If I had a mantra of Internet legal research, it would be that a good search engine is a lawyer’s most useful Internet tool. While Google reigns supreme, I wrote last May about several upstarts challenging its dominance, most notably Teoma, launched April 2, 2002. Today, Teoma launches its version 2.0, adding new search tools and advanced functionality and promising improved relevance.

Teoma’s aim is to deliver a higher degree of relevance in its search results than other search engines. Like Google, it ranks the relevance of pages through a sort of Web popularity contest. But while Google draws votes from all the Web, Teoma takes each page to a jury of its peers. That is, it first identifies other sites on the same topic, then analyzes how often those sites link to the page. Teoma calls this “Subject-Specific Popularity.” The idea is this: If you want to know the best Web sites for auto enthusiasts, you will do better by polling the sites of other auto enthusiasts than you will do by polling the Internet at large. This makes sense for lawyers. Of all the law-related sites on the Web, the best ones for lawyers are likely to be the ones that lawyers as a group most often link to, as opposed to those that non-lawyers find useful.

Teoma, which is owned by Ask Jeeves Inc., touts two other features: “Refine” and “Resources,” both of which appear onscreen to the right of the search results. The Refine feature organizes query results into what Teoma calls “naturally occurring communities.” Search “Labor Relations,” for example, and Teoma will suggest the following categories by which you can refine the search results: Industrial Relations, Employment Relations, University Labor, Labor Law, Labor New, Labor Relations Board, Management Relations and Supreme Court Collections. The Resources feature provides jumping off points to link collections elsewhere on the Web having to do with the query topic.

Teoma’s version 2.0 promises:

— Improved relevance.

— Better communities. Teoma’s developers say this allows it to generate more finely tuned search results.

— Spell check. Teoma identifies query misspellings and offers corrections that help improve the relevance and precision of search results.

— Dynamic descriptions. Shows the context of search terms as they actually appear on the referenced Web pages.

— Advanced search tools. Searchers can now refine a query using specific criteria such as by exact phrase, page location, geographic region, domain and site, date, search within results and word filter.

— Language searching. Users can now search using ten Western languages, including Danish, Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish.

— Expanded index. Over the past year, Teoma has expanded its index by more than 500 percent. With the release of Teoma 2.0, Teoma has crawled more than one billion Web pages and indexed more than 500 million URLs. Teoma claims that although its index is smaller than those of other search engines, it has taken steps to eliminate spam and duplication, making it more precise.

Photo of Bob Ambrogi Bob Ambrogi

Bob is a lawyer, veteran legal journalist, and award-winning blogger and podcaster. In 2011, he was named to the inaugural Fastcase 50, honoring “the law’s smartest, most courageous innovators, techies, visionaries and leaders.” Earlier in his career, he was editor-in-chief of several legal publications, including The National Law Journal, and editorial director of ALM’s Litigation Services Division.