Search Engines - Search tips

A search engine is a commercial service on the World Wide Web that allows users to search for any information they can think of 24 hours a day 365 days a year. The intense competition among search engines is fueled solely by advertising revenue.

As many of us have found out, it can be very difficult and time consuming to sift through all the information that comes your way when you try to search for information on a search engine. A simple search can get hundreds or even thousands of results. On many search engines, simply putting a plus sign between your words, and leaving no spaces, will greatly reduce the number of matches or "hits."

The plus signs tell the search engine to only include links that have all of your key words, instead of just a few, or even one. A search in Google for house sale cumbria will return 544,000 web pages. The same search turns up with only 3 when phrased with quotation marks, e.g "property+sale+cumbria". The quickest way to get right to what you want is to exaggerate your search parameters. By this I mean to do a search for your ideal result, for example, "detached property sale garden Cumbria village ". Obviously this search will not get many results, but then you can gradually decrease your requirements by eliminating one or two words at a time until you end up with a workable number of links to choose from.

Some engines recognize the plus sign instead of quotation marks, e.g. detached+property+sale+garden+Cumbria+village. Others will automatically assume that you want all the words included unless you tell it you don't! There are no consistent rules, but a link to each search engine's individual guidelines can be usually be found somewhere on their home page. Sometimes it's called "search tips" or "advanced searches." You can quickly learn each engine's preferences and quirks by reading their information page. If the directions are too complex, change to another search engine that better suits your technical expertise.

It is up to each search engine company to have an easy method of understanding their guidelines, and getting you the consumer exactly what you want. Their advertising rates are based on how frequently they are used. Treat them as you would any other business. If you're not happy, take your business elsewhere. Remember, you are the customer, and they work for you, not the other way around!

This article has been reproduced with kind permission from Scott Hendison, who is a computer & internet consultant living in Portland Oregon and works with companies all over the world. His website is


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