Watch out Google – specialist search engines on the rise

23 Dec 2008

A clever young Cork technology firm has developed its own specialised search engine to help people wishing to advance themselves find that next training course with better results. It could be in the vanguard of a whole new search movement.

Start-up firm Learnpipe, which already employs five people in Cork and Manchester, describes itself as a new breed of search service called vertical or specialised search engine.

Founder and CEO John Dineen said the more specialised search helps people searching for specific courses to avoid the ‘noise’ on Google by providing access to structured data.

“’Don’t get us wrong, we love Google too,” Dineen said. “But because Google has to offer great search results for everything, the information you are looking for can get lost in a sea of results. Great training providers aren’t necessarily great at search engine optimisation (SEO) and the gems can be buried deep in Google’s results.”

Until recently, Learnpipe focused on providing search results from structured data only – from sites that feed data to its search engine.

“Access to structured data is the Holy Grail of the specialised search world. With structure, you can manipulate data to offer really useful results. On Learnpipe, you can quickly compare courses from different providers, filter the results by location, timeframe or delivery format.

“Structured data also enables you to integrate third-party services such as maps or currency tools that really add value for the user.”

Learnpipe’s search results are displayed in tabs: ‘Courses’, ‘Products & Services’, ‘Instructors’, ‘Learners’, and ‘Web’.

Enter a simple keyword search and Learnpipe will display its results for each tab. The site also includes tag clouds that offer helpful suggestions to aid your search.

With the launch of its new ‘Web’ tab, Learnpipe now offers search results that its crawlers have indexed from across the web (ie unstructured data).

“This is an important development for us,” Dineen explained. “It’s early days for our index, but it means that Learnpipe can now include all learning sites, whether they are feeding to us or not.

“This enables us to scale Learnpipe very quickly and means that our search results are more comprehensive than ever before. Our ‘Web’ tab displays results like you get in Google. The difference is that we only index learning-related sites, which means very concise results.”

Dineen added that Learnpipe does not charge providers for appearing in its searches. The only restriction is that your product or service must relate to education.

“Our objective is to deliver the best possible search results for all things learning. The paid-for inclusion models offer skewed results, in that only the organisations that can afford or are willing to pay are included.

“Learnpipe wants everyone to be included. We believe that if we offer a top-quality search service, we can commercialise the site in other ways,” Dineen said.

By John Kennedy

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years