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2,001 Tips
The Web
Search Engines

Don't Search Far and Wide

Don't use a single word in a search query or the search will turn up everything under the sun-most of it useless. Search for in-context phrases for more on-target results. Usually, you can search for an exact match to a text string when you enclose it with quotation marks. If the engine supports it, combine multiple phrases with the Boolean AND to further refine your query. Check your engine's instructions for the most accurate details.

Stay Away from Spamdex Time-Wasters

When framing your query, avoid common "spamdex" terms-words that Web site marketeers often add into hidden parts of a page's HTML coding. This is done so that these pages wind up on the top of query results lists and get numerous hits. Spamdex terms include sex, free, shareware, Web and Windows.

The Host with the Most

You can limit searches with some search engines to a particular site by tailoring the query. Adding the prefix host: to an Alta Vista (http://www.altavista.digital.com) search, for example, lets you check for information on a single Web site. The query host:winmag.com "search engines" searches only WINDOWS Magazine's Web site for information on search engines.

Stop Stopwords

Search engines routinely exclude stopwords, terms that are very common on Web sites. Query Alta Vista for the word "computer," for instance, and you'll be told that the word was not found. Most engines also ignore one- or two-letter words, and words beginning with a number. Some engines return a list of terms they ignored in your query. Make a note of them to save yourself time in later queries.


Unusual words are more likely to return valid search results than common words. If you must search for a single word, make it the most unusual word possible. Otherwise, you'll spend a lot of time traversing unrelated sites.

Bookmark Results

Some engines-including WebCrawler (http://www.webcrawler.com), InfoSeek Guide (http://www.infoseek.com), Alta Vista and Magellan (http://www.mckinley.com)-let you bookmark a particularly successful search so you can return and examine the collection of documents later.

Broaden Your Search

Usenet newsgroup archives can be a great source of immediate, up-to-the-minute information as well. Pick a search tool that incorporates a Usenet database, such as Alta Vista, InfoSeek and Excite (http://www.excite.com), or query DejaNews at http://www.dejanews.com/, an engine designed specifically for this purpose.

Turn Off Images

Unless you have a hankering to see ads, change your browser's default view to text-only to speed your search. Be forewarned-some search services force you to keep the graphics turned on by making important tools, such as submit query buttons, graphics-only.

Find What You've Found

If your search tool locates a URL, but you don't see the information you're looking for, try using your browser's Find command to locate those elusive keywords.

Use Advanced Queries

Most search engine sites offer both a default page for simple searches and an advanced page that lets experienced questors run precise queries. Save time by going directly to the advanced page. Some engines (among them, Lycos and HotBot) can be set to automatically display advanced-search pages. If your favorite engine doesn't offer this option, simply bookmark the advanced page.

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