Before search engines became the choice means of looking for information online, there were directories and portals. These directories attempted to organize the web according to pre-set categories and classifications. One such example was the early version of Yahoo! Today, however, when you need to find something online, you search for it through your preferred search engine. You probably use any one among the three most popular search engines today: Google, Yahoo! and MSN.
Searching is all about keywords. Google and other search engines regularly crawl the Web through its vast inter-linking network, and index websites according to the keywords they contain, the popularity of the site, and the link neighborhoods they belong to. And when you search for a certain keyword, the engine then displays the matches ranked according to relevance.
To conduct more efficient searches, though, you would need to use operators to limit your search. On Google, for instance, here are some examples.
- To search only within one domain or website, use the site: operator. To search for articles about Twitter within performancing.com, for example, input this on the search box:
- To search for exact phrases, enclose your query in quotation marks. For example, if you want to search Wikipedia for articles referencing the Mac Mini, you can input this in the search box:
- To exclude any keyword, you can use the minus sign. Say, you want to look for websites that write about netbooks, but not about the company Asus, you can input:
- Google usually displays search results using synonyms and related words. You can ask Google to give you results only for exact keywords by using the plus sign. For instance, you need to look for Toyota cars, but not vans or SUVs, and not Lexus branded cars, you can search for:
Now apart from using Google and other generic search engines, you can also rely on topic-specific search engines for a faster search. For instance, if you're looking for content that's published on blogs and not just any website, you can search Google Blog Search (blogsearch.google.com), icerocket.com or Technorati.com. If you are looking to download multimedia through the BitTorrent protocol, you can search torrent trackers like thepiratebay.org (but do remember to respect copyright). If you are looking for a person within a social network like Facebook, you can perhaps use Facebook's own search box.
The Web has an ocean of information, and it's quite difficult to get the correct information if you just search using generic terms, and using generic methodologies. While Google will try to give you the best result possible, sometimes you will have to dig through pages of search results to find the right one. But if you are able to use operators, and if you can limit your search according to your need, then you can find information faster and more efficiently.