Teoma aims at Google’s throat

I’ve used Teoma a few times before, but the flurry of articles today about Teoma taking aim at Google necessitated a bit of further inquiry.

Given that Teoma’s index is only a tiny fraction of Google’s (200 million compared to 3 billion), the results are difficult to compare. The technology used is termed “Subject Specific Popularity,” (SSR) which I assume is a context-specific version of Google’s Page Rank. The generality of weblog content would appear to be a negative bias in Teoma’s ranking system. This might very well fix the bias that weblogs currently have in Google.

Here’s an example. Search for “jason” or “meg” on Google and you find kottke.org at #2 and megnut.com first, above the ever-popular Meg Ryan. Performing the same searches on Teoma (“jason” and “meg”), we see that these popular blogs aren’t tops by Teoma’s standards.

One of two things might explain this discrepancy. First, Google uses the text in anchor tags as a more representative description of the content than the content itself. This is based on the theory that content is not always the best descriptor of itself. Take Ford Motors for example, whose website has the term “ford” only once. Anyone linking to Ford will of course use the word “ford” in their anchor tag, since it is most relevant descriptive term for the site. Teoma may not use anchor tag text at all, which would significantly decrease the correlation between our webloggers and their names.

Secondly, Teoma may simply favor sites with specificity. Weblogs tend to link to a number of different types of content (since peoples interests are usually quite varied). It would make sense that SSR would give more ranking power to those sites that have a cohesive subject. As they say, SSR “ranks a site based on the number of same-subject pages that reference it, not just general popularity, to determine a site’s level of authority.” This doesn’t bode well for weblogs content.

Of course neither company goes into detail about their actual ranking algorithm, so we can only postulate what is actually happening. One thing is for sure, Google thinks much more of themselves than Teoma does.