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How to Search the Internet
by Ray Strackbein

People constantly look for information on the Internet. They use search engines and directories to help them find what they need. Some of the more popular ones are:

Search Engines
Internet search engines do three things.

  1. They run around the Internet and make lists of all the web pages they find.
  2. They create indexes of those pages.
  3. When you search, search engines look up search phrases in their indexes and display lists of sites that match your search requests. They don't go out and search the Internet each time you request a search. They only search their own databases.

Internet Directories
Directories are like the Yellow Pages of the Internet. They list sites by category. Some directories have real people deciding which sites make the grade. You can submit your own site, but you may have to pay a reading fee of $99 on up for someone to look at your site. The fee may not guarantee inclusion in the directory.

How to Find Information on the Internet
The challenge in web searching is separating good information from bad information and irrelevant information. Good information is the result of conducting an effective search.

There are three parts to effective searches:

  1. Use the right search tool
  2. Specify the search criteria
  3. Separate the gems from the junk

Pick a search engine that suits you. Use the right search tool.

Finding good information is more of an art than a science. Your personality and experience are major factors to being successful.  Here is how you can find the search tool that works for your personality.

  • Pick something to search for that you are an expert in already.  Picking a topic you are an expert in allows you to discriminate between great information and drivel.
  • Compare your favorite search tool with some others.  First, use your usual search tool to look for information you already know about.
  • Next, try each of the following websites to do the same search.

Which search tool gave you the best results? Make the search tool that gave you the best results the search engine you use first from now on.

Use simple search techniques to create your search criteria.

Now that you have found a search tool that fits your style, you need some simple search techniques. The most powerful features on most search tools are the punctuation they allow you to use, especially the plus, minus, and quotes.

    Quotation Marks: If you are looking for a phrase, enclose that phrase in quotes.

    Plus Sign: Begin any word or phrase that is essential with a plus sign (+).

    Minus Sign: As you search and find irrelevant information, eliminate sites by using a minus sign (-) in front of irrelevant words.

For example, let's say you are looking for the current rates banks pay on certificates of deposit. You decide that searching for "CD" will give the best results, but you discover that CD not only gives you banking information but information about music CDs as well.

Refine your search. Here are the steps:

  1. Conduct a trial search using +cd
  2. When you find too much about music and not enough about banks, refine the search using +cd  +rate -music -song -artist
  3. If you are searching for a phrase and do not put the words in quotes, the search tool will show you Internet pages that use any word in the phrase.
  4. +cd +"interest rate" -music -song -artist

Perform a misinformation check on your results.

Sift carefully through the search results, paying close attention to the credibility rating of the sites. Most of the time, the top rated sites on your results will have paid for their high ranking. They want your money, so beware.

A recognized medical school will have more credible information on a health issue than Suzy Smith's home page. But even Suzy Smith's home page may have good information. Check her references.

The Washington Post has up-to-date news, sports and commentary. Professional associations usually have good information about the professions they represent.

Just because it's on the Internet doesn't mean it's true. Look at a cross section of types of sites. Look at .gov and .edu sites. Is the information the same on those, as good as the .com or .org sites?

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copyright (c) RayStrackbein.

Permission is granted to reprint this article in your newsletter or magazine with the following byline:

 Ray Strackbein is a speaker and author.
To find out more about his programs and services,
 or call 703-262-0361.


Ray and Sally Strackbein
PO Box 710540
Herndon, VA  20171

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