We live in a day and age where the internet is king. Many of our daily activities have moved online, from working and learning to shopping or socializing. Our smart gadgets and devices have become an extension of ourselves and we can hardly imagine how our lives without them.
It’s obvious that the advent of the internet has made things infinitely easier for all of us. No matter what type of information we require, the internet seems to have the answer to everything. Gone are the days when you had to go to the library and spend ages searching through books, reading page after page in search of a certain piece of information. Now the online has brought all the resources that can be found in a library and much more at our fingertips.
But even if the internet provides us with convenience, speed and efficiency, the wealth of information it offers also makes it difficult sometimes to find the things that you’re looking for. How many times have you searched for something online only to have your search query return irrelevant results? It happens more often than we’d like to admit. We might be well acquainted with the digital realm, but online research can still give us headaches every now and then.
Luckily, you don’t have to be at war with your search engine. There are a few tips and tricks you can use if you want to improve your search skills and enhance your online experience. So, here’s what you can do to become a savvy searcher.
Look beyond Google
Google might be the most popular search engine out there, but it’s definitely not the only one. There are many other search tools that can prove just as, if not even more effective. You’ve got tools like Bing, Yahoo, Baidu, Yandex, Ask.com, Ecosia or DuckDuckGo, just to name some of the most popular search engines in the world, waiting to answer your search queries. So, don’t limit your options just because you got used to a specific search engine. You can try several and see which ones work best for you.
Use specific search terms
There’s a lot to say about the keywords you should use in order to find relevant information, but the golden rule is to type in unique, specific terms, so the search engine can understand exactly what type of information you’re after. The more specific the keyword, the greater the chances of getting relevant search results.
Use the plus and minus operators
Another trick is to use the plus and minus operators. If you want your search results to include a certain word, adding the plus sign in front of that word. Similarly, if you want to exclude certain words from your search, you can add the minus sign in front of that term and any unhelpful words will be removed. This is a great way to refine your search and avoid unnecessary results.
Keep it simple
Trying to be as specific as possible doesn’t mean you should include stop words in your searches as well. Stop words are conjunctions, prepositions and articles that can actually hinder the outcome by adding a lot of irrelevant pages. Try to leave stop words out of the equation, unless they are absolutely necessary (e.g., when looking for a specific title or name that includes them). Also, it’s best if you dropped the plurals and suffixes if you want to improve the efficiency of your search.
Use quotation marks
Want to search for information containing a specific term or phrase just as it is? Then you should type them between quotation marks. This is one of the most effective ways to narrow down your search results, as the search engines will only return pages that include those exact words in that exact order, and not some kind of variation of them. Without quotations, search engines will look for web pages containing any of the terms randomly, making it more difficult for you to filter the results.
All the tips above will help boost the quality of your searches, but what if the problem is that you can’t access the content you need due to geo-blocking? There are certain countries with strict internet censorships, so its citizens can’t use the internet freely. Luckily, if you live in one of these counties, you can use a VPN to bypass internet censorship and access the content you want. A VPN will reroute your internet traffic through servers located in different countries. So basically, you’ll be able to surf the internet as if you were physically located in another country.
Use advanced search options
Most search engines have an Advanced search feature in their settings, giving you the possibility to customize your search options. Instead of relying on the default settings of your search engine, you could select the options that will help you get more specific results faster. You can customize your search engine to look for pages in a certain language, from a specific period of time or sites with a specific domain. This will increase your chances of getting relevant results.
Use specialized search engines
As we’ve mentioned previously, search engines like Google are a great place to start if you want to look for information on the internet. But if your research implies finding specific information that is not as easy to come by, you might want to try specialized search engines. For example, you can use MSN Shopping to search for shopping-related sites, Google Scholar to search for academic articles, or Wolfram Alpha when you want to look for accurate data and statistics.
Let’s say you’ve found some interesting pages, but you don’t necessarily need them right now. However, you might need them later on, but it’s highly unlikely you’ll remember the web address by then. So, what should you do? It’s simple – you bookmark those pages. Then you can go back to them at any time and use them if they’re still relevant or delete them if you don’t have any use for them anymore.