Last month Google made a historic move and let reporters in to see some of it’s many data centers. These data centers manage search, gmail and all of the many other pieces of data that Google stores. In the photos (like the one on this page), showed very colorful pipes, wires, and stacks upon stacks of servers.
Now imagine if Google let you see what it was like inside the data. More specifically, imagine if you could see how the results of your search were scrubbed and located throughout the vast internet.
That’s what Albuquerque start up ProCog is doing. ProCog is a full scale search engine which is totally transparent. ProCog users can see every little bit of information that ProCog uses to deliver it’s search results. Such open access to the data used in search can be very useful when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine research.
ProCog is short for “Proficient Cognition”. The site returns more data than you could ever dream of in a single search engine tool. Information you would need to scour the internet for hours to find, is all right there in your ProCog search results. Every entry has an seo report, scoring, duplicates report, site inlinks, traffic, cached data and reindex. All of it compiled together in one easy to use tool.
ProCog boasts 1 billion pages indexed so far and it continues to grow.
We got a chance to talk to Steve Cook, Co-Founder of ProCog. Check out the interview below:
What is Procog?
At its core, ProCog is a full-scale search engine. What makes is special is the transparent functionality which allows visitors to completely examine every bit of information we used to determine the results of their searches. This makes it an invaluable tool for both search engine optimization and search engine research.
For every search results, visitors can see the data surrounding the URL – including relevant inbound links, inbound link text, all inbound page links, all inbound site links, duplicated text, the cached version of the page, the search engine “view” of the page (the page sections), and how all this information is scored for the rank results. It’s search you can trust because we don’t hide anything.
In layman’s terms, how does it work? (In other words how would you explain it to your grandmother)
Do you want to know why one page ranks higher than another for any particular search? Well, ProCog lets you find out exactly why. It takes search engine optimization to the ultimate level by giving you a “backstage pass” to search results algorithms.
Who are the founders and what are their backgrounds?
Matt is the developer of the search engine technology and is the founder of the GigaBlast search engine. Matt earned his Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and an MS in Mathematics from New Mexico Tech in Socorro, NM. He worked at InfoSeek for a few years in the late 90’s and has been developing search engine technology for over 15 years.
Steve focuses the front-end development of ProCog. Steve earned his Bachelor of Science in Physics from New Mexico Tech and his MBA from the University of New Mexico. He has been involved in internet startups for many years, and is also the developer behind several successful websites. http://www.linkedin.com/in/stevecook/
Where are you based?
We are located in Albuquerque, NM, USA. Our facility also holds the hundreds of servers needed to run a web-scale search engine, which are powered in large part by wind-power!
What’s the startup scene/culture like where you’re based?
It’s actually not bad! We’ve got a lot of “support groups” in the area – anywhere from web designer cocktail hours to developer meetups, Although there are limited developers with skills in search engine development and large scale web architecture, we’re hopeful we can find skilled developers.
How did you come up with the idea for ProCog?
It’s hard to compete with Google (and to a lesser extent Bing). They’ve got billions for research and development and any ideas that we can come up with, they can duplicate (and have!), EXCEPT ONE! They can’t expose their algorithm. A huge part of their service is based in hiding their algorithm, and that’s what makes traditional SEO a guessing game.
The other influence is based on the results of non-specific “algorithm updates.” We’ve had sites that were pummeled by the notorious updates – and without any explanation – our sites went from profitable to bankrupt. That kind of overnight change is extremely painful, but it’s made even worse when you haven’t done anything “against the abstract rules” and you haven’t changed anything. Your income is changed by some algorithm that you’ll never get to see. Well, PROCOG shows the algorithm – no more guessing!
How did you come up with the name?
We were trying to find a short unique name, and we were thinking of the Minority Report “Precogs” because they had a type of ESP – and could see “things”. It officially stands for “Proficient Cognition”.
What problem does ProCog solve?
In addition to providing excellent search results, we also show why and how pages are ranked. We take the guess work out of search engine optimization, so you can trust our results.
What’s your secret sauce?
The search engine technology is based around an already successful engine. It’s an almost complete rewrite of the GigaBlast software with a lot of focus around better results combined with controllable weights, factors, and algorithms. Also, our ability to provide this information as a search engine makes it more useful than strictly “data” driven SEO research tools – they give the data, but can’t show you exactly how it’s used.
Are you bootstrapped or funded?
We’re currently bootstrapped, but we’re looking for investors. We’re looking to add more bandwidth and servers/storage to handle 50-100 billion pages.
What is your goto market strategy?
We want to show people that quality results are based on algorithms. We show them the value that exists in knowing how and why things are ranked in a search engine. Practically useless advice like “Create Quality Content” doesn’t specifically help you when you’re trying to rank higher – all your competitors are creating quality content too. So what’s the difference? We show you the differences so you can determine your specific next steps. There’s a LOT of value in that.
So, our initial market strategy focuses on those users that were hit by an “algorithm update” but don’t know why. We can help them.
What’s one challenge you’ve overcome in the startup process?
Other than rewriting a search engine? *grin* Working on the algorithm has been the longest process, and we’ll continue it as long as the company exists. The other challenge is how to handle the massive amounts of results and ranking data we provide to the users. For each URL there can be megabytes of related data, and we need to let users browse it all in a non-confusing way. We’re still working on it, and we’re getting good comments from our beta testers.
Who are some of your mentors and business role models?
I’m a huge fan of Richard Branson – in particular, his competition with British Airways – it’s a great underdog story
What’s next for ProCog?
We’re rolling out new features almost daily. There’s so much that we can work on, it’s a matter of prioritizing based on user-response and revenue possibilities. The next big thing is an API to access most of the data – so developers can create their own tools with real search engine data.