If you’d really like to become adept at web searching, there are tricks involving punctuation that greatly enhance your searching techniques. Take a look at a few of these tricks and let us know if there are some you use all the time and find useful.
- If you were looking for one of something that is often assumed to be together (such as peanut butter and jelly) you could add (-), a minus sign in front of the word you would like the search engine to ignore. So if you wanted peanut butter sandwich recipes but you hate jelly and want alternatives, you could search “peanut butter –jelly sandwich recipes.”
- If you want to search something within a specific website, you can type “site:websitename:something” into most search engines and bring up only information on that website.
- Looking for cars between $15,000 and $20,000? Type “Ford F-150 $15,000..$20,000”.
- Looking for a PDF file you knew you found somewhere? Type filetype:PDF. Oh, and ignore the capitalization in those examples. Search engines don’t care about that either (and that’s really the beginning of what you can do).
- Need a definition? Def:wordyoucan’tspell in the search bar works every time.
Search engines are surprisingly user friendly to the common person, but even more incredible to the educated and web-savvy. The more descriptive your word is the better results you will receive. Websites are designed to catch certain words that you type into search engines and attract attention to their website based on a specific word, a short phrase, or an exact quote, depending on the approach the webmaster took when designing that page (if they even thought about it at all, which many don’t). The various words that are better descriptors of a product or query are known as keywords (I should do a blog on those next!) and understanding how your language interacts with keywords can transform a novice internet browser into an experienced search genius.
The best bit of advice we have is, if you aren’t finding what you want, try reframing your search query with other words, synonyms, or with some of these tricks. You never know what a few minor changes can do