I know I’m biased, but I’m having a lot of fun with Alexa’s new site finder. It’s a different type of search engine, one that is designed to find websites about things instead of web pages that contain things. Here, let me explain. When I am looking for something online, I usually go to my favorite search engine, type in a few words, and hit search. What I get is a list of pages that contain those words ranked by some sort of measure of relevance and importance, which often is exactly what I want. Examples of this include searching for help with a coding problem, looking for song lyrics, and finding documentation. Sometimes, however, I’m more interested in finding an entire website devoted to a topic. There is a big difference between sites that have pages that contain the word “woodworking” and sites about woodworking, and with the standard keyword searches we’re used to it can be difficult to find the latter (a website about a topic) in the sea of the former (pages that mention the topic).
My father is retired and carpentry is his hobby. He’s also not that tech savvy, and “woodworking” is a real world example of a search that baffled him in the past. If you type “woodworking” into Google you get a plethora of results, from books to videos to blogs to magazines to local interest to search suggestions to websites. Most of the results are excellent, of course, but there is a lot there, and the fact that “woodworking” and “wood working” are bold everywhere adds to the overload. Ultimately what my father wanted, though, was a list of web pages about his hobby, and nothing more.
In comes the Alexa Site Finder. I can enter “woodworking” into the Find sites about box, press go, and I have a list of websites about woodworking. It’s a pretty good list, too, similar to what I found with Google but a lot more focused. Alexa also returns the traffic rank for the site, which is an estimate of the sites popularity. The lower the rank, the more people visit and use the site (Google is rank 1), which may or may not make it more interesting to me. For woodworking I’m not too worried about rank, and the majority of Internet users are not woodworkers. But it’s certainly a good indicator of what’s a site that people find useful versus a site that was abandoned a long time ago.
For woodworking traffic rank wasn’t that important, but there are other times when it is invaluable. I do a lot of volunteer work for a local animal rescue, and we are constantly looking for ways to improve visibility. I recently turned to the site finder for help, and discovered a handful of high traffic sites that list non-profits. Now I know which organizations we need to be listed with to get the greatest exposure, which will help us help more animals.
The Site Finder also allows me to filter my results by language, user country, category, adult content, and traffic. For example, I can filter my search results to include sites with predominantly US users and without adult content, and then include only sites with a rank <100,000 to make sure I get only the most popular websites. Or, I could to the same search, but restrict traffic rank to >100,00 to search for undiscovered gems. Cool stuff!