Needles In A Haystack

Using Search Engines Effectively

Are you using search engines to their fullest potential? Do you find it easy to locate information that you are looking for? There are two basic steps in searching on the Internet: (1.) Match the search engine to the job, and (2.) Focus your search rather than taking a scatter-shot approach.

Match The Search Engine To The Job

To continue our metaphor of finding a needle in a haystack, the old-fashion way to find it is by sifting through the haystack one straw at a time. Now we have the equivalence of a metal detector to sift through the hay — search engines to sift through the Internet. Now before you instantly run to Google.com for all of your searches, let’s think it over. Is your search something that an encyclopedia might be a better reference for? Wikipedia.com might be a better option. Are you looking for a medical term or solution? A reliable source such as www.medlineplus.gov might meet your need. Do you want business-related info? Perhaps http://money.cnn.com will get you to your info faster. Or for info on art work, you can search artcyclopedia.com. Or if you are looking for a list, whether of the top 100 pizza companies or the Top 100 Venture Capitalist, you can search the List of (what else?) Lists, at www.specialissues.com/lol/. As you can tell, there are many ways to search for information on the Internet. The major search engines like Google.com, Bing.com, and Yahoo.com are the standards but if your search skills need some focus, consider adding some new search tools to your toolbox.

Focus Your Search

You can use search engines the way most people do — put a string of words in and hope for the best — or you can be more specific as to what you want and what you don’t want in the search results. For example, if I want to find some history about the Colt Building in Hartford, I could Google the keywords: hartford, history, colt, & building. I would get 93,000 results to wade through. A little bit of math can go a long way toward focusing this search though. I can put colt and building together as a phrase using quotes (“colt building”) so the search engines only look for those two words as a phrase. That alone reduced my results down to 97, which is a much more manageable list. I see many of the results discuss the history of downtown Hartford as well as the Colt Building so I can focus it more by removing any results with the word “downtown”, simply with the minus sign. I now have the following search term: hartford history “colt building” -downtown That brings my search down to a reasonable list of 24 links to look through. If I want to find information about the Java region but not find everything about JavaScripts and Java coffee, I will minus out the terms that are preventing me from finding what I am looking for. So focus your searches by putting phrases together with quotes and weeding out unwanted terms with a minus sign. With some simple math tools, along with using the right search tool for the job, you can find that needle in the haystack.

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