Building a better metasearch engine: a conversation with Brian McManus, VP of Infospace Search & Directory

Largely undiscovered, a metasearch site can be the holy grail of Web searches. One can truly explore all the different crawler-based search engines in one simple step. The metasearch area is dominated by Seattle–based InfoSpace, which operates sites such as,,, and

Brian McManus, EVP of InfoSpace Search & Directory, thinks metasearch’s time has come. He spent some time with me talking about the Web site DogPile.

DANA GREENLEE: How long has InfoSpace been in the metasearch business with WebCrawler and DogPile?

BRIAN MCMANUS: We’ve been doing this since 1996, primarily through two separate companies that merged: and DogPile has been our leading metasearch site for the past seven years.

GREENLEE: Why has InfoSpace had so much passion for metasearch?

MCMANUS: Metasearch provides the best results for users. Each search engine has particular biases and tend to do well providing results for certain kinds of searches, depending on their technologies. We find that bringing all the search technologies together covers all the categories well and actually searches more of the Web than in a single search engine.

GREENLEE: Describe some of the brand and service aspects of

MCMANUS: There are some major benefits to the site – as well as a funny aspect. We have Arfie the Dog fetching balls, bringing back results from the major search engines. In user group studies, people sit up and take notice and about three-quarters of them have a very positive reaction to Arfie.
We have a”refine your results” section that gives the user the ability to navigate through a large volume of results. For example, if somebody types in “Saturn,”a categorization will show them there are lots of results for Saturn the planet as well as for Saturn the car. Now they can very quickly get to just Saturn the planet. We have also integrated Yellow Pages and White Pages into the search sites so it’s very easy for users to find local content.

GREENLEE: With your integration of Yellow and White Pages, what is DogPile’s thought on location-based search? I’ve heard that is a hot area right now.

MACMANUS: It is a hot area and extremely valuable. Users are looking for local content and don’t know where to find it. Somewhere between 10 – 30% of the time, when users do research, we believe there is locally relevant content available. To use the Saturn example again, searchers may be interested to know where Saturn cars are for sale within a certain radius of their search location. DogPile’s now started integrating that local content. When InfoSpace started, our background was as a Yellow Pages and White Pages online information provider.

GREENLEE: Tell us about your DogPile’s Search Toolbar.

MCMANUS: Our toolbar has seen tremendous success. I think that is due to the fact that we integrated local content into the toolbar. It has a pop-up ad blocker and a news feed from ABC News. This way you can glance up to the toolbar at any time and see what the leading or breaking news stories are.

GREENLEE: How many people are using DogPile right now?

MCMANUS: We get about 7 to 8 million unique visitors per month to our four Web search sites. We also have about 13 million unique visitors per month to our Yellow Pages and White Pages.

For information on metasearch and more conversation with Brian McManus, the full audio interview is available at You can download the DogPile toolbar for your computer at

Dana Greenlee is co-host, producer and engineer of the WebTalkGuys Radio Show, a Tacoma-based radio and webcast show featuring technology news and interviews.