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Scour Ups Speed, Reduces Sponsored Results

Less is more is part of the message behind improvements announced today for Scour.com's search engine. Launched in July, the company said the new version reduces the number of sponsored (i.e. paid) results highlighted at the top of the page and increased the number of listings overall. Speed has been improved by 80 percent, to where Scour claims it's now competitive with leading search engines in providing results in less than one-second.

Speed has been an issue for the "meta search engine" which gathers results from Google (NASDAQ: GOOG), Yahoo (NASDAQ: YHOO) and MSN. In its initial incarnation, Scour often took two to three seconds to produce results, which the company soon found was unacceptable to many of its users, said Simon Chernin, marketing director at Scour.com.

In addition to the combined results Scour offers a kind of get-paid-to-search scheme based on points. Users earn a point for each search, vote or comment they make and can claim a $25 Visa card when they've reached 6,500 points.

Scour is one of many search players hoping to peel off a few percentage points of Google's dominant share of the search engine market. Like Scour, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) recently introduced a rewards program for its search engine as well.

In Microsoft's SearchPerks program, users accumulate tickets for any searches they do using Microsoft's Live Search service. The virtual tickets can be redeemed for prizes, such as airline miles, music downloads and games for Microsoft's XBox video game system.

"Speed is particularly important—with relevancy of course—and we’re proud that Scour is quite competitive in tests against the best engines, even while aggregating results from 3 search engines," said Daniel Yomtobian, president and CEO of Scour in a statement.

Among new features is improved search filtering. Users can double click on any word in a set of results, to add or remove the word to a further search. Users can now also apply a current search query to any site on the results page. Improvements have also been designed to better organize comments left by other Scour users and also check on their points total without leaving the page they are on.

Chernin said the payments aren't just a gimmick. We want to give back to the people who contribute to our network, because the more they do, the better it is," he told InternetNews.com.

He said other improvements are in the works. In the next 30 to 60 days the company is planning to release further customization, based on user-provided profiles.