Blog: Search Techniques and Strategies

By Susan KennedySusan Kennedy (1222264724|%a, %b %e at %I:%M%p)

Learning to Search Effectively

Prior to learning specific search techniques, I had no idea that all queries were not created equal. I used to think that the only way to search was by typing in a word or a phrase and if nothing relevant came back then I should try a different word or phrase. I also assumed that if nothing was relevant in the first 5 retrievals than nothing else found would be relevant either. I was surprised at how this is not necessarily true and with a little bit of effort and practice, searching the web can become much easier, efficient, and much less frustrating.

Increasing Precision

Although it seems like common sense, one of the challenges of creating an effective query is to be extremely specific and use unique words. I always find this challenging when I don't know what I am searching for. That is why I found it very useful to learn how to narrow down a search.

For example, if you want to find hair salons in Ann Arbor, you could add specific phrases such as "48104" or "campus" or "downtown Ann Arbor" in order to eliminate hair salons from nearby cities.

So far some of the techniques that I found most useful have been…

  1. Using quotes is the only way to make sure that the entire phrase is intact in the retrieved documents
  2. Typing inurl: gov (or html or com or org) for when I want to narrow down my search to just educational websites or just government websites…
  3. Typing intitle:— (or allintitle: for a phrase) for when I specifically need a document to come back with that word or phrase in the title. This increases the probability that the retrieved documents will be relevant.
  4. Typing - before a word (which means minus or not) *no space!*
  • for when I want documents that have specific words in them to be left out of the retrieved documents.
  • For example, if I don't want any documents that that involve gossip news, I would type '-gossip' into the query along with my original search.

As I continue to practice I will keep updating this list!

Using Search Engines

Likewise, I had no idea that different search engines have different strengths and that there are many benefits to utilizing search engines other than Google. After some experimenting with different search, I was surprised to find that Yahoo Web generally had more relevant results than Google. On the other hand, a search engine I hardly ever use Live Search I rarely found to be helpful. It should be noted that much of the effectiveness of a search could come from the query. I noticed that if I put a non-specific query, I general got non-specific results back.

Searching for Blogs

In general, I am not regular blogger or user of blogs, simply because many of them I do not find particularly useful for my interests. After learning more about blog-search-specific techniques and search engines, I am more inspired to follow blogs. Search engines that I have found useful were Google Blog Search and Bloglines. I did not find Technorati to be very useful for my particular queries, but I would image that it may be useful for more political and business oriented queries. As with a web search, I found that the more effective the query the more effective the results, regardless of the blog search engine. I found it most useful to not use many words in a blog query. One particular technique I found helpful was that if you want to broaden you search adding a dash to between two words with no spaces (i.e. celebrities-news), this will allow for sites that have both celebrities and celebrity news in the content of the blog.

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