It’s no secret that search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing can be your friend. There are a ton of websites out there that can be found with a simple search. But what happens if you get too many results? Today’s tip: using search engines intelligently.
- Control the words you search with. Did you know that how you use words in the search terms will change the results you get back? For instance, say you’re looking for something to spend some time on the water in. You could buy a kayak, a canoe, or both. If you go to a search engine and type in…
…the search engine will look for a site with the word kayak, the word canoe, or both. But if you want the search engine to only find sites with both words in it, you need the AND statement. Typing…
kayak and canoe
…will tell the search engine to filter out the sites that only have one word or the other.You can go the other way with this too… What if you want sites that sell kayaks or sites that sell canoes, but not sites that sell both? For that, you need the OR statement. Typing…
kayak or canoe
…gets me sites with one word or the other, but not both words.There are a ton of these including uses of parenthesis and it could take all day to document these, but here’s a few others in a concise form for you to consider:
AND NOT eliminates results which contain that term. Why might you want to do this? If you want to find information on Dieon Sanders and do not want documents that include information relating to the Dallas Cowboys you could use “Dieon Sanders” AND NOT cowboys
NEAR This operator is a more specific version of AND. It ensures that the document contains both terms and that they are located near each other (within a certain number of words). In many lengthy documents, just using the operator AND might not provide useful results as the two keywords might be located in very different parts of the document and might not be related to one another.
- Using Quotes. Putting any term in quotes makes sure that that exact term is searched for. For instance, using the kayak reference above…
…will give me different results than…
One will get me to the company named Perception that makes kayaks. The other will give me results on people’s perception of kayaks.
- Eliminating worthless results. How many times have you searched for something and ended up on page 3, 4, 5, or 20 of the results because the top results are not what you were after? In this case, the minus sign (-) is your best friend. Using the example above, say I want to filter out sites that sell whitewater kayaks. Any river kayaker knows that a whitewater kayak is not ideal for a calm to moderate river. They’re too short. So let’s filter out the whitewater kayaks. (like you’re subtracting). So:
… gets me sites that don’t have the word whitewater in them. But what about white water (two words)? Well, you don’t want to filter out the word water, so now what? As #2 above suggests, the answer is to put it in quotes…
kayak -“white water”
… now the search engine knows that you’re looking for the exact phrase. You can do multiple minus statements as well to further refine your search. It’s not always perfect, but it helps!
- Eliminating worthless sites. If you can eliminate words from the search query, you can eliminate whole sites as well using the minus (-) site option. In the technology industry there’s a pesky website that offers technical advice for a steep price. When we search on a problem or error, this site appears prominently in the search results, but when you click on it you can’t see the solution without paying their ransom. So we simply eliminate it. Rather than give them press (good or bad) I’ve substituted their domain with clowns.com below. And, for the record, we’ve got nothing against clowns, or clowns.com. So…
Technobabble error -site:clowns.com
… will take their results out of the list for me. This can be invaluable. : -)
As above, you can use multiple -site: statements to further refine your search.
There are obviously more techniques for search engines and if you search for them, you can locate more. These are the few we’ve found most useful.
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