Last month I disucssed some of the pitfalls and dangers of online searches, so this month I think it’s time to highlight the benefits!
Without search engines we’d be drowning in a sea of information with no way to find what we’re looking for.
Google began as a PHD research project in 1996. The brainchild of Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the mission statement of the company is “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
The search engine “crawls” the web and builds up an index of pages and their content. It then uses a “secret” algorithm to rank these pages in order of relevance. It uses many factors such as page links, keywords, speed of loading, etc., to determine which are the best pages out there for what you’re looking for. The fight to be the “top of Google” is always contentious and sites are often manipulated to benefit the search algorithm (a process called Search Engine Optimisation or SEO).
I mentioned last month how you can pay to be the top of the search results through advtertising and how you should always be cautious of these adverts because of scams.
So how do you find what you’re looking for with Google? Just type in a search phrase and hope for the best?
Well there are a few tips I can give you that’ll save you a lot of time when searching for something that not many people know about.
I use this one a lot! Say you’re searching for my business name, Scotia Systems. Go to Google and use the words Scotia Systems and you’ll find my business, but also other pages such as this one:
Jobs 1 – 10 of 42 – 42 System Administrator Job vacancies available in Nova Scotia on Indeed Canada. one search. all jobs.
You can see it’s found the words “System” and “Scotia”, but they’re not together as I wanted?
Instead, I can use double quotes to tell Google to only show me results where the two words appear together: “scotia systems”.
It’s not limitted to two words either – you can search for an exact phrase too. By using the quotes, you’re making the search query more specific and more likely to return what you’re looking for!
Quite often when searching Google, I’m looking for something recent. Normally when you search Google, you’re searching through everything that was added to the Internet since indexing began back in 1996.
Take, for example, the popular topic of “Oak Island”. Search for this and you’ll find pages going back over the years, some of which haven’t been updated for a long time. What if you want to find out the latest information?
After you search for “Oak Island” (with the quotes of course), there’s a button under the search box called “Tools”. Click on this and it gives you an option “Any Time”. This is showing you that the results can be from any point in time, however you can change this to for example “Past 24 hours”.
Now you’re looking at pages that were updated far more recently. You can even go so far as “Past Hour” for up to the minute results on current topics such as news events. Handy eh?
Search by location
Another feature I use quite often is to search by location. I often use this when searching for prices of something I’m looking to buy. Say you’re looking to buy a specific model of BBQ. If you search for that model (using quotes of course!), chances are you’ll get a bunch of results from U.S. sites. Again, select the Tools button and there’s an option labelled “Any Country”. Change this to “Canada” and you’ll get results from Canadian only websites!
This one is a little more obscure. When performing a search you might get some results which aren’t relevant. As an example, say your searching for mustang horses. If you search for “Mustang” you’re going to get a lot of results about cars. If you only want pages that don’t mention the word “car”, you can search for: Mustang –car.
The hyphen in front of the word “car” means that you want to exclude any pages with that include that word.
One last tip, and this one is more obvious. Acoss the top of the search results, Google groups what it finds into categories; “All”, “Images”, “News”, “Videos”, “Maps” and “More”. This one is pretty self explanatory, but useful if say you’re searching for a picture of something (hint: it’s under images”).
Until next time – I hope you find what you’re looking for!
Nick Gunn moved to Tatamagouche from England and started up Scotia Systems, a computer support company. He is now the “go-to” guy in the community for computer problems. His columns are intended to spread advice and awareness of computer issues. Contact Nick at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 902-957-2575.