How ToSearch the Internet—The Right Way
I thought I’d take a break from my normal Office-related articles and talk
about searching the Internet. I’m amazed at how many of my students in my college
classes are trying to do research on the Internet and can’t find anything. So
here are some suggestions that might help any of you who have the same problem.
In my opinion, hands down, the best Search Engine on the net is Google http://google.com, so I am going
to use Google as the search engine for this tutorial.
Why do I feel this way? Many
Google does not accept "payment for placement". This does
not mean Google doesn’t allow listers to pay for their listings. But, Google
puts these listings in a separate area and it is very clear that they are listed
there because they paid to be included when particular search words are used. Many
other Search Engines do accept payment for placement, which means these
advertisers will show at the top of the results for
your search, not because they are necessarily the best result for your
search, but because they paid to be there. The more they pay, the higher they
appear in the list.
Google’s spiders look at more than just keywords. When Google does its
homework to update its databases, it uses many criteria to find websites related
to specific search words. It sends out spider robots and searches websites
for keyword tags, title tags, actual words in the text of the site, words in
the alt tags attached to pictures in the sites, and it also looks at how the
site is ranked (for popularity). All of these criteria contribute to how high
up in the results the site will be. So, when you search Google, the odds that
the first few sites listed will actually have the information you want, are
much greater than some other search engines. And the popularity rank gives better
odds that this site has a good reputation among its peers, since the popularity
is determined by how many other sites link to this site.
Google lets you search for more than just websites. At the top of the
Google page, you see tabs for Web, Images, Groups, Directory, and News. So,
instead of just searching the WWW, you can instead look for pictures related to your search words
(using the Images tab), newsgroups where your question may have been answered
(Groups tab), Directories related to your search topic (Directories tab), and
current news articles about your search topic from just about every major newspaper
in the world (News tab).
Google’s Advanced Search makes it so easy. No need to know how
to use all those Boolean search parameters like AND and OR and NOT, and no need to remember when you need to put the
phrase in quotes or parentheses in order to narrow down your search. Just click
on the Advanced Search link and look at all your choices:
- Note that you can search for all of the words you type,
and Google will show you only the pages that include every word you typed.
Example: searching for excel vlookup will find all the pages that have
excel and vlookup in them, but not pages that only have excel
in them, nor pages that only have vlookup in them.
- You can search for an exact phrase, so only pages that
include that full phrase or sentence will be found. Example: searching for
excel vlookup will only return pages that have “excel vlookup”
as a phrase, and not pages that have excel in one place on the page
and vlookup in another location on the page. (This is especially helpful
if you are searching for an error message you received on your computer.)
- If you search for at least one of the words, Google will
find you all of the pages that included ANY of the words you typed. (This
is the default you get when you just use Google’s home page search box, and
this is why you may get pages that only include one or two of the words you
typed, instead of all of them.) Example: searching for excel vlookup
will return pages that have excel and vlookup, but will also
find pages that have only excel in them, or only vlookup in
- Without the words allows you to
eliminate pages from your search that include specific words. So, if you wanted
to search for all sites that included one word, but not another, this option
allows you to do this. Example: searching for excel vlookup in one
of the top boxes, and entering error in this box, will return all of
the pages that include excel and/or vlookup, but do not include
error. This would probably eliminate sites that troubleshoot problems
in vlookup formulas and, instead, give you tutorial-type pages instead. (Be
careful using this feature, because, in this example, you might eliminate
good tutorials that include instruction as well as troubleshooting.)
- Next, you can specify the language of the sites you want
returned. Example: choosing English would eliminate sites written in any other
- You can also specify what type of files you want to find.
Example: by choosing Only and select “Adobe Acrobat pdf”
as the type if you would prefer to only find pdf files. Or you can choose
Don’t and select “Adobe Acrobat pdf” if you want to find
all types of files, but not pdfs.
- The Date field is where you can find only pages that have
been updated recently, so your search will be less likely to return outdated
- With Occurances, you can choose in the text on
the page to eliminate sites that use keywords in their html code
that do not match the actual text in their page.
- The Domain option allows you to narrow your search to a
particular domain. By selecting Only and typing "microsoft.com",
you will only get results from Microsoft’s website. Alternatively, by selecting
Don’t and enterting "microsoft.com" you get all
pages except those in Microsoft’s website. You can also just use a portion
of the domain name. Example: you can choose Only and type
in ".edu, .org," if you wanted to restrict your search to educational
and corporate sites, and eliminate commercial sites. If searching for viagra
and excluding .com, your search would allow you to see technical pages
on the research done concerning Viagra, without all the commercial sites that
are trying to sell you Viagra. Just type in the domain names and/or suffixes,
separated by commas.
- Safe Searches allows you to filter your search to exclude
“adult” content from your results. However, like any other filter, I find
this does not usually work and ends up removing the wrong sites from my search,
so I recommend you leave it set at no filtering and use your
own good judgment.
You can see that choosing different options will return very different results.
So, if your search is not finding enough results, or finding too many unrelated
results, you need to use the Advanced Search to modify your search parameters.
There are more ways to increase the success of your search. One way is to include
the invisible web. Unless you are a librarian or an educator,
you may not know about the mysterious invisible web. Most of
us know about the "visible" web ....that's all the websites you find
when you use a traditional Search Engine in the traditional way. However, there's
also an "invisible" web which includes a wealth of information you
will never find if you search the net in the traditional way. There are many
extensive databases filled with technical papers and reports that never show
up in search queries because the pages are not really stored on the Internet,
but instead, come up dynamically when you search a particular database. Therefore,
these pages will never come up when you search using Google (or any other Search
Engine), unless you know how to include databases in your search. One of the
easiest ways to do this is to simply add the word "database" to the
keywords you search by. For more information on The Invisible Web, read my article
in my own newsletter, ABC, here: http://personal-computer-tutor.com/abc3/v25/linda25.htm
One last tip I want to add: Once you are at the site that your search
brought you to, to easily find the information you are looking for on that page,
just go to Internet Explorer’s Edit menu and choose “Find on this page” (or
simply hit ctrl+F) and type a word or phrase and you will jump right to the
location on the page where that word or phrase appears.
I hope this article has helped you and makes your searching experience more
fruitful. The Internet is full of information, but knowing how to find it is