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Chapter 17. Smart Searching > Tips for More Effective Searching

Tips for More Effective Searching

Follow these ten tips to improve your search results across most search sites:

  • Tip #1: Use nouns as keywords. Verbs and conjunctions are either ignored by the search engines or are too common to be useful. Remember—search for specific things.

  • Tip #2: Use descriptive or specific words to narrow your search. Using multiple words helps the search engine get a handle on the concept you’re looking for—the more words the better. Instead of searching for a ford, search for a 1964 ford mustang.

  • Tip #3: Search for synonyms. Is it big or is it large? Use big OR large OR huge to catch all possible variations.

  • Tip #4: Put the important stuff first. You get different results with sport car than you do with car sport; the first word gets greater weighting.

  • Tip #5: Search for specific phrases. Use quotes to search for exact phrases. If you want to search for the movie Heavy Metal, search for “heavy metal”—searching for heavy metal (without the quotation marks) will return a lot of sites about heavy filing cabinets made of metal!

  • Tip #6: Group like items. Think of your query as an algebraic expression. Group related items in parentheses, and think left-to-right. If you want to search for heavy metal or music sites that don’t include Def Leppard, write it like this: (“heavy metal” OR music) NOT “def leppard”. If, on the other hand, you want to search for all heavy metal sites but only those music sites that exclude Def Leppard, then your query would look like this: “heavy metal” OR (music NOT “def leppard”).

  • Tip #7: Truncate words or use wildcards. If you want to pick up both singular and plural versions of your keywords, don’t search for the plural! Many search engines use automatic truncation, so searching for truck will return both truck and trucks (and trucking, for that matter). For those engines that don’t automatically truncate, stick a “*” wildcard after the keyword (truck*, using the current example).

  • Tip #8: Use appropriate capitalization. Searching for Whitewater will give you sites that mention the political scandal; looking for whitewater will return sites about rafting and canoeing.

  • Tip #9: Refine your searches—then refine them again. You seldom get perfect results on the first try. Look at the results from your initial query and try to figure out why you’re getting too many or too few matches. Based on what you deduce, either add or subtract keywords from your query, and then search again. Keep repeating this process of refinement until you finally find what you’re looking for.

  • Tip #10: Look for help. All search sites have online help files, tip pages, and/or files of frequently asked questions (FAQs). Look for this online help to find the precise way to word your queries on that specific site.



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