Cuil Search Engine Optimization (Cuil Tuil No Juil)

The new cuil.com (pronounced "cool") search engine is up and running. The results could be better - but it's just their first day, so give them a break. How might you optimize your site for cuil? Let's see how cuil does in a simple technovelgy test...


(Cuil search engine)

I tried "technovelgy", "reborg-q", "strawberry picking robot", "sports in space", "cyberwalk cybercarpet", "giant space vegetables", among others. I noticed that the cuil site tended to provide several links from the same site on the same page of results (which you tend not to see on google, unless a second result is indented). Also, one of the links was usually to a reference or index page link; these sites typically have lower quality or derivative content (scraped from other sites).

Entering "Technovelgy" into cuil.com correctly yields the technovelgy.com site first; however, I note that the listed URL goes to "http://www.technovelgy.com/index.htm" which is a page I got rid of two years ago when I went to a machine-generated home page. This suggests to me that they may have an index of 120 billion pages, but how often do they refresh results? Also, the second (next-right-most) pick also goes to my site, but the graphic is shows is from a Russian audiobooks site.

My articles tended to show up on the first page of results (as they should!). However, I noticed that cuil sometimes places "clipping" and "scraping" sites around the top; follow the links to empty pages with a title but no content. This suggests to me that cuil is not as sophisticated as google in looking at content.

Also, I noticed that the cuil engine also tended to give high placement to link names on certain sites (like "Previous in Blog: Strawberry Picking Robot") rather than pages that actually contain the article.

Cuil would also fail to recognize the source articles for a story. For example, I wrote a story about a robotic squirrel and used the word "mechasquirrel." The site io9.com used my story as the basis for their story, but cuil.com can't tell where the original story came from (unlike google, which correctly lists me first).

It also appeared to bring up annoying and irrelevant advertisements in the first position without telling the user. I also didn't care for the three column presentation; it just confused me regarding results. I figure that the top left item is cuil's best pick, but which is second best: the one just to the right, or the one just below?

Cuil claims to rank based on page content (as opposed to link popularity, like google), but that doesn't explain a large number of cuil's entries, which link to pages with no content, irrelevant content (like pages that contain the individual words "sports" "in" "space" as opposed to the phrase "sports in space") or pages that merely have a link to the page that is relevant.

Based on these observations about the cuil.com engine, I'd hazard the following advice for optimizing your site for cuil.com:

  • Think google as it was about five years ago. Cuil.com is simply not as sophisticated. There appear to be a wide variety of tricks that google has long ago rejected, that cuil.com doesn't appear to mind. I'm referring specifically to sites that either create a large number of mostly blank pages with lots of ads, or sites that scrape bits of content and then have lots of ads. (Yes, I know that google still gets sucked into these sites from time to time.)
  • In spite of their claim to be more interested in content, link text obviously matters a great deal to cuil.com. Also, cuil.com appears to be more interested in very large sites (sites with a very large number of pages, even if the pages are mostly blank or otherwise computer-generated) than they are in small, tightly organized content sites.
  • I don't think that cuil.com is able to churn and revise their results as well as google can. This suggests to me that cuil.com is less nimble, and it might be longer before you can see results from changes that you make on your pages.
  • Cuil.com doesn't appear to do as well for longer, quoted phrases. Google tends to try to bring up the exact page; cuil contents itself with trying to find the words on the page. For example, I typed "Ithaa Undersea Restaurant" into Google, and got a number of good results (my page was about fifth out of 9,000). Cuil, on the other hand, failed to find anything relevant with the same query. Doing the query on Cuil without the quotes, oddly, found some good pages. This probably gives the advantage again to sites with a great many pages. But what's the point of trying to get short phrases right on link names or title tags when cuil.com can't "see" them?
  • I don't think that cuil.com is as nimble as google.com for more recent material. For example, about five days ago I wrote an article titled "DelFly Micro Smallest Camera Plane," which recently debuted on tech sites. Google already lists my article first, and then lists a set of articles that contain that exact phrase. Cuil cannot find that phrase at all in its index. Again, I think you will need wait longer for your material to appear in their search results.
  • None of the work that you've done on tagging graphics or videos will help you with cuil.com, since they apparently don't let you search anything but text.

On a lighter note, as far as having cool stuff is concerned, cuil is way behind on the SEB (search engine bling) competition; be sure to check out the Google Vanity Ring, With Search Engine Popularity Bling.

Cuil (which means wisdom or knowledge in Gaelic) was started by ex-googler Anna Patterson and Tom Costello. Cuil claims to index 120 billion pages; search giant google scans a trillion URLs.

Anyway, google will be tough to beat. Competition just makes things better for us, the self-absorbed users. May the best search engine win!

Buaidh!

(That's the Gaelic word for victory (I think). Cuil.com said "We didn’t find any results for "gaelic word for victory." Google, on the other hand, found it. I guess that's why you index 1 trillion URLs - you never know which one you'll need.)

Science fiction fans know that you'll need amazing back-end computing to be able to power the all-knowing computers of the future; google and cuil are getting us closer. If you have any comments on using cuil to find your favorite sfnal articles, let me know.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 7/29/2008)

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