Improving search results

By | April 7, 2006

I made all of you a promise some days back that I’d post an article how you can improve the results you get from a search engine. We’ve all had the problem that you’re looking for something but aren’t able to find it using the search engines. Those damn search engines, they can’t do anything right! You’re half right. Search engines have great difficulty finding the
information for you and they know it. They keep improving and this article will help them by helping you.

Different quest, different tool
The first rule of the game is pick the right search engine for the right search. I know everyone has a favorite search engine and I know we don’t like moving into unknown territories. But when it comes to searching the web you’re gonna have to use more then one. Lets just face the facts Google is one of the biggest search engines and it is pretty good at finding
information. But that’s also were it ends, its a good search engine for the techies or people looking for technical information. Yahoo on the other hand sucks with finding this technical stuff. On the other hand it is great for
finding the mommy and daddy sites. So its my favorite whenever I need some information and don’t want to be hammered by the big companies. And MSN? Sorry to say I haven’t found one particular area that they are better in then the others, but they often give good results.

Power of words
The results a search engine gives are only as good as the words you use to find something. Most of the times when it doesn’t find what you want it is also because it didn’t understand what you were looking for. Lets get this
one straight a search engine is not a living nor a thinking thing. I’ll grant you that they are smart and getting smarter every year, but their no where near as good as a librarian! When you are looking for travel to India then also search for ‘travel India’, you can leave out ‘to’ as these type of stop-words are ignored either way. If you want information on travel
to India then tell the search engine that by adding information to the list of words.

The more accurate you make this list the better the results will match what you are looking for. Keep this in mind and you may be surprised with the results. Another thing you may want to try is including a word twice or more. This will tell the search engine that the word is very important in the search and thus change the results, just give it a try.

Searching for the advanced
I’m going to have to admit that the tricks in this section will not be for everyone. But they are worth a shot if you are stuck and can’t find what you want. Lets walk through some of the more advanced tricks of a search engine.

Searching in a site: So you now a site contains the information, but you can’t find the page anymore. You may want to try to add the following then, where you replace with the domain of the site.

Searching in the title: Are you looking for a book, movie or something like that. Most sites use the title in the name of the page so adding intitle:"My lovely movie" will allow you to search in the name. Noticed the quotes didn’t you. You can use them to tell the search engine any result should match the word order as instructed within the quotes. This excludes stop-words and punctuation marks.

Forgot the exact name: This is a common problem. I know part of the name of a movie but not the whole name. What to do now? You can use the asterix to tell the search engine any word may be in that spot, sort of a placeholder. So if I’m looking for a movie about a panther I could enter “the * panther”, which would include “the pink panther”.

One of the two: So where shopping for a vacation again and I want to go to either Egypt or morocco, but I’m to lazy to search twice. So I will use the following query “travel AND (marocco OR egypt)”. Leave out the quotation marks. This will result in any and all pages about either travel to egypt or those pages about travel to marocco. You can use brackets to
indicate grouping of subjects. In my example either Egypt or morocco should be combined with travel in the result. [NOTE This trick only works in Yahoo not in Google]

Sorry to say this is all I’ve got time for to write at this time. So if you want to know more feel free to contact me with the comment box below the article and I’ll try and answer if I can.

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