- USING SEARCH ENGINES EFFECTIVELY

One of the toughest things to do on the Internet is quickly and efficiently finding information that you actually want. Often, what you would assume to be the simplest of searches becomes a process of finding a needle in the haystack.

For instance, if you wanted to add memory to your computer, then you might search for "notebook computer memory" but this will likely end in frustration.

What you need to understand about search engines is that this will typically result in displaying all of the web pages that contain any of these three words, not all of them. This will result in literally millions of web pages being displayed, likely overwhelming you in the process.

EXAMPLE: A search on www.altavista.com found 64,230,267 results for this search, a bit more than you or I have time to review.

To make much better use of your time, and to actually find what you’re looking for, there are two critical issues that need to be addressed.

First of all, you need to learn the search options that are available to you. A quick review the "Help" or "Tips" section of the search engine you're using will help you understand how to control the search process much more precisely.

For instance, AltaVista (and many others) allows you to insert a "+" sign before a word in order to make it a required part of the search. Thus, searching on "+notebook +computer +memory" results in only pages that contain all three words, instead of any one of them. Note, that in this case, the "+" is actually attached to the front of the word that you’re trying to make a mandatory part of the search.

EXAMPLE: By using this simple option to make all three words required, AltaVista returns just 338,285 results. Still too many, but this has removed over 63 million pages that we really didn't need to see.

Alternatively, you can use the "-" to only show pages that do not contain a specific word that you're trying to avoid. In fact, there are many other simple options that can give you real control over any Internet search. You can likely learn them all simply by taking five minutes to review the available options using the search engine of your choice.

The second key to finding exactly what you're looking for is to change the way you think about searching in the first place. Instead of simply searching for the words that you are interested in, (notebook computer and memory, in this case) think about the specific words that are almost certain to be on the page that you want to find.

For the example I'm using, it would also make sense to add the word "upgrade" to the words I'm searching for, as this will surely be on any page selling notebook computer memory. More importantly, this will eliminate many pages that are actually selling notebook computers, which of course do include memory, but are not what we are looking for in this instance.

Further, specifying your notebook manufacturer and possibly even the actual model will go a long way to narrowing the results down to a list that is much more manageable.

EXAMPLE: Including the word "+upgrade" and "+Twinhead" (the brand notebook I use) brings the number of web pages down to a much more reasonable 1,085 web pages. Finally, using the "-" to eliminate a few words that we’re bringing up on-line "user group" discussion messages narrowed the list to just 122 pages.

While I still wouldn’t want to review even this many web pages, all most all of those included on the very first page of results actually sell exactly what we’re looking for in this instance.

What’s important to understand is that these concepts apply to finding anything on the Internet, not simply to notebook computer memory.

Take a few minutes to review the options, and then carefully consider exactly what words will be on the page you want to find, (and maybe what words should disqualify a particular page) and you'll soon be able find anything you want, and in a matter of moments.

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Copyrighted with all rights reserved by Stephen M. Canale