What is a search engine? Definitively, a search engine is an information retrieval system that works algorithmically to assist in finding information. Now in Layman’s terms, a search engine is…well Google. Some would argue with me, and say that there are many choices out there, not just Google. Well sure there are, you could use Yahoo, Bing, Ask.com.Or if you are concentrating on people finding, there are Wink.com, Pipl.com, Whozat.com and many others. Some self proclaimed techie PI’s will tell you about a new site every week just to keep themselves relevant, but instead I say we should learn how to use what we have to its fullest potential, then if you need more, move on.
Most people believe that a search engine is like reaching into a hat full of random information and pulling something out with no real control over what they are going to get. They monotonously sift through pages upon pages of errant information just to finally find that single golden result they had been searching for. What if I were to tell you that you could increase the odds of finding your result on the very first page? Well with a few tricks in place, you can do just that. These types of tricks are commonly known as Google Hacks.
Let’s say you are searching on a website like…well cowparade.com. That’s right, cowparade.com. And on that site you are looking for events that happened in 2008. You go to cowparade.com and you notice that there is NO search bar. How do you search the site for what you need?! Have no fear. All you have to do is go to our friend Google and type in site:cowparade.com 2008. BAM! It is as if you were searching on the subject website all along. Using this Google Hack, your results will be restricted to only those on the target website, leaving you virtually no irrelevant results. Try it with social networks as well (ex. site:facebook.com holmesforhire)
A small tip is worth a thousand words. “Quotation marks.” Did you know that if you put quotes around any word in your search term, Google will restrict the results to that exact term? I know it sounds trivial, but it is often overlooked. You can try variations by only placing one word in quotes and others not, or all in quotes. Endless possibilities.
What about searching phone numbers? Have you ever Googled a phone number in this format (972)555-1212? Well the results you got were probably not what you were looking for. This is because Google recognizes the hyphens, but not the parentheses, so your result is a jumbled mess. Instead search the phone number like this 972-555-1212. Your results will reveal the number used in both of the above formats and if you need to narrow it down throw some quotes around it.
Google also has a built in Residential phone directory. Try this in the Google search bar, phonebook: john smith dallas, tx. You will be provided results for all residential telephone listings for John Smith in Dallas, TX.
A common misconception when searching is that more is better. It is actually the opposite. When you place words into a search engine, you are telling it to search for every one of those words, leaving you with tons of irrelevant data. People often search with an entire question, almost as if we were talking to a human. This is very wrong. Try to cut out all of the articles (a, and, the, etc.) and use effective key words. For example instead of searching “What is the best place to mount a Garmin GPS in my car?” you should really search “gps placement car”. It is all about the relevancy. By removing the irrelevant words from your search term, you made your results solid.
I will end the lesson with one last simple Hack. Say you are researching “eagles”. Well go ahead and type it in and see what the top results are. Philadelphia Eagles, right?! Well as a Philadelphia Eagles fan, this does not offend me, but it certainly may offend you, while putting a crimp in your online search. Sifting through tons of results with Philadelphia mixed in will be quite annoying (especially for a Dallas Cowboys fan) and time consuming. You can solve this by placing a hyphen in front of the word -Philadelphia. So instead of Googling Eagles, you should google “Eagles -Philadelphia”. Now Google will automatically exclude all results that include the word Philadelphia.
Well I hope this intro to Google search techniques was a little more worthwhile than a self proclaimed expert regurgitating links to websites that are eventually going to lead you to a paid search by Intelius. God I hate Intelius! ~TheHiTechPI
UPDATE– As Tamara Thompson of PIbuzz.com pointed out, Google Phonebook is no longer available and has been corrected in my post. Thanks Tamara!
More Google hacks to come…