Welcome to increasers.com’s Podcast series. In this installment we will discuss tips on improving your web search results.
When doing a search on the internet, you may find that not every search is fruitful in finding what you’re looking for. Many people aren’t familiar with the tips and tricks to narrowing down the results a search engine offers you; with this Podcast we will endeavor to detail some of the ways you can improve your web search results.
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For starters, if when you are doing a search, you can’t find the information you’re looking for, take a close look at the words you’re using as your search criteria. These words or phrases, also known as keywords, are part of the equation search engines, like Google, use to match your search with a list of websites you might want to visit. If you don’t use the right words, however, you wont always find what you’re looking for. Search engines do look for synonyms of most words, that is, different words with similar meaning. A web search for the keyword “automotive,” will bring back results using the word “car.” But not every word or phrase with similar meanings will be picked up on by the search engine you’re using; so it’s best to be as concise and specific a possible. Consider what words you’re using and what words the person who made the site you’re looking for might have used. If you a do a search on improving your search engine search results, you may find just as many sites, if not more, on the topic of SEO, or search engine optimization; a process used by web designers to enhance their site’s representation through search engines. But by changing your search criteria to “improve web search results” the distinction is enough to be more likely to find sites with tips on improving your searches.
Search engines will typically search all of the words you type into the text search box, but often many of the words you use aren’t needed and they end up disregarded by the search engine. Words like “the” “is” or “of” are commonly used words that would relate with too many sites, and in most cases aren’t significantly unique enough to narrow down search results on their own. This of course has the exception of when one such common word is used and modifies a less common word in a special way. The word “doctor,” by itself, will produce search results that focus on the profession of doctors and medicine in general. However if your search is for “the Doctor,” then you will likely find results referencing a popular BBC series.
Likewise, punctuation and special characters, like the comma, apostrophe or colon, will typically be ignored by a search engine; since it’s too common to positively effect the search results outcome.
In addition to refining your keywords, you can narrow your search down further through the use of special characters, or “operators” while doing your web search. Putting a set of keywords inside quotation marks, ensures these keywords are kept grouped together when the search engine finds corresponding websites.
OR, all in caps, tells the search engine to find matches that correspond to one set of keywords OR another. Doing a search for [college “Low tuition” OR “job placement”] will produce results that match either colleges with low tuitions or reference job placement; or both if the match applies. If your don’t include OR in the search, or type the word in lowercase, the results will be different; mostly likely producing hits that only have both sets of keywords in common, rather than any with one or the other.
OR must be capitalized for this purpose, as it is a search “operator,” or a command that tells the search engine to behave in a certain way.
Another operator is the word NOT, also in call capitals. Using NOT, or the minus symbol, followed by a keyword, will exclude that keyword from the search. If you use the minus sign, make sure there is a space before the sign, which should then be immediately followed by the keyword you wish to exclude. This is to distinguish it from words you need to join with the same symbol, like hyphenated words.
A similar operator is the word AND, or the use of the plus sign, followed by a keyword. This operator has the effect of telling search engines to always include the keyword that follows the operator.
If you know part of a phrase, but can’t think of one particular word, you can substitute the word you don’t know or can’t remember, using the asterisk. Search engines will see this as a placeholder; which it will then fill in with the most probable match, based on the other keywords you use along with it. This comes in handy if you’re looking for lyrics to a song, but aren’t sure what one of the words are, you can replace the word in question with an asterisk and provided the search engine you’re using can find the song, it will fill in the missing word for you, when it matches your search to a list or corresponding sites.
Keep in mind these tips are most effective when initial, simpler searches don’t produce the results you’re looking for. Often simple, unaltered keyword searches will brings results that are exactly what you’re looking for. It’s when answers become more elusive in a search engine search, that knowing how to refine your search and narrow your search parameters, that you can cut through the superfluous results and find the answers you need.