– the hoax unveiled.

By Nik

Nice PR job, Cuil! Currently the top ranking news article in my “Sci/Tech” Google News tab is “Cuil: Another Google Challenger Launches”. So, as a gullible SEO eager to see the future of search engines, I went to Cuil. My visit to the search engine was akin to America’s Favorite TV Bloopers and my mindset now is not very different than that of a lost puppy – made me miss my Google home. Here’s a snippet of my adventures and my analysis on the quality of this new “contender” from the perspective of an avid googler and a curious SEO.

For starters, I wanted to learn more about the search engine. So, obviously I clicked the button that said “About Cuil”, and retrieved an informative web page that said “Oops! We couldn’t find that page. Please verify that the URL is correct and try again.” I’m pretty sure my URL was correct – – pretty cut-and-dry I’d say. First blunder; very demoralizing. Though I would expect such a thing from maybe a small e-commerce store, it’s hard to imagine that this SE is really set to go toe-to-toe with Google.

Next, I figured I’d test out Cuil’s (pronounces “cool’s”) ability to give accurate SERP data. So I typed in the name of a hip hop artist, “One Signata Nach”. Without quotes, Cuil showed that it had 1.8 billion results. With quotes, that number diminished to a mere 600 million searches. Wow – Google only shows 9,870 results and 1,250 results, respectively. So what accounts for a disparity the factor of nearly 200,000? Well, I started off with the assumption that there’s a bit of a miscalculation going on – inflation maybe? But I couldn’t prove that without searching through all 1.8 billion pages and since I find this to be time-sensitive information (bursting the bubble when it is blown) I went the route of searching for empirical data. First, I found an issue of credible results. For the search of “One Signata Nach” (with or without quotes), I got the same top 10 results. By switching between the 2 column and 3 column options in the bottom right of the search page, I was able to identify that the site was the 4th result. The other results were much more interesting though.

The first results did not use the term “One Signata Nach” – it was simply a smut site scraping popular terms. The second result was the page and is clearly a scraped snippet from the artist’s real website. The 3rd results also included snippets from the artist’s real site. Finally, the artist’s real site shows up as the 4th result. Rather than display the meta description, the snippet shown for this page is the content from the body text of the page. Now don’t get me wrong, I can see how this is helpful to a user, but also opens up a whole slew of opportunity for scrapers to get their pages shown. The description tag is a limiter of content while body text is nearly unlimited in its range. I find that to be quintessential of the type of slipshoddiness that will prove that this SE, like many before it, does not have what it takes to compete against google. The basic thinking is flawed. But so is the execution. The image that shows up for is the cover of “Hip Hop Hits 8” an image that is not even on the site, but loosely represents the theme of the site. Worse, the site has a plethora of images that could have been used for this icon, but were not. My assumption is that some Cuil designer decided that they would only use images with constrained proportions within their SERP results so that the results all had a similar “feel” to them, though this could have been done in n number of ways, including using a fixed height/width border that contains each image icon.

So now, in my first attempt to use the Cuil search engine, I was so displeased that I may return once in a blue moon – possibly just to see if they corrected some of the mistakes outlined here. The only thing valuable from an SEO perspective is that using hyphens in your domain name seems to help on Cuil. Nonetheless, I don’t assume that it will be around for long enough to matter. But if it does survive, I hope they correct that hyphen bug =o)

THE KICKER: To tie up the issue of exorbitant results, I must add that on the first page of results for the search of “One Signata Nach”, I only found 1 page that had unique content on it. 10 out of the 11 results from the first SERP page were duplicated and scraped content. I went through and looked beyond the first page to all the first 10 pages of results and expanded on my search. Still, the only page of original content was the actual site, that was ranked #4 within a sea of duplicate content. Had it not been for the URL, I doubt it would have shown up for the term on the home page at all.

On the other hand, Google’s first 10 results for the same search all show unique content. This is something Google has perfected over time and it symbolizing google’s dedication to its goal: return the most unique and helpful results for any given search. In that case, I assume also achieved its goal today: 15 minutes.


Nikhil Rajpal

Director of Client Services

Exclusive Concepts Inc.