How to browse and search the web more effectively.
The internet has become a part of everyday life for most computer users, while for others...not so much. Searching the internet for some has become as easy as summoning a digital personal assistant (i.e. Siri, Alexa, etc.) then saying what’s needed. For others, finding the content they need online is more of a cumbersome process than cutting the lawn using only scissors!!
In both groups mentioned above, however there are those who don’t yet know how to get to the content they are looking for without expending excessive effort in doing so.
Why is this important? Let’s say you’re searching for something specific online, yet there are many similar results, which one should you choose?? If you’re thinking “Well, the first one that comes up!!”, this may be true in some cases. In other cases however, clicking the first result can be a HUGE waste of time and sometimes MONEY!!
For this reason, this article is intended to expound on how to get what you’re looking for online efficiently and effectively. We will touch on the following topics: the difference between address bars and search bars, searching and browsing effectively, and filtering searches using advanced search modifiers.
The difference between address bars and search bars
Have you ever had to walk someone through how to navigate to a specific website and its content over the phone?? If so, then you probably know how easy it is for the person on the other end to get lost and even for yourself to get lost in explaining somewhere along the way.
The primary reason for this is that when someone hears “go to suchandsuch.com”, they may be thinking “oh, I just have to type that into the blank field on my homepage because that’s how I always do it”.
The problem is in most cases, the blank field on the homepage is a search bar NOT an address bar. What’s the difference?
Address bars are fields where you can type a URL (i.e. www.Google.com) then navigate to that specific web page and is usually located at the very top and center of your web browser.
Also, address bars can sometimes function as search bars depending on your browser. An example of this is how Mozilla Firefox allows you to choose your default search provider and once you type in anything other than a specific URL you get a search result from your default search provider.
This takes us to our next topic, what is a search bar?
Search bars (usually located on homepages or search engine web pages like Google and Yahoo!) are designed to search the web and find web pages related to your search so you can choose the most suitable web page based on your search in the results list.
This is important, because if you type a URL into a search field, the first result that comes up can either be what you were looking for, an advertisement for a competitor, or an outright impostor page!! On the other hand, address bars get you directly to the correct web page when you type its URL.
Now that we’ve hashed out the differences between the two, lets talk about how to do them effectively.
Searching & Browsing effectively
As mentioned before, you want to avoid typing a URL into a search field if your intention is to land on a specific web page.
The first few results that comes up in some search engines when a URL is entered could be the last thing you’re looking for as they are probably advertisements to other related websites.
In order to tell if a search listing is an advertisement, simply look for the word “Ad” on some search engines. This can usually be found located near particular results and they usually appear first in the list.
Search bars do more than just compile lists of relevant web pages, they can also find very specific content such as quotes, images, and videos pertaining to a specific search.
Let’s say you’re looking for the homepage of your favorite local business, but realize you don’t know the web address for it. You can try searching for its name on a search engine to see if it comes up.
For instance, you can navigate to a search engine web page like Yahoo!, Google, Bing, etc., then type the name of the business in the search field to see if you can find it in the list of results that come up.
Usually the search engine will pull up the company’s name, web page, address, menu, and other info and display it prominently at the top of the results.
However depending on the company’s online presence, it can be much harder to find who you’re looking for.
Let’s say you type in the name of the business verbatim into a search bar and all you get back are results that include these keywords in random order with no mention of the company you’re looking for, what do you do then?
This is where you start getting more specific to get the results you need.
Let’s say you know the business name to be Local Fitness Business you can enter this name in quotes (i.e. “Local Fitness Business”) into a search engine and it will bring back results for web pages that have content with this EXACT string of words. This is called exact match searching.
Let’s assume that your browser or search engine knows your estimated location and it pulls up the right business at the top of the results. Then we’re done, the search is over.
However, if your search engine doesn’t know your location or there are many business throughout the state, region, or country that either have the same name or there are many franchises of the same company and they all have different web pages causing all these to show up in the list of results, then we have more work to do.
For instance we could search “Local Fitness Business” and include our city, state, zip code as part of the search OUTSIDE the quotations to find a more precise list of results.
Let’s say after all this fine tuning you’re still not able to locate a web page for your favorite local business, now what?
It may be that the business doesn’t maintain a website. However, it still may be possible to pull up other information about the company from third party websites that index local businesses.
These will show up in the search results and include things like the company’s address, phone, number, reviews, start date, etc.
At least with this information, you can still get in touch with the business to request the information you need or that you need to provide them with in order to assist you.
These aren’t the only tips that can be used to narrow down a search from a search engine. There are other modifiers that can be used in search engines to fine tune the results.
What are modifiers?
Modifiers modify your search (like include or exclude certain info) to further filter the results you get for a more precise search.
In addition to running an exact match search (where you enter a search phrase in quotations to pull exact matches), you can also run a query exclusion.
This is where you can get back results that EXCLUDE a certain string of text from your search result.
Doing this can be helpful when your list of results all have a word or string of words in common that are crowding your search.
Drawing on the example from earlier let’s say you want to find more information on the owner of Local Fitness Business, but every time you search their first and last name everything in the results come back mentioning the owner along with something pertaining to the company too.
If you want to filter out any web page that includes the company name along with the owner in order to find information that pertains to the owner NOT to the business, you could enter FirstName LastName -”Local Fitness Business” into the search bar.
You can also exclude individual words from a search as well by typing a hyphen before each word you wish to exclude (i.e. -Keyword)
In addition to these modifiers, you can also do what’s called a query combiner using AND in between each word, group of words, or exact match queries in a search.
For instance if you wanted show only search results pertaining to the owner of Local Fitness Business along with the company information included you could enter FirstName Lastname AND “Local Fitness Business” to pull in results including both requirements of the search.
If you want to find out who’s on the board of directors for such a company you can use OR- a similar query search modifier to find words pertaining to such a search.
For instance if you wanted to find information online about the company and company’s board of directors such as it’s COO, CFO, CIO, etc. You could do a search for “Local Fitness Business” AND directors OR COO OR CIO OR CFO.
If you want to find all this information about the company, but you only want to use the company website for your search you can limit the results by using the prefix site: to perform a site specific search.
For example, if you wanted to find information about the board of directors for Local Fitness Business using only the company website you could go to the search bar and enter site:localfitnessbusiness.com AND directors OR COO OR CIO OR CFO.
Well, that’s all on the different modifiers we’ll discuss in this article. Hopefully these have been or can be of some assistance in helping you get the information you need.
Did you know about these modifiers before? If not, this only scratches the surface! There are several other modifiers that could be used in search engines to fine tune a search to get the results you want.
Why not try to perform an online search for search modifiers and see what other useful tips you can find on the topic?
Also, worth mentioning is the fact that search modifiers are not used as heavily nowadays as they once were in the past. Since search engines have optimized the way online searches are conducted to get users the information they need more efficiently without the use of excessive modifiers.
Hopefully the information presented in this article has been helpful or at least informative in helping fine tune your searching and browsing experience.
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