Using a search engine effectively sounds a lot easier than it actually often is. With so many pages out in cyberspace, common searches regularly yield millions of results. The good news is that as the net grows, so too do search engines’ functions and accuracy, helping online searchers to get to the most appropriate information quickly. In this article, we summarize some of the most useful ideas and tips for effective search engine use.
Choose Your Keywords Carefully
‘Keywords’ are the words you type into the search box on the engine’s homepage. For example, net users looking for books will often simply type books and hit ‘return’. It’s a much better idea to decide beforehand exactly what *type* of book you might be interested in. In other words, poetry books or religious books are examples of better keyword choices, because they will return more accurate and useful results.
More Keywords = More Accuracy
Typing poetry books author Auden will limit results to only pages that contain all of those words. The more keywords, the more accurate and streamlined the results will be.
Typing keywords like Paris or London will produce millions of results, the vast majority of which are likely to be unsuitable or irrelevant to your search. Instead, follow the suggestions above and use a variety of well-chosen keywords.
Search engines also have directories, organized alphabetically, by category and region. Using directories will help bring focus to your search query. For example, by looking up ‘French’, you will find a wide range of options to follow up on - from cuisine and wine to language learning. A good place to start is the Google Directory.
Including or Excluding Certain Keywords
You can choose to include or exclude certain terms from your search, by using the ‘+’ or ‘-’ signs with your text. For example, vacation disneyland -paris will bring back results for Disneyland in Florida, but not for Disneyland, Paris.
Whole Phrase Searches
If you want to search for a part or whole phrase, such as how to use a search engine, put the text in commas: “how to use a search engine”.
Site Only Searches
To search within a particular site, type ’site:’ followed by the URL of the website. If you want to search for a keyword within a particular site, type the word and then the ’site:’ with the site’s address. Example: iraq site:www.cnn.com.
Searching in Other Languages
If you want to search in another language, Yahoo and Google - currently the most popular search engines - both have alternative language-specific search pages for a variety of different languages. Try ‘fr’ or ‘de’ (instead of ‘com’) at the end of a search engine address to bring up French and German language versions. Google also provides an excellent website or page translation tool at http://www.google.com/language_tools
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