Cuil New Search Engine – A Google Contender?

In the last week, a new search engine has emerged with the promise of providing the internet-searching public with an alternative to Google and the other big search providers.

The search engine, called cuil (pronounced “cool”) is an old Irish word for knowledge and is the brainchild of a former Google employee, Anna Patterson.

There are some in the industry who claim that cuil could threaten Google but others are very sceptical.

The engine works on the premise that it returns results based on content relevancy to the search criteria. They claim that this results in better search results for the user. They also claim to have indexed more pages than any other search engine on the net, over 120 billion.

Here’s the problems for Cuil as I see them. For one, the fact that they have gone down the content relevancy path is dangerous because it means that for certain three or four word search phrases, such as “neon lighting brisbane”, sites could theoretically keyword spam and get high listings.

Despite Cuil’s line that they weight content relevancy more heavily, in many cases I found that the sites that were ranking well on a search phrase only mentioned that phrase once on their page and weren’t even on that topic.

For a quick comparison, lets use a Google vs Cuil search for ‘neon lighting brisbane.’

In Google:

Of the top ten results (and let’s face it, that’s all that matters), 6 of the 10 were actually sites selling neon lights in Brisbane, one was a wikipedia article on Brisbane Tourism, two were informational sites on neon lights and one was my old article where I used ‘neon lighting brisbane’ as an example just like now.

In Cuil:

Unfortunately, the results were hopeless. There was one result for a blue light disco (not in Brisbane), a broadway musical in Brisbane, a chrysler site, a blog (who mentioned lighting in passing), a mini jukebox, a site selling computer hardware, a film studio, an electrical transformer store, and two news sites.

The Verdict:

Obviously this is just one example, but try your own searches and you’ll see that quite consistently Cuil generates fairly obscure results with little reference to the search topic.

Now I’m not trying to be too harsh on them, it would be very difficult to spring up overnight and upstage Google but they have a long way to go before they’re even playing in the same league.

Location targeting is a must, as is fixing the logo-like images that appear beside results that are either poorly cropped, pixelated or simply of no relevance to the site they are beside.

But users would probably put up with some of these drawbacks (at least for a while) if Cuil generated more relevant results than Google. However, they don’t really get close.

Don’t write them off just yet, the layout and design is quite nice, but underneath it all you just feel like there isn’t the guts that Google has.

Craig Somerville is a Director at Reload Media, having worked extensively on the digital and online strategies of leading companies within Australia and around the world. With a background in marketing and economics, Craig's unique experience offers great insight into how the world of search and online marketing is changing in today's rapid marketplace. He is also a Google AdWords Qualified Professional and regularly consults on all aspects of digital marketing including search engine optimisation (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM) and social media.