PC Doctor May 9, 2014

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Dear PC Doctor:

Sometimes, when I’m looking for something on the internet, my search turns up nothing, even though I know there has to be information out there.  Sometimes, I get a lot of hits that aren’t really what I’m looking for.  Are there tricks to crafting a better search so I get results that are more helpful?

      Thanks,  Melody


Dear Melody:


Yes!  There are a few things you can do to change what you put in the search box that ought to give you more useful results.

First, know that a search engine is not a person.  When asking a person for information, full sentences that detail exactly what you want are often best.  When asking a search engine, fewer words can be better.  Eliminate any words that aren’t necessary.  For example, if you want to know how big an African elephant can get, it might be better to type “size elephant” than “How big can a fully-grown adult African elephant get?”  (Some search engines can ignore the extra words, some can’t.)  Play around and get a feel for what kinds of phrases get you the kinds of results you seek.

One of the simplest tricks to try is to put your search request into quotation marks.  Doing that will give you results that include your search words as a phrase, together, instead of just appearing anywhere on the page.  Try searching a few phrases with and without quotation marks to show the difference.

You can also use a hyphen (or minus sign) in your search to eliminate certain kinds of responses.  If you want to search for the Ramones, but you don’t want to see any YouTube videos, you can search “Ramones –youtube”.  (There’s a space after Ramones but not between the hyphen and youtube.)  Your results page should point you to other web sites.

If you’re looking for a page with a specific title and don’t want your search engine to look for those words in the body of the web page, Google, Bing, and Yahoo have shortcuts for that.  In Google, put “allintitle: “ before your search term. When searching on Bing or Yahoo, you can do the same thing by using ”title:”

If you are pretty sure you saw the information you want on a specific website, you can do the following:  Say you know you saw something about a new book club for teenagers on the Athol Public Library website.  You can put “site: AtholPublicLibrary.com teen book club” in the Google search box and, if the information is still posted somewhere within the library’s website, it will come up.

I hope you find some of this helpful.

Until next time… Happy Computing!

     PC Doctor