Cuil SEO thoughts

By Dave McAnally, Natural Search Supervisor

Well now that I’m back from my various cycling journeys in various parts of the globe that are cut off from the internet (oh yes, they exist), I’ve been back in Chicago long enough to gain some initial impressions of Cuil. As most of you know by now, this has been touted as the Google killer everyone anticipates (even made the headline of CNN). As near as I can tell, the two big reasons it gets this label is that some big names are behind it’s development, and because it presents an entirely new view for search results.

Cuil initially stated that their superior number of pages indexed was the unique selling position, but Google quickly squashed that announcing that it had actually indexed a trillion-odd pages (Billions? Trillions? Really now, at what point does the noise to signal ratio with pages indexed overshadow the usefulness of the results?). Instead of the (decidedly) drab list of links, we are now presented with a more ‘magazine’ like interface where results are staggered throughout the page with pictures (that may or may not sync with the article/page in question).

Since there are plenty of reviews on all the ins and outs of the late and great features on it, I’ll save the trouble and cut to the chase for things I see initially for how Cuil is going to function as an engine that can be optimized towards.

  • First, I’m not sold on the image association whatsoever. There are some funny examples of how it simply doesn’t sync up. Optimizing for images on this could be an interesting endeavor as you may find your trademarked and/or proprietary images associated with content that doesn’t belong to you (and vice versa).
  • Cuil is not effective for local search or long tail queries at all. This surprises me given the minds involved in creating it. But go ahead and check it out. Modesto California? Really? Not very effective compared to Google.
  • I applaud the category effort, but I don’t think it’s quite to a stage where I’d call it ‘usable’ for the average user. The categories need to be more specific on most of the queries I’ve run. For example, none of these categories exactly apply to Resolution Media and Health Care certainly doesn’t. Were I to be searching on that (even if it wasn’t a branded query), those categories wouldn’t be very helpful. This categorization (coupled with the supposed use of semantic tags) could make for some interesting optimization tactics.
  • On the plus side, I really like the layout change. It looks better, you can see more on one page, and it leaves room for some cool possibilities (hint hint: local search maps). It would be interesting for an eye tracking study to be performed on a Cuil search result page.
  • So where are the paid listings going? Anyone?


Dave McAnally said...

I should mention that since I did that search for Chicago microbreweries, Cuil's results have improved and are fairly usable now. I guess we can forgive that since it's just launching.

Bryson said...

Yeah, I think I broke a personal record in the Caribbean by going without email and Internet (mobile or desktop) for an entire week. I went to the medical station on the ship with the geek's equivalent of the DTs. Not good.

I'm not wildly impressed by what I see here with the Cuill site of the day, and yours is the first review I've read of it. Powerset is still better equipped as a Google killer with its semantic search technology and its recent Microsoft acquisition, but right now its search results leave something to be desired (ie more relevance). It's no easy task for anyone to kill a brand who is listed in the dictionary as a verb for its primary function, and Cuill is going to have to do more than add categories, search suggestions and a big index (all of which Google already has) to grow enough market share for SEOs like us to need to take notice.

Good review, anyway. Glad you're reconnected.

Kris McDermott said...

I can't, for the life of me, figure out why they didn't do a quiet beta launch to allow them to work out the kinks and THEN do a media frenzy giant launch. Could have avoided half the web laughing at them for being rough around the edges.

Bad PR move, if you ask me (and I'm aware that no one did).

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