Before giving the definition of a meta-search engine, you’ll probably need to first understand how a typical search engine works. A search engine, like Google for instance, sends out robots (aka spiders). The robot will bounce from one site to another until it has enough information to create a record or database of the sites it has visited. This data, and the corresponding algorithm that is applied to it, form the basic foundation of Google’s index.
Meta search engines, on the other hand, don’t retrieve data from the web but rather build their index based on the results of other indices. One of the most widely used Meta search engines is Dogpile.com. Their results come from a collective grouping of different search engines. Dogpile then applies a proprietary algorithm that will display the data, to searchers, in the order they see fit.
Do meta search engines provide better results? According to Dogpile, “we return all the best results from leading search engines including Google, Yahoo!, Bing and Yandex, so you find what you’re looking for faster”. Realistically speaking however, the way you search largely depends on the personal preferences of the user and what they see as being the most valuable.