Search and Ye Shall Find

According to Google and Yahoo are, far and above, the most popular search engines on the internet today with 46.3% and 23.4% of the market share respectively. If you’re a loyal MSN or AOL user, chances are you may be using their search technology, which commands a far smaller percentage of the market at 11.4% for MSN and a mere 6.9% for AOL.

Regardless of which search tool you use, the question is, are you using it effectively? In reality, very few searchers take advantage of the powerful capabilities offered through these search tools. Most just type in a few keywords and hit enter and hope for the best. While this technique works, it is far from the most efficient use of the tool or your time.

Following is a quick and dirty primer that will help you learn the tricks used by the masters.

Search Terms: To put it plainly, more is better! Start with the obvious – if you’re looking for general information on Texas, try Texas. It’s usually better to use multiple terms in order to narrow your search. If you’re planning a Texas vacation, you’ll do better with vacation Texas than with either vacation or Texas by themselves. Vacation Texas hotel may produce even better results. Remember specificity matters!

Including Words: Search is automatically inclusive. In other words, if you type it in the search box the search engine assumes you want to see results with those words. Common words such as we, I, are, it, and how, etc. will be excluded as they slow down the search process and seldom improve results. If your search requires one of these words, proceed it with the + (plus) symbol. A good example of this would be performing a search on Star Wars with a specific interest in information on Episode I you could type Star Wars Episode +I.

Excluding Words: If you want your search to exclude a particular word, proceed it with a (minus) symbol. Suppose you want to perform a search on dogs but you don’t want to see results that include the word Chihuahua. To do this you would type dogs -chihuahua which will present you with results of pages that do NOT contain the word chihuahua.

Phrases: If you’re looking for a particular phrase, it’s best to let the search engine know this. This is done by enclosing the phrase in double quotes. This comes in very handy, for example, when searching for song lyrics. Typing the words the yellow brick road and “the yellow brick road” result in very different results.

Capitalization: Reduce the number of keystrokes required to perform a task and you’ve made me a happy man. Capitalization in search doesn’t matter. Don’t waste the energy pushing that shift key. tiger woods and TiGeR WoOdS will produce the exact same results.

Automatic “and”: Remember the understood you from elementary English …. oh, bad memories … moving on. Like that understood you, and is understood in search. There is no need to type john and wayne and western. Additional energy saved :)

Start employing these tips in your search and you’ll have much better results, and may save yourself a bit of time and effort in the process.