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Monday, Jul. 28, 2008 at 9:27 am

Cuil is Not Kewl with Brands Yet

By Bryan Eisenberg
July 28th, 2008

Cuil conversionrate search resultsAfter reading Danny‘s, and Mel‘s first impressions of the new search engine launched by former Googlers, Cuil, I did what anybody in the industry would do first: search for their name. I wouldn’t consider the result set the best choice, but the results were at least somewhat relevant.

However, my big concern came when I searched for broader terms like “conversion rate,” “web analytics,” “Search Engine Marketing” and then did searches for things like “airlines” and “marketing blogs.”

What was apparent in every one of those searches was that Cuil was using images from another website next to a listing for one of the competitor’s websites. For example, on the “conversion rate” search, the conversion rate squirrel stood next to Widemile. In the “search engine marketing” search, an image for was next to our friend Gord Hotchkiss Enquiro‘s listing.

The only “marketing blog” out there seems to belong to my friend Lee Odden as his Online Marketing blog dominated the results. Lee your blog is good, but there are many others that are also worthy. Finally, searching for “airlines” brought me competitors’ planes next to American and Delta Airlines results.

If Cuil is not going to bring back images that are directly tied to brands in their blended search, I believe they will have negative word of mouth for a while. It also probably won’t help to attract advertisers if that is their intention.

Are you seeing some of the same things happening in your initial searches on Cuil?

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Comments (29)

  1. I, too, was disappointed (and frankly a little shocked) to see that the images didn’t match the website.

    Additionally, it seems that Cuil returns 0 results for a search that hasn’t been searched before. For example, I tried several uncommon search phrases that return thousands of results at Google, but they all returned 0 results at Cuil. When I checked back in 5 minutes they all had results at Cuil, indicating that it doesn’t do real-time searching.

  2. Bryan – I too did search for my name first and got poor results – I didn’t want to admit that though as I though it’d be bad for my image……which didn’t show up either! :-)

  3. Jacob,

    The engine is often returning a null set even if you searched for the term before. It is still quite buggy.


  4. Our site is not showing up in results yet. You can send them an email to ask them to include your site in the results:

    Strange that this is done via email and not a Submit URL form, but at least you can do it. I will measure how many days it takes for our site to be spidered, then let you know…

  5. Bryan-

    When I read the article in the NY Times this morning about Cuil, I was really excited about someone new coming onto the search scene with such pedigree. Upon my first relevant search (no, not my name), I too was shocked at the images artificially inserted the results. Further, as I actually looked at the results, it included porn related domains (safe search was on) and also included pages that immediately re-direct to simple search platforms to sell click-fraud.

    Cuil claims their platform is better because of the depth of their pages. While the number of pages crawled may be more vast (like 90′s eyeballs), haven’t we learned that it is the relevancy of those results that matter (next generation = conversion).

  6. Magic Toolbox: that is very strange, but something is better than nothing.

    Jerry: I would hope so. I was there for the first implosion and you’d hope people would get the message by now. But there is a saying that goes, the reason history repeats itself, is because we were too stupid to pay attention to it the first time. I hope not!

  7. If you do not rank for specific keyphrazes well in it is not reason to spit on them. They have some obvious flaws like overemphasizing title attribute on links (just try to put somewhere on your home page and see what will happened.

    Anyway, I would look at broader perspective. Size of index is impressive, it is done in garage, even we now discuss about them and it demonstrates that search is still not done. Could you imagine some distributed system like skype bundle search? eBay would get the most powerful search engine on the world… why distributed?
    “Multiple index based information retrieval system”

    If you ask me your article is like comment of first people who saw balloon flying above Paris, some said that will burn Paris when falls, Napoleon planned invasion of England but everybody underestimated how far airline industry will go.

  8. I searched my own named and Cuil returned “We didn’t find any results for ‘(my full name)’”. Google has me listed #1 at my blog. Yahoo has me at #4. How can Cuil return zero search results?

  9. Z,

    I rank right up there for the “conversion rate” search, as hoped for and expected. This is a startup and obviously has lots to tweak. I was offering one more recommendation to their already impressive effort. Afterall, I am in the “marketing optimization” business (even if this blog has the eMetrics summit logo next to it in the search results).

    Thanks for your comment.

  10. sorry for messed up comment wanted to say put “< a title=”web analytics”

  11. About “We didn’t find any results for ‘(my full name)’” try to refresh couple of times now they are hammered with hundreds of queries per second and index time-out’s it happened to me too.

  12. Hey Bryan,

    Regarding, “Lee your blog is good, but there are many others that are also worthy” that’s a pretty consistent response from other marketing bloggers that haven’t quite figured out how to market their blogs as well as we have. :)

    Although, Future Now blog shows on the first page for “marketing blog” so you’re obviously doing something right.

    The inaccurate image associations are certainly an issue and probably because of the article, it’s pretty slow.

  13. I searched for our highest performing keyword and the resulting three-column listing was dominated by a scraper site that had multiple pages spamming the same keyword. Google and Yahoo don’t even list the site.

    I then searched for our company name and while we showed up in the results, the images used were relevant only in that they were found on the same page. In most cases, they weren’t even the primary image for that page. I can’t figure out how they chose the images displayed (not first, primary, or size relevant).

