How to Search Better:
What are you looking for?

One key thing to consider first of all is what you’re looking for. Are you doing a general search for information or sites, or are you after something more specific, for example maps or directions, people, books, films or music, and so on.

Good as the top search engines are, one size simply cannot fit all. If you want something specific, there are two routes you should consider. First of all, try fine-tuning your searches to bias the results towards the sort of thing you’re after. This is something you should keep in mind at all times anyway, but it is worth repeating. Second, consider using a different search engine or method, preferably a more specialised one dedicated to finding the sort of thing you’re after.

If you want to find information about a band, an album, a book or a film, you’ll get more concrete results if you go straight to a site such as Amazon or the IMDB rather than using a general-purpose search service. Of course, this supposes that you know enough to track it down there; if you don’t, then turn back to the general search sites and get creative with your queries.

If you want to track down a person, then Google and other mainstream search engines can help, especially if you try a few different key words along with their name. However, you may have more luck if you know enough about them to find them in sites such as Friends Reunited or more school- or job-specific directories or just the regular online phone directories. Even mailing list archives can turn up further links, so think laterally. If you heard a song on a radio show and want to know more, don’t reach for Google unless it is to find the radio station’s own site. From there, see if you can find playlists to search.

Just think about what you’re trying to find and make sure you’re looking in the right place. The trick is all about narrowing down your options before you begin.

TIP: Reach more, search less

Don’t forget that search engine results will usually fill more than one page. If you don’t find what you’re looking for in the first page of results, click through to some of the later ones. The search engine has attempted to rank them according to relevance, but don’t trust its judgement entirely; go check a few lower-ranking results pages before starting over with a new search.

How to Search Better

What are you looking for?

Taking control

Google Tricks

Natural language searching



Browser tabs

Google Calculator

Looking for web site optimisation tips instead? Read the Be Found pages.

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