Searching for specifics on the internet

Search engines have come on a long way since their inception in the 1990s, as have all parts of the internet. Sometimes though, it can be quite mind-boggling trying to refine a search so that the results are relevant to the search made.

There are thousands, if not millions, of results when searching for a product and service. A search on Google for ‘conductor’ results in over two billion results ranging from orchestra conductors to semiconductors to bus conductors.

If you want to know how to really find what you’re looking for online, let’s take a look at some of the basics.

Simple refining

Being a little more specific in the search terms will refine the results down further. A search of the term ‘bus conductor’ now shows only 45 million results only that is still too many. This now ranges from the meaning of conductors to the sale of bus conductor ticket machines, so still not specific enough. Have a think about what is actually being looked for. Is it the history of bus conductors, the uniform, pay scales, or anything else related to that search?

Specific search engines

There are specific search engines on the internet that search only in a certain category. For example, using the search for conductors, you may be looking for electrical conductors, so using a search engine specifically designed to find electrical parts like Octopart is going to be gold dust.

Most modern websites that have items for sale will have their own built-in search engine. Two great examples of this are Amazon and eBay, but still those results are a bit too mixed up.

A search can be narrowed down by using the hyphen or minus key – so using the example above, we only want a bus conductor, so this would be our search ‘conductor – electrical – orchestra’, refining the search once again.

If the item wanted has a price range that is acceptable, put a price in the search like so ‘music center $400’. Another way to get results down is to use quotes, for example, “Bus Conductor.” We now have that search down to 1.6 million, quite a drop from the 2 billion when starting.

Will it get even lower? Once again, being more specific is going to help. Using the quotes, how about “Bus Conductor Ticket Machine.” Oh, wow, that has now bought the results down to 1,300.

How about searching for a site related to another like the New York times but can’t remember if it is .com or .org or .net? Then try This will bring up just eight results, including The Washington Post and Reuters.

Fuzzy search

Search engines use a technology called ‘Fuzzy Search.’ This uses algorithms to preempt spelling mistakes but also to bring up a lot of related results. This may result in bringing up less relevant results, so if you are looking for something specific, use the above ideas, they will save you time and effort.