Making Search Engines Go the Distance

A search engine is a tool to connect you with websites that have information you need. Without them we would be dependent on knowing the address of webpages or following links. Search engines go through the internet and keep an index of every page they find. When you enter a word in a search engine, known as a keyword, the search engine searches its index and sorts the results based on how many times they contain the keyword(s) you searched for. This basic form of searching is useful, but search engines can be most effective when utilized to their fullest potential.

The first thing you may need to is understand the vocabulary that is unique to search engines. Search engines are more complicated than they appear on the service and terms have developed to make discussing using them easier. This comprehensive search engine term dicationary is searchable by letter. While knowing these terms isn't essential it can better you understanding of how a search engine works.

Next you will need to choose a search engine. There are many different search engines and each has a different index of pages and different methods of ranking them. Google is currently the largest and most well known, but many other alternative search engines are also solid options. There are even subject-specific search engines, covering everything from shopping to file sharing.

Before you begin typing a keyword into a search engine, the first step to search engine research is to consider the keyword terms you will search for. Aside from your keyword, sometimes adding phrases such as “help,” “definition” or “what is” will help define more clearly what it is you are searching for.

Use search terms that are as specific as possible to what you are searching and search for variations on the theme. For example, if you were looking for information on buying a horse you might search: “buy horse” and “how to buy a horse” but could also search “about horse sales” and “choosing horse.” Search engines do not look for synonyms, only for exact terms so to get more results use synonyms and related terms.

Once you have keywords that describe what you are looking for the next tool is the boolean search. Boolean logic terms allow to exclude terms from your search, search for complete phrases or require that multiple keywords be present in the same result. To search a phrase put it in quotes. This causes the search engine to look for those keywords in that order. To exclude words use -. Use + to cause the search engine to find sites with all of your terms but in no particular order. In this case you might use +help, +definition or +”what is” to get information. All search engines are different and support different search commands.

Boolean logic can also be used to exclude domain types. Domain types are the extension at the end. Education institutes have .edu domains, organizations by .org and businesses by .com. By adding -.com you can exclude most business sites and get more informational resources. By adding +.org you could organization's websites to the top. You can also use a search engine that is filtered to only scholarly work such as Google Scholar, which searches research journals only.

Advanced search commands also exist that can further restrict the search. These commands can force the terms to be in the title of page, in the url or give you more information on sites found. These commands severely limit the results that come up and should be used sparingly.