Start at the Top
Google is a crawler-based engine. It goes searching for information on the Internet and adds it to its database. This search engine is so popular that its name is now a verb for doing a search. To help improve your searches, it uses PageRank technology which is its own algorithm to determine the relevancy of a page. In addition, it also uses personalized search which bases your current search on what you’ve searched for before. The site launched in 1997 and is available in 123 languages. Try this search engine. Select a few keywords and see how relevant what you find is.
NOTE: YouTube is also considered a search engine for video. Overall, it functions as the third largest search engine online and is owned by Google.
Originally, Yahoo’s search results weren’t gathered by them. They owned the interface. It has been around since 1995. Today, they use Bing to power their search. Eventually, you will see a “Powered by Bing” tag on the page. It is available in 40 languages and is the second most popular search engine online. Try this search engine with the same keywords you used above and compare the results.
Bing is Microsoft’s search engine. It launched in 2009. You can use it through the start screen on Windows 8. It is available in 40 languages. Try this search engine with the same keywords you used above and compare the results.
Originally, the site was known as “Ask Jeeves.” The search engine is a question / answer search engine which works in everyday, natural language. It launched in 1996 and is available only in English. Try this search engine with the same keywords you used above and compare the results.
Dogpile is one of many search engines that searches other search engines for results. It “fetches” from Google, Yahoo! and many others. Try this search engine with the same keywords you used above and compare the results.
6. Wolfram Alpha.
Launched in 2009, Wolfram Alpha is a computational knowledge engine. It answers factual queries by computing the answer from external data rather than providing a list of pages that might contain the answer. For example, searching for “Pythagorean theorem” gives you a single page with a statement explaining the theorem defines a right triangle with legs a and b with the hypotenuse c as well as the equation a2 + b2 = c2. Take a look at this unusual search engine.
Topix is a news aggregator. You can choose your specific town / zip code and it will provide news for you. Check out your area and see what’s happening now.
8. The Internet Archive.
The Internet Archive was founded in 1996 and is a non-profit site. It provides free public access to collections of digitized materials, including Web sites. It works to preserve the public web. You can search for items or, if you have a URL for a defunct site, you can use the Wayback Machine to pull saved information from when a site existed. Explore this site.
9. So many more.
There are literally hundreds of search engines. From those that search the Web on their own to those that pull from other search engines to those that focus on a single type of material, you can spend more time looking for the right search engine than actually searching. Start your own bookmark set of search engines and define what they help you search for.
10. Be specific.
When you’re looking for something online you need to be specific. Don’t look for “dogs”, instead specify a breed. This may seem silly to mention, but be aware that the more specific you are, the more relevant your searches will be.
Searching for a single word will get you a lot more results. Try to keep your search to phrases of 5-7 words to help narrow your search. For example, if you search for “scouts”, you’ll find Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, scouting for sports, Spiral Scouts, clip art sites, council sites, etc. You’ll not find what you are specifically looking for. Pick a phrase of 5-7 words. Do a search and see what kind of results you get. Slowly remove a word each time to see how the results you get change as you search.
12. Narrow your results.
By adding a minus or plus sign followed immediately by a number or word, you can help narrow your results. For example, if you’re looking for information on a specific season of a television show, +2 would direct the search engine to look for those with 2 only, usually the second season or second episode. In addition, putting the name / phrase in quotes will make the search engine look for the entire phrase in the order you specify instead of individual words. Use the phrase from the step above and put quote marks around it. See how it changes your search results.
There are other shortcuts you can use with search engines. Note that these might not work on all search engines. Try a few of these and see how your results change.
- OR — Putting the word between two words or phrases will look for either word
- $ — Adding a dollar sign and amount will help you find items for sale
- # — Find popular hashtags
- * — The asterisk functions as a placeholder for unknown / wildcard terms (think DOS)
Some search engines will try to offer additional ways to phrase your search. For example, look at the bottom of Google’s results page. Check it out to see if there are additional terms or phrases that will help narrow your search.
Sites to Explore
See the links above for specific search engines.
To download a PDF of this badge program, click here: EP_Search Engine Basics