    What good is caching 121 Billion webpages if you can’t find what you’re looking for?

  14. Cuil returned zero results on the term “columbus”

    The snooty “we can just launch, no need to wuss out with a beta” (alpha???) approach may not have been justified in this case. It will be a while before I give it another look.

  15. Bryan, you said the results were relevant when you searched for your name. Not for me.

    I ‘cuiled’ Nishi Viswanathan and Cuil threw up a few results- only two of them with Nishi Viswanathan in them. The rest were for “Viswanathan” which is a really common last name in India. I even tried “Nishi Viswanathan” but no luck.

    By the way, a few mins ago, I got this message:

    Due to overwhelming interest, our Cuil servers are running a bit hot right now. The search engine is momentarily unavailable as we add more capacity.

    Thanks for your patience.

    33 million could not buy efficient servers???

    You thought listing a competitor’s image next to your search result was a gaffe? Wait until you listen to this one- I found one of my articles about tetanus shots and right next to it was a picture of a man holding a gun!! :)

  16. Searched for many common combinations. Also got null results on first try on every one of them. After the second or third refresh results would display. Started paging through the results pages and found literal duplicates of things on the earlier pages.

    In most cases I’m familiar with the results I entered, and they bore no similarity to Google or Yahoo! result sets. Very strange. Also had the porn entries as mentioned earlier.

    Doesn’t even seem like a beta to me. Maybe they should label it an alpha? It does seem like they released a bit too early.

    Also, I’m not convinced the relatively verbose displays for each listing will survive. Too much real estate used for too few relevant results. Maybe that will be an option on the page “Verbose” vs. “Traditional.”

    Expected more from having read the articles. Maybe it’ll all work out. We need other search paradigms online.

  17. Searching on my name, I saw my photo next to information about another person with the same name. Disconcerting to say the least.

  18. Very bad results. I mean… can you have so much confidence in yourself and claim that you will be better than someone… brag about it on your page, while your “search engine” to be delivers such poor results… i would rather use Microsoft… Hope it will get better, because i wouldnt like to see those investor guys ripping off those engineers ;)

  19. Not at all “cuil” or “cool” or however else they want to pronounce it … tried a few “simple” searches … didn’t get anything I could “intuitively” use … or trust … as being representative of a comprehensive search … VERY glad I’m not invested …

  20. a search for aussie onsite found no direct match, nor did, or, BUT in google via firefoc, aussie onsite gave me 7 out of the 1st 10, NOT SO CUIL{cool}

  21. a search for Harie Godden, gave this return,, Harie Godden. Date Registered:& 05/06/06 12:17AM. Grisoft &…., still not so cuil{cool}

  22. I have a client who is currently #6 on Google and #1 on Yahoo and MSN for his #1 key phrase. Never found him on Cuil, but images from his site showed up next to other web sites *nine times* on the first three result pages. Somehow, I don’t think that qualifies as “fair use”.

  23. “Cuil’s Not a Story, but $26 Million on Marketing Might Be One” Take a look at this post on Seeking Alpha

    Would you spend $26M on a search engine that wasn’t satisfying visitors yet?

  24. All I want to see is that the images are sucking up a lot of bandwidth and may be partly responsible for why their site is so easily overloaded. I find it disappointing that they didnt plan for this problem before during their three-month beta phase.

  25. *say, not see. my ‘ploogies.

  26. Interesting results. We did multiple searches for terms we rank #1 on all the rest of the search engines and sometimes we came up but most of the time not. What was interesting to note was some of the searches brought up an entire page of results from the same site — i.e. all the results on the first page were from one site. Not good. Google stopped this from happening a long time ago. I too, was rather horrified to see images from our sites showing up in other people’s results. And another brand showing up next to our site! Disconcerting to say the least, confusing to a shopper! And the funniest thing I saw was this link: — showing up at number one for one of our searches. It looks like they still have a long way to go to make searching relevant. I don’t count them out yet, I think they may be on to something and it would be nice to give Google a run for their money, but I see their searches as being relevant yet.

  27. Yep, I am seeing some surprisingly bad results.

    One keyword search has one of my domains on the 1st page, and there is some stock photo of a man in suit. It isn’t me, and I’ve never used such stock photography.

    I also found a picture of a well known NLP trainer next to a site that he’s not connected with.

    And for another search I did, it was cluttered up with about a dozen or more pages (within the 1st 3 search pages) from one website. Google and everyone else figured out how to cluster results from one website into an indented listing years ago.

    This thing has a long ways to go…

  28. Have been playing with Cuil on and off for about a week trying to figure out what all the buzz has been about. Seems like they have a ways to go on improving their algorithm before they can gain any mass appeal.

  29. I wasn’t that impressed with Cuil when it first came out, despite the hype. Even now, so many months later, I see the results they have are extremely dated. For instance, a website that has been indexed with Google, Yahoo, MSN, and others still does not show up in Cuil. Leads me to wonder if cuil is just riding the path to doom?

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Bryan Eisenberg, founder of FutureNow, is a professional marketing speaker and the co-author of New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling books Call to Action and Waiting For Your Cat to Bark and Always Be Testing. You can friend him on Facebook or Twitter.

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