web 100 search engines by marcusbuggs

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									  Getting Better Results from Search Engines - including Google


You all use Google. Most of the time, but not always, you get good quick
results. There is more to Google than most people realise.

Google is a search engine. A search engine is a web site that gives you access to
a very large database of searchable web sites. In other words it is a tool for
searching for information.

The dominant player, and the largest, is Google with a rising database of about
10 billion web pages. www.google.com The Google database includes, not just
web title pages, but digs into site content as well.

Search engines are usually created by software programs called spiders or web
crawlers. These roam the web collecting information. Sites generally include
links. The crawler follows those links to other web pages which likewise have
links. This all creates an expanding web, a database of information. When
Google was constructed, the emphasis for ranking was the frequency with which
a site had links in other sites. I understand that Google does not accept money
for a better ranking. Some search engines request payment for placement near
the top of a results page. Some ask for payment to include a site. Advertising is
accepted by Google in the form of “Sponsored Links” listed in a column on the
right hand side of the screen or in up to two entries at the top of the screen. The
Australian Consumer and Competition Commission considers that sponsored
links should be called advertisements.

I notice that a web building firm offers to include a link in its own site to be
picked up by a spider. For years there has been business in using numerous
ploys to improve the ranking of a site. This includes repetition of key words
often in an ordinarily invisible form. Google works on popularity and as I said,
the number of links. Many search engines have topic categories or directories.
These are often moderated.

Only a few search engines, but not many now, are moderated. That is to say a
person may edit what is accepted.

A few search engines do not have their own databases but on your behalf search
the major players. These are generally called meta search engines although the
term multi search engines is sometimes used. The results generally give the
source. There may only be about 50 results, instead of say 50,000 responses.
Sometimes a search may time out, although I have not had that happen. A
metasearch can be quicker than going to each major player separately.

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 A point generally overlooked is that the meta search will strip off all special
syntax. For instance “ “ will be washed.

Meta search engines include:
www.metacrawler.com
www.dogpile.com
www.search.com
www.clusty.com
www.surfwax.com



A search engine may have its own database or share a database. Netscape and
AOL both use the Google database. MSN and HotBot use an Inktomi database.
AltaVista sadly now uses Yahoo. Lycos is powered by Ask.

What are these search engines? There is a good summary in the web page of the
Mornington Library.
http://ourlibrary.mornpen.vic.gov.au/ContactUs/index.htm

go to Need Information, then Reference Links, then Internet Search Engines.

For a more comprehensive list, use Google to go to Search Engines and select
the Wikipedia article.

Australian search engines include:
Yahoo Australian version http://au.yahoo.com/
Web Wombat www.webwombat.com
Anzwers www.anzwers.com.au
Sensis www.sensis.com.au (can be used from some mobile phones)
There is a list of Australian and general search engines at
www.searchme.com.au

Before doing any searches make certain you have the free McAfee SiteAdvisor
to warn you of sites to treat with caution, for example those that offer a free
registry check or a free spyware check.

Search engine results come from a cached database representing what was at a
site when visited by the crawler. You can often go to the cached version or
download from the link. If a result is in a common foreign language, Google can
do a machine translation.




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Using Google

Nothing could be easier. You go to www.google.com In the simple uncluttered
screen you type in a few words, click on search, or hit enter. In an instant you
may have several million potential results. Among the first 80 to 100 results you
may have material that is not relevant. Can you hit the target better with a
revised selection of words?

The words you select should go from the general to the more particular, for
example the string - microsoft xp format drive c. Then there is some syntax
you can use. Ignore capitals. Type in lower case. If you want synonyms to be
included put a tilde ~ in front of a word (no space after the tilde).

