Useful Tips for Productive and Efficient Internet Searches

By Ruben Corbo

The following tips are simple and time-saving methods that have proven to be effective in conducting Internet searches.

1. Knowledge is Power
Reading the “Help” or “Tips” menu allows the user to make use of valuable information with respect to performing an effective search. The time spent figuring out the difference between a search directory and a search engine, which is explained in understandable terms in the Help or Tips Menu, represents one of the most optimal uses of the search tool.

2. Preparation is Key
Before sitting down in front of your computer, one critical time-saving technique is to take some time to think beforehand what you are looking to find. It is helpful for the user to craft a list of search terms with which to work. In addition, it helps to use the best search engine for the job. Research is key again here: would it be better to use a well-known search engine (Google, Yahoo) or try other lesser-known engines (e.g., WiseNut, Teoma, QueryServer, alltheweb or Dogpile) that search using multiple queries? There are also websites that cater to financial, government or legal information (e.g., EDGAR (SEC) (http://www.sec.gov/cgi-bin/srch-edgar), US-State-Local Records (http://brbpub.com/pubrecsites.asp) or FindLaw (http://www.findlaw.com)) that may help narrow your search and allow you to find precise information pertinent to your query. Since not all search tools are similar, one effective technique is to search using a variety of search tools. Depending upon the tool used — each of which has its own strengths and weaknesses — may result in profoundly different results that hinges on which tool is used. A simple way to optimize search results is to run the identical search on different tools, and subsequently comparing the first ten sites retrieved by each tool.

3. Using the Right Search Tool
One valuable search technique is to utilize the search tool to its fullest potential. You should probably start off using the simple mode to enter search terms. This allows the user to use natural language search terms and generally obtain good results without a high level of computer expertise. Once you have mastered the simple mode, or if you’re not finding what you want, the advanced searching methods provide more control by using more complex search features (e.g., Boolean language, use of terms such as “+”, “-”, parenthetical expressions (e.g., Dodgers or Angels) and other advanced features. One helpful tip when looking for a certain phrase is to place quotation marks around the search term, which generally leads to superior results. Advanced Search modes do not take much more time or energy to learn, and allow for more options in searching and locating relevant websites.

4. Using Unique Terms to Obtain More Specific Results
Search tools use language to retrieve results, choosing the right words is pivotal in order to locate the information you require. It is thus advisable to use specific, descriptive words to optimize your search technique ad results. Some search engines allow you to use such features as “Clustering” or “Folders” (e.g., Teoma, WiseNut and All the Web) and “Refine” (Alta Vista) that give the user the option to use other terms to use when searching.

5. Take Advantage of the Directories in Search Tools or Subject Directories
Directories are available on most search tools and aid in organizing web sites into different categories — which allows the searcher to focus a search even more. Utilizing these categories to narrow your search is a smart and efficient way to get the information you need.

6. Use Capital Letters to Help Refine Your Search
The use of capitalization when searching will in some search engines provide more relevant results. This is because the use of capitals will frequently fetch web sites that possess the search term in the title. Therefore, this may prove to be quite useful when you are looking for terms that are not capitalized unless they are in a title (e.g., “Katy Perry” or “University of California at Berkeley” may prove more fruitful with the capitalization and provide a smaller and more relevant search result.

7. Use Quotations or Other Symbols to Specify a Phrase
Search tools do not know whether a search is for “lesson” or “plans.” The default is typically lesson or plans in simple searching. Use quotations to surround a phrase such as “lesson plans.” However, again a word of caution, when using simple modes in some databases like Alta Vista, searching with quotation will often produce less effective results.

8. Know When to Quit and Think Outside the Box
A good rule of thumb is that, if you’ve reviewed around 25-50 sites without finding what you were looking for, quit and try something different. This can be done by rephrasing your search, using another search tool, or taking a break to rethink your query. This is common sense: after all, there is no “ultimate” search engine that will automatically find what you need. The more complicated the topic, the more sophisticated the search must be to maximize results. Use a variety of search tools and remember that the number of relevant sites is more critical than the number of sites searched.

This is a guest article by Ruben Corbo, a writer for the website Broadband Expert where you can find high speed internet providers in your area and compare prices on different deals for your wireless internet necessities.

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