Howto search efficiently on search engines

Written by on Friday, June 13, 2008 22:00 - 0 Comments

Efficient Online Searches

 I have found that many people have a hard time finding the information they want on the web.
 I have come up with a few pointers that seem to work well:

  NOTE: except for the LAST instance, quotations are used for demonstration,
  and not used in the actual search query. Item #4 will illustrate why quotations
  should be used carefully in a search engine.

1. Use Google
Google interprets your search query exactly. If a word is possibly misspelled, it will ask you if you would like to change that word.  Other search engines, such as Yahoo, do not do that.  Instead they assume that the input was wrong, and provide a search on how they perceive the spelling should have been.  Direct interpretation can save a lot of time searching, as it can significantly reduce time wasted by sifting through unrelated search results.

2. Tell Search Engines What Type Of Information You Want
If you need a particular type of information, be sure to name that type of information in your search.  Some common examples are image, definition, blogs, news, financial, even review or list.  You can define the type of information any way you want.  You may also name a particular source, such as Wikipedia, MSN, Yahoo (?!), and others, although these may not be as dependable.  For searching a specific location, it is best to use the “site:” identifier. (site:/http//

3. Be Descriptive
As much as possible, tell the search engine EXACTLY what you are looking for.  The broader the search terms which you use, the more varied and unrelated the results will be.  Note, in the example below, that increasingly precise searches likewise provide increasingly fewer search results, which also translates to greater probability of finding the information you are looking for.

 “wild animals” returns over 20 million results. TOO MANY!!
 “Australia wild animals” only returns 600+ thousand. TOO MANY!
 “Australia wild animal mammal” gives 200+ thousand. YIKES!
 “Australia wild animal mammal venom” is 32 thousand. BETTER!
 The more descriptive your search query, the more accurate the results.

4. Quotations Demand A Literal Search
Using the quotation marks in the query will only allow results that contain this phrase. Using the quotation marks means your spelling must be correct, AND the phrasing. This is a literal search for EXACTLY the phrase you have typed!  If you are not sure of the spelling, or phrase, DO NOT USE THIS.

 Example: “Australia venomous mammal” returns no matches
 However: “Venomous mammal in australia” has TWO matches!!

That’s it!  There several other options, but these should be sufficient for most uses.  If you need more information, try visiting Google’s Advanced Search Operators Page:

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