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Web Search, part 2 – Take the Time to Get Good at it!

In Part 1, we looked at how to THINK before you start searching. Remember that the goal is to find what you seek in ONE search.

Here are some other ways you can “make Google Dance” as you search the web. MOST of these tips will also work for DuckDuckGo.com, and possibly the other search engines as well.

Note that much of this material is drawn from an article from macsales.com

Site-Specific searching.

If you’d like to search a specific website [macon, com, for example], then add “site:domain_mane” to the end of your search.

For example:

Mount de Sales site:macon.com

should find every mention of the school at the macon.com website.

Getting rid of some results

Let’s say you are researching “fording a river”, but you keep getting results for Ford vehicles. You can use the minus sign to remove articles about the cars, which would make it easier to find what you seek;

ford river -car -truck

Make CERTAIN a search term is in the results

Sometime the search engine gives you results that DON’T contain your search terms, or the results contain SOME of them. You can force the results to contain the terms by using the plus sign.

+ham +sandwich +tees +hamster

Specify an EXACT search term

Use force your results to contain the phrase as is – this is very useful when searching for someone’s name.

“Mickey Mouse”

Leave out results from certain domains.

Let’s say you were looking for info on Apple products, but wanted results that are NOT from apple.com. That is easy by using the minus sign [again].

iPhone -apple.com

The minus sign works with “top level domains” – as in .edu, .com, etc. So you could block out any .com sites in that Apple search.

iPhone -.com

Search just the Title of the page

You can use “intitle:” to search JUST the title of a page.

intitle:Macon

You can use multiple intitles to make sure multiple words are int he title:

intitle:Macon intitle:GA intitle:Music

Search just the text in a result

Have the engine search JUST the text on a site with the intext: option

intext:cavaliers intext:”Mount de Sales” intext:school

Search a sub-area of a site

Suppose you wanted to search JUST the support area of Microsoft site for some info. Use the “inurl:” option to do just that:

surface reinstall site:microsoft.com inurl:support

Wildcards

Use the asterisk to represent ANYTHING. That is useful if you aren’t quite sure of what you are looking for, or if you’d like to know what info is available about something general.

how to * on an iPad

Search a specific date range

If you are looking for info relating to a particular computer, or car, for a specific year, the “after:” and “before:” options will save you some time.

So if you are loking for info about teh Ford Mustand, but only the models from teh late 1960’s, you would search this:

Ford mustang after:1964-01-01 before:1969-12-12

NOTE: you do NOT have to use the entire yerar-month-day format. You could search

Ford mustang after:1964 before:1970

Use the Tools Menu

Tools button Google Search

That is another way to search by date and time.

Boolean Operators

No, these aren’t words that will get you into trouble. They refer to ways to require ALL of your search terms or ANY of them in your search results, by using the words “AND” and “OR”. They can be used with ANY of the above options.

So if I want to search for a Ryobi one+ air compressor, but limited to Homedepot, Lowes, and Ace Hardware:

ryobi one+ air compressor site:homedepot.com OR site:lowes.com OR site:acehardware.com

Notice that the results only give homedepot.com – because neither Lowe’s nor Ace Hardware carry Ryobi.

Use AND if you want to make sure ALL of your terms are included in the results. Again, this can be used with any of the tips above.

Mount de Sales AND Catholic -Macon should give us the Mount de Sales Catholic schools that are not in Macon.

AROUND

This is one that few people know about. You can have the engine look for words that are close to each other, but not necessarily next to each other.

lefty AROUND scissors

Google Advanced Search
Advanced Search – Google

If you are having trouble finding, and have learned to THINK about your search, then dive into advanced search. At the top-right corner, click Settings, then Advanced Search. There are a lot of options here, but most are easy to figure out.

FINAL ADVICE:

  1. DO NOT GIVE UP. There are a gazillion ways to find what you seek on the Web.
  2. THINK about what you are looking for. Be as specific as possible.
  3. Contact Tech, or visit the ARC, to get more advice [but ONLY after you have tried these tips and are just absolutely out of ideas.]

Web Search – Take the Time to Get Good at it!

The goal of your web search should be to find the info you seek in one search. Yes, ONE. Is that possible? YES!

Step one: THINK

A) Figure out EXACTLY what you are looking for. Don’t be general [“I want to know about rivers nearby”], be as specific as you can [“I want to know the average depth of the rivers near Macon, Georgia.]

B) Phrase that in the form of a question, THEN underline the important words. The underlined words become your search terms

For example “I want to know the average depth of the rivers near Macon, Georgia” would become “average depth rivers near Macon Georgia” . THAT is what you type in.

Step two: SEARCH and LOOK AT THE RESULTS

A) Check the results. DO NOT just stick with the first page – often the results you seek are on page two or three of the results.

B) LOOK AT THE RESULT – do not just click on the first link. The results will have the web address listed – take a look at the first bit of the address. Is it actually a legit source you can trust? ALSO look at the text after the address – that will give clues on how useful the info ill be.

You can probably trust SOME of these sources, but not all!
  • www.federalpay.org will probably not be much help!
  • The National Weather service indeed keeps up with river levels, so that might be a good link.
  • go-georgia.com – looking at the description, that is going to give me a list of river tours companies. Also not much help.
  • Wikipedia? Sometimes helpful, sometimes not. Sometime accurate, sometimes not. In this case it would probably be faster to look elsewhere.
  • epd.georgia.gov – the “.gov” tells you it is an official site with the state of Georgia. The description tells us that the link is to a PDF file will all sorts of stream and river data for Georgia. That might be useful.

Step Three: I can’t find what I am looking for!

Here are some additional things to try:

  • Make certain you have followed the tips above. DO NOT use complete sentences, unless you really like wasting time.
  • Think of synonyms for your search terms. For example “stream” instead of “river”.
  • Think of related terms – for example, I could look for “river statistics “instead of just “depth”, since the depth figures are likely to be included with all sorts of river stats.
  • Guess what words might be on the page that would contain the info you seek. For example, a page with information on the depth of rivers near Macon might also have statistics, boating, watersports, middle Georgia [instead of JUST Macon], etc.
  • Use a different search engine – Google does NOT cover the entire web.

Step Four: REALLY learn how to search.

That is going to be the next article in this series. Watch for it – or go ahead and add your email to the list [it’s the Subscribe or “Email me!” box on either side up top.]