Quick Search Tips

By JEgererJEgerer (1261516264|%a, %b %e at %I:%M%p)

Just finished Monday's exercises on Search Techniques…and wouldn't you know it… I learned something.

The following are some quick tips to improve search efficiency and save a bit of time.

1) Search return relevance seems to drop off exponentially

What I mean by this is after the first say 20 results you will see diminishing returns to your page browsing. This seems to hold regardless of how broad or narrow the search is, and how much syntax work I put into it.

Therefore, tip one is VARIETY.

Whenever starting up a query pop open 3 windows, your most comfortable three engines. For me its Google , Yahoo, and Ask. I'll then look at the first 5-10 pages on each engines. Often Google and Yahoo net similar results (which only confirms page relevancy)

Shirataki Noodle Recipes (Yahoo)

Shirataki Noodles Recipes (Google)

While Ask usually nets some non redundant results

Shirataki Noodles Recipes (Ask)

This is a good way to look into a subject you don't know quite enough about to formulate a more syntax intensive query.


2) If the glove fits!

On the other side of the spectrum you may be looking for information about a topic but you aren't exactly sure what bits you are trying to weed out yet. Let's say baseball players are the topic, none in specific, but you want to find some data on a variety of players and eventually you'll hone in on some stats or some kind of search goal related to these players.

Well we won't get very far just throwing baseball player, or even "baseball players" or anything of this sort into the engine.

However, we could guess that there are sites out there that deal with the type of information we might want to find. So we should make our goal to find these sites, the sites designed to handle and database the information we may eventually want to find.

So instead of a general search, we might search:

Baseball Player Database

This will help us locate a site which will likely have the search functionality specifically tailored to our goals.

We can even weed out poor databasing sites using basic syntax like:

Baseball Player Database -news

Now we have taken away all the newspapers and articles describing games and players to just include results with statistics.


3) Let the engine drive you!

In the query trees we've practiced on I have noticed that it's somewhat advantageous to take a deductive approach. Starting out with something general like -bottled water- will of course net you are very unfocused search with little advantage.

However, if you start general then look at the first 10 or so results you learn a lot about the strengths and weaknesses of the search and can use the buzzwords you see to fix up your syntax for the next search.

If you just start with a long string like "bottled water" -aquafina inurl:filtration … well you may not get sufficient results which is fine, but you'll also have little indication as to what is limiting your search.

Say I wanted to find a review of all the bottled waters I would start with:

Bottled Water Reviews

Notice that there are too many biases reviews, and edit

Bottled Water Reviews -inurl:.com

Now I've got more government sites and less opinion polls. At this point I'd notice the variation in reviews are getting me appraisals of taste, price, quality… so I can then edit search

Bottled Water Reviews -inurl:.com | -taste

This nets me more results on quality and such.

Basically I think searches are best executed in a multi-step fashion to avoid the risk of immediately eliminating the type of thing you are looking for and getting into a real guess and check pattern.

Those are my quick tips for basic web queries, hope they help!

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