5 Tips for Effective Searching of the Internet

The Internet has grown into a vast database of content and information. Search software is a tool to filter through this information by using user-supplied search terms. However, this software also has functionality beyond the basic keyword search. Using these functions may produce a more efficient search with highly relevant or exact results.

  1. Search Terms

    • Adding small elements to the search term can create different search results. For example, enclosing the keywords in quotation marks will instruct the software to do a phrase match search; this type of search will specifically look for the search terms grouped together in the order the words are typed and filter out all other results. This method is particularly effective for searching for articles, products or song lyrics where the key words should be grouped together.

    Boolean Operators

    • Boolean operators are the words “and,” “or,” “not” and “near,” which have a filtering functionality in most search software. These terms can broaden or narrow a search, depending on the user’s preference. For example, the search term “computers NOT desktops” will show all results with computer but without the term “desktop.” The operator “or” is useful for synonymous or similar search terms such as “cable” and “cord.”

    File and Site Type

    • Users can filter out search results by file type or site address. These options are usually found in the advanced search settings. For example, a user can filter a file search by the “.ppt” extension; this will produce search results which directly link to Power Point template files. Site addresses can be filtered out by their extensions as well, such as “.edu,” “.org” or “.net.” Each of these extensions has a different degree of content and reliability; for example, “.edu” sites are almost exclusively academic and are viewed with a higher degree of credibility for research.

    Search Results

    • Filtering through the search results is vital for fast and efficient searching. A tip for new users is to use the "find" command. This allows the user to search for a word or phrase used in a single web page -- including a search results page. The find term does not have to be the original search term; for example, if the user wants to buy flowers online, he could use “flower” as the search term and “buy” or “shop” as a find term to quickly find a shopping site. A rule of thumb for searching through results is to stop between 20 and 50 results; typically, most results beyond those are highly irrelevant to the intent of the general user.

    Different Search Software

    • Using different search software may give significantly different results. This is because each type of software uses a different program structure for reporting websites. Two main types of software are search engines and search directories. Search engines use a program called bots to automatically search for the keywords in different websites. It judges results based on a complex algorithm including search relevance and traffic. On the other hand, search directories are categorized lists of results based on the search terms. Sites for each category are picked manually by human editors.

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