Monday, December 15, 2008

Internet Guru's Secrets of Better Web Searching

Internet Guru's Secrets of Better Web Searching

Randolph Hock, PhD

Online Strategies

Whatever your question, the answer probably is available online. The challenge is finding it. Typing a key word into a major search engine, such as, often does the trick. Unfortunately, a simple key word search might not turn up the Web page you need... or it might turn up so many pages that the one you need is hopelessly buried. Here are smart strategies for better Internet searching...

Group several words together in quotes to find Web pages where these words appear as a phrase. This should greatly focus your results. Rather than search the words Green and Mountains to find out about the Vermont mountain range, search the phrase "Green Mountains" in quotes.
If you can't recall one of the words in a phrase, some search engines, including Google and Yahoo!, will allow you to substitute an asterisk.

Example: You can't recall the full name of a golf club where you once played, but you are sure that it starts with the word "Winter." Type "Winter * Golf Club" into Google to find Web sites that use this phrase with various terms in place of the asterisk, including Winter Pines Golf Club and Winter Creek Golf Club.

MULTIPLE SEARCH ENGINES is the most popular search engine, but it is not the only option. If the first 20 sites returned by Google are not useful to you, repeat your search on, Microsoft ( or Each of these search engines has its own ranking algorithm, so different Web pages could appear near the top of the listings. This is more time effective than pouring through pages of inappropriate listings on a single site.

Most major search engines offer a wide range of "advanced search" features, but few users ever bother to explore them. Click the link reading "advanced search" or "advanced" on a search engine’s home page to access these options. You can...

Restrict your search to Web pages where your key words appear in the title of the page. These are likely to be particularly relevant to your subject.

Restrict your search to pages written in English... or located in a particular country.
Exclude certain terms. For instance, if you are interested in animals, not athletes, use advanced search to exclude Web pages containing the word "Detroit" from your search of the key word "tigers."

Limit your search to a particular Web site. For instance, type "long term care" into the search box, but restrict the "domain" to to find only what that organization has published on the subject.

Specify a "Numeric Range."'s advanced search lets users restrict their search results to Web pages containing numbers within a given range. This is particularly useful for historical research.

Example: If you search the terms "England" and "Civil War," most of your results will be about England's Civil War. If you are after information on England's role in the American Civil War, use Google advanced search to restrict the results to Web pages containing numbers from 1861 through 1865, the years of the American Civil War.

Search for Web pages that include a specified word near another specified word within the text on a particular page. A less well-known search engine called is the only one to offer this useful feature.

Smart search strategies for finding...

People. Enclose both first and last names in quotes and search it as a phrase, rather than search the names as separate key words.

Example: Search "Laurence Houseman" rather than Laurence and Houseman.
In subsequent searches, try common nicknames instead of this person's formal first name. If you know this person's middle name, search yet again with this inserted between the first and last name... then change the middle name to a middle initial and search one more time. If you do not know the middle name or initial, use Google and insert an asterisk between the first and last name as in "Laurence * Houseman."

If the name is common, add this person's state of residence, job title or spouse's name (but not in the quotation marks) to your search to better focus the list of results.

Example: Searching "Bob Smith" yields an unmanageable one million-plus results on Google... but searching "Bob Smith" together with the word "Arkansas" reduces this by 95%.
Several specialized people-finding search engines might be worth a try as well...

Pipl ( provides basic facts and contact information, plus links to search companies such as USSearch and Intellius, that will scan public records to locate the person you are after. These sites typically charge $10 to $50 to access an individual's complete records, but they often provide basic information, such as hometown and spouse's name, for free. Return to Google and search the name again in combination with these new details, as described above... or to search the spouse's name.

Zoominfo ( can track people down for free through their professional history, because it identifies job titles and current and former employers.

Pandia People ( provides a useful collection of links to other sites for finding people.
Articles. Google News ( is a great place to search for articles published in the past month. Google News has an "archive" search feature for older articles, but older articles usually aren't available free.
Web site Kidon Media-Link ( features links to the home pages of 19,000 newspapers, magazines and other news sources worldwide... Web site ( also lets users search for articles from a wide range of publications that are available for free online.

If your article search comes up empty, contact your local library’s reference desk. Many libraries have databases that access a broader range of articles than are available online. In some regions, library cardholders can search these databases from home on their own computers.

Directions and maps. Video clips and pictures. Google Images ( is a great search tool for still images of people, places and things. Search engine Blinkx ( is the best place to find online video clips. It searches transcripts of Web videos to find those containing your key words.

Health information. Search tools that are likely to steer you toward health information you can trust include Healthline ( and WebMD (, which search on their own sites and on other health sites believed to be reliable. Government sites MedlinePlus ( and ( can locate trustworthy medical information on government Web sites or other health-care sites.

Financial information. Yahoo! Finance ( is one of the most trustworthy search tools for money matters, because it does an excellent job of weeding out scams and advertising that poses as news. This specialized Web portal searches only carefully selected sites that provide useful articles or information.

Directions and maps. Google Maps (, MapQuest ( and Yahoo! Maps ( are the best places to find maps and driving directions. If you are planning to drive in Europe, try Maporama ( and ViaMichelin (

Bottom Line/Retirement interviewed Randolph Hock, PhD, a former reference librarian at the University of Pennsylvania who currently operates Online Strategies, a Vienna, Virginia-based Internet seminar and workshop provider, He is author of The Extreme Searcher’s Internet Handbook (Information Today).

Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking

Albert Einstein

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You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant.

Harlan Ellison