mattered for me, as my site didn’t appear until page 3, which means it feels that, for my search term (for which I’m also number one on Yahoo and MSN) doesn’t qualify until 23-33. Oh well, stinks to be me here, doesn’t it? Oh yeah; my logo didn’t come up either, but there is a logo associated with my site.

I decided to try another of my search terms that I know my main site is in the top 5 on Google for. It does come up on the first page, but oddly enough it’s not the same page that Google highlights, and the logo, once again, isn’t for my business, or for the item it’s actually linked to, which is my book. And the logo is too small to even identify what it’s for; very odd indeed. For kicks and giggles, I decided to go to the second page to see if I had another page listed. I didn’t, but what I noticed is that the logos that were on the first page are present on the second page, so maybe those logos are for advertising purposes of some sort; I’m missing it.

As a final test, I put the name of this blog into its search engine with quotation marks; surely it would come up, right? Well, in a way it did, but not how I’d have thought. The name of the blog comes up, on the first page, but as a link off my main business site. It was also on the second page, once again off the links page of my main business site. At least this time it picked up my logo from that site. On page three it finally had a link to a post off this blog; but it’s still not on my site, but on another site that, oddly enough, wouldn’t come up when I clicked on the link. And I saw the name as being listed on my business blog, along with other blog links.

So, what’s my overall take on Cuil? Well, it’s pretty fast, and since it’s searching over 120 billion pages (so it says), I guess that’s impressive. The search itself probably needs to be drastically refined, as, with further tests, it seems that putting something in quotation marks doesn’t actually help refine the search for the term. From a SEO perspective, at the moment it would be difficult to figure out how to optimize your site for Cuil. I do believe some people would like how it shows the information on some of the pages, but if it’s not taking people to the pages they need, then the information is useless.

I hope Cuil improves with time. For now, Google has nothing to worry about.

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4 Comments »

Did you check out their “About” or Philosophy? I think this might be a case of them not delivering what you’re looking for, versus them creating a new standard that doesn’t do / look like everyone else’s.

August 3rd, 2008 | 11:35 AM

I first tried it last week, when they launched, and it was awful. Not only did nothing come up when you I searched for my name (there are about 260,000 instances found on Google; not all of them are me, some are other people with my name).

Then, I tried to search for something more generic, like Syracuse, NY. It also came up with nothing.

I guess that was probably just the site being overwhelmed by traffic on the first day.

So, I tried again later in the week, and it was still mediocre. I don’t like the images it randomly grabs from sites, and it’s not necessarily grabbing sites in the order in which might be the most useful for a visitor.

In addition, they might want to do some usability and eye-tracking studies. I bet nothing on the right-hand column gets clicked on, and I only knew to look for the “things you might want to find” tabs at the top (like hotels if you search for a city) because it was mentioned in a couple of stories I heard on the radio.

Anyway, I’m going to continue to use Google for my primary search engine, archive.org for my archive searches, and either Metacrawler or Dogpile for more obscure searches (I think they’re driven by the same engine, so it doesn’t really matter, results-wise).

August 3rd, 2008 | 11:53 AM
Mitch:

Kelvin: Yes, I did read their stuff, and it’s, well, fluff; nothing substantive there.

Josh: I’m with you in sticking with Google. I don’t understand why they show 11 sites, and things aren’t totally aligned either. That, plus they’re really no better in defining exactly what someone wants than Google. Of course, there’s always Spock (ugh; don’t even go there).

August 3rd, 2008 | 1:02 PM
John Dilbeck:

Hi Mitch,

It’s been a couple of weeks since I was last at Cuil, and I was not impressed then.

I just did several searches and I think I’m seeing better results than I did last time.

I follow a number of keywords for which I rank on page one at Google and a search on Cuil for several of them showed decent results. No, I don’t mean that I was at the top of the results, I mean that the pages returned were good matches for the search terms, whether they were my pages or not.

It’s better, but still not as good, nor as fast, as Google.

One thing that really bothers me about Cuil is the graphics they show next to listings.

I know the images on my sites and it bothers me to see totally unrelated images next to my pages.

Even worse would be seeing my images next to someone else’s page – but I haven’t come across any examples of that, yet.

Overall, I think Cuil is improving, but not yet ready for prime time.

Act on your dream!

JD

August 17th, 2008 | 4:28 AM