Find It Fast!

Interested in fine-tuning your Web searching skills? Looking for Web pages "in all the wrong places"?

Here are some tips aimed at increasing your searching efficiency!

Looking for the home page of a Rotary House near the Texas Medical Center? I would go to AltaVista first and type this in: +"rotary house" in all small letters so as to hit both capitalized and small results. The plus sign means that whatever I put within the quotation marks MUST be included in the results I get. Also, in AltaVista when you are looking for a page covering a particular topic use words which you need to appear on the page in your search terms. If you need to know the names of Texas state symbols such as the state song and state bird and you know already the state flower and the state nickname, search like this: +"bluebonnet" +"lone star" +"song" +"bird" Also, search on the most unique / unusual terms you can find. Don't put in "dogs" when looking only for pages about chihuahuas or border collies.

One result I get for my Rotary House search is the Rotary Club of Houston. I click on this result and now I do my famous "back up" trick. I place my cursor at the end of the URL and backspace back to the root (or home) page of this site. (You have to be careful NOT to start backing up if the URL is blue, though. Click AGAIN so that it is not highlighted.) At the bottom of the Rotary Club home page, I see "Rotary Links". Sure enough, the link I want is in the list of links given.

Google is another powerful and also fast search engine which I use a lot. Someone needed to know what the immigration laws were in Dominica. I typed in "dominica immigration" (all small letters but no punctuation) and immediately got several excellent sites.

Remember how it was OK to guess on the SAT? Well, it's OK to guess URLs, too.

Looking for the home page of Compaq? How about trying http://www.compaq.com/? Looking for the home page of the University of Houston? Try http://www.uh.edu/ . (This might have been the Internet home of the University of Hawaii but evidently the University of Houston thought of registering it first!)

Another useful thing to note when surfing are country codes. .us is the country code for the United States (which is why Houston Public Library's home page is at http://www.hpl.lib.tx.us/ ) The country code of Germany is .de because the real name of Germany (in German, that is) is Deutschland. When you see .ac.uk in a URL, you are looking at a college or university in the United Kingdom where they don't use .edu but use .ac for academic institutions instead. Country codes are required in all non-U.S. addresses (but not U.S. addresses because the Web began in the U.S.).

Is there a Ronald McDonald House in the area near the Rotary House at the Texas Medical Center? I could go to AskJeeves this time. Here, you type your question in plain English (such as above).

First, AskJeeves will show you the results of questions which its staff has already researched, hopefully relating to your query. (Sometimes you get lucky here.) What I especially use are the hits found by AskJeeves using OTHER search engines (in this case it brought back hits from WebCrawler, Yahoo!, Excite, and AltaVista). Yahoo! has a site in the results called "Ronald McDonald House Charities". Good - I've now found the home page for Ronald McDonald House! (There's a link on this site to locate the House nearest you.)

Do I use Yahoo! You bet I do!

Say I didn't know the URL for the new football stadium being built in Houston. I would type in: "football stadium" "houston". (Note that I left off the plus sign this time.) Yahoo! had the following category for this search: Recreation > Sports > Football (American) > Leagues > National Football League (NFL) > Teams > Houston Texans . The link shown in this category was for the home page of the team which will be playing in this new stadium, the Houston Texans.

How about those ThunderBears? (Who??) Why, Houston's own Arena Football League team, of course! Go to Yahoo! and type in: "thunderbears". When you've hit a Yahoo! category, you'll see it first. I generally click on the category hit right away and don't even look at the rest of that page.

If I really wanted to know more about the Arena Football League itself than I wanted to know about this one team, though, I'd click on "Arena Football League" after I get to the ThunderBears page. Look right at the top under the word Yahoo! and there you can see the links visibly separated at the top of the page by the > sign. (You can click on any level, higher or lower, more general or more specific, that you want!)

Other tips? You can also try HotBot when you are looking for a specific person. For instance, toggle the choices from "all the words" to "the person" and type in: sam houston (first name then last name). The second result I got was the home page for the Sam Houston Memorial Museum in Huntsville (an excellent site).

Bottom line - - don't stick with a search strategy that doesn't seem to be paying off. I normally use several search engines during the same search for a topic. I switch between them if I seem to be going nowhere with one until I get somewhere with another! If your results aren't looking promising after you've made one or two refinements to your search terms, switch search engines and start over!

For more information on using search engines see:
  • Search Engine Fundamentals
  • Search Engine Tutorials
  • Little Engine That Could And You Can, Too!
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    Last Modified: 2/28/2001