Google has a built in spelling checker. This is helpful for English/American
spelling variations and keystroke errors. It will come up with “Do you mean?‟
Google is also helpful with words that may or may not be hyphenated

If you want an exact phrase or combination of words put the words within
double inverted commas. Here capitalisation can have meaning. The search for
an exact phrase can be used to detect plagiarism

Google, and most search engines ignore stop words such as ‟the‟ „a‟ „an‟ and
many prepositions. To be certain of finding the phrase „to be or not to be‟ put it
in double inverted commas or use the exact phrase space in Advanced Search. If
there is still a problem with stopwords use Lycos www.lycos.com

When you put in several words Google assumes that you want the results to
include all words. This is called the implicit and. To be certain, if you want
entries to include two or more prescribed words put an AND in front of each
word. The AND needs to be in upper case with a space on each side. A similar
rule applies if you want an alternative word to be included. Use an OR when you
want an alternative spelling to be included. If a word must be included, put a +
sign against it. If a word is to be excluded from a search, place a minus sign –
against it.

These functions are duplicated if you alternatively click on Advanced Search.
There is a small trap here. If you initially clicked on Aust. you lose that when
you move to Advanced. In the Advanced Search page there is a list of countries
called regions from which you can select Australia.

The Advanced page has spaces for:
All of the words ..........
Exact phrase .............


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At least one of the words ...........
Without the words ..........

Some of the features of the Advanced page are also included in the Preference
page. That includes the filtering option. The Preference page has a translation
facility. Before leaving the Preference page click on save my preferences.

In the Advanced Page you can specify sites first seen anytime from last 24 hours
to last year. You can specify file format ie doc or rtf or pdf or html. You can
limit occurrences to just page titles or anywhere in a page.

If you add Google Tool Bar (View/Toolbars/Google) you can search with
Google from any web page. I prefer an uncluttered screen and even use F11
from time to time to get more space on the screen.

 Google can handle a query in question form but it is not designed to work that
way. The response to a question can be to find the question somewhere such as
in a forum. If you enter „define‟ in front of a word or phrase, Google will search
for definitions. If you click on „I am feeling lucky‟ Google will give you just the
top retrieved item.

Wildcard searches within a word are not available. (Use the AltaVista search
engine www.av.com if you want wildcard searches giving at least the first three
letters. The asterisk may be within or at the end of a word.) In Google however
a wildcard can be inserted in a specified phrase, for example ”i * new york”.

For an effective search enter the keywords likely to be on a page you want. If
you enter information about.... Google may look for the word information.

Choosing the right reference word can be crucial. I once tried to find blank 2008
calendars. I had no success until I added the word template.

Google can be used as an advanced calculator complete with mathematical and
physical constants. Enter figures in equation form (use an asterisk for the
multiplier sign). Calculation and conversion can be combined. An example is 3
meters times 15 feet in square yards. For a conversion use the format 637 in km.
The answer comes up immediately. The facility also handles currency
conversion such as 100 usd in aud. Use the Reserve Bank site if you want
refinements.

Domain name searches can be useful. For example if you look up a medical
topic you will get plenty of com sites including those peddling quackery. If you
specify site:edu you will get just edu sites. That way you can get the medical


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departments of universities. Using site:gov would also be safe. Entering site:nz
gives you just sites in New Zealand. As well as limiting a search to a domain
you can also limit a search to a specific web site. An example would be for
within the large rambling tax office site site:www.ato.gov.au In that case add
a topic or you will be swamped with the response. You can also exclude a site
eg security –site:www.microsoft.com

The Google News is quick and comprehensive. It is a good mixture of local and
international content. It is much better than CNN and is a good supplement to
ABC News. Google News is updated about every 15 minutes. It also provides a
comprehensive search facility for past news material and topics.

The Image facility is interesting and draws on a very large database. Images are
sorted by Google on the basis of the surrounding text. (Google does not know
what a polar bear looks like.) The advanced options page enables you to specify
the image type you require eg thumb nail or wall paper.

There is also Gmail in the options at the top of the screen. This email service has
free storage. It can be used with mobile phones which have a browser.

 Google Earth involves downloading some extra software. This gives you an
overview of what is in your neighborhood. The Google map function can
suggest how to go from A to B. Google maps can be used with some mobile
phones.

Google technology can be used to search your computer. Like the Windows
function it indexes in the background. A sidebar is added to your screen. The
sidebar can be hidden. A search must be quicker than the Windows search. It
could be useful if you had an enormous amount of email on file. Usually old
email can be found fairly easily by using the email sort function.

There is a Google research question answer service whereby, for a payment, a
staff member will search out an answer.


Yahoo

This search engine www.yahoo.com or http://au.yahoo.com for the Australian
version, is second in popularity to Google. The main database is not moderated
but the topics and categories can be edited. The database may be supplemented
by the Google database.




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Question format is not recommended. AND and OR are not used. Use a plus +
in front of a word to mandate inclusion and a minus – to exclude a word. Search
for a phrase by putting it in inverted commas. A Yahoo toolbar is available. Free
email is available.

There is an advanced search feature but it is hidden. Click on search when the
entry space is empty. In the page that comes up, click on options. You will then
find an advanced search function similar to other search engines.



MSN Search (Microsoft Network) www.msn.com or www.ninemsn.com.au

The second web site is based on a partnership between Microsoft and the local
PBL network. MSN is the default search engine that comes with Internet
Explorer.

To find a phrase put it in inverted commas. To exclude a word put a minus up
against it. Questions can be handled but that is not recommended practice. In the
entry space there is a limit of 150 characters. A search query is not case
sensitive. Results are presented in order of popularity.

MSN uses the Inktomi database. To refine a search go to the advanced page. To
find the advanced search function click on „search web‟ when the entry space is
blank. Then click on options and select advanced search. The facility is sparse
and quite poor compared with Google.



Ask www.ask.com

The original search engine was called Ask Jeeves. There is a kids version
www.AJkids.com

The original design was to answer queries in question form. You can enter
queries in much the same order as a question. I suggest just follow normal
search engine practice. Use inverted commas for an exact phrase. Use a minus
sign to exclude a word. Paid results are shown as sponsored. Images are
available. There is an advanced search option. The database is Teoma which
uses a different method than Google of evaluating page relevancy.




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Alta Vista www.av.com or www.altavista.com

This was once the dominant player. However, following a change of ownership
it now principally uses the Yahoo database.

Questions can be handled. For a word sequence use “ “. Except in advanced
search there is no AND or OR function. Use + or – to include or exclude a word.
As mentioned above, wildcard searches are provided. Alta Vista is very strong
in the area of what is called Boolean searches. There are sophisticated advanced
features.

People Finders

There are several good American based people finders to search out telephone
numbers, reverse telephone numbers, email addresses and a lot more
information, some of which we would regard as sensitive. Locations are based
on the states of the USA. For Australia you are almost limited to the White
Pages and general internet searches. Once you could buy CDs which allowed
reverse telephone searches. There was a copyright battle. Guess who lost. One
Australian site asks for payment and has a McAfee caution sign. Some
Australian sites invite you to enrol. A web search for john collins you will get
pages containing John somewhere and Collins St. elsewhere. A specific “John
Collins” will limit the response, without further refinement, to just over 9,000
entries. The electoral roll is no longer sold in any form. You can check your own
entry on line and you can view the listing for each electorate in an AEC office.


Specialised Search Engines

There is specialisation among search engines. To find some of these go to:
http://www.searchengineguide.com/ and look under internet search engines,
regional and countries or check out the topic listing.

As an alternative, some ordinary commercial sites have useful databases eg for
books try www.amazon.com which is partnered with www.cdnow.com which
lists over 500,000 CDs and VHS/DVD movies. CD listings often contain clips.
An alternative site is www.barnesandnoble.com or www.bn.com

Search engines are a wonderfully quick way of finding information, but to get
better results you may need to structure your inquiry.


Graham Swanston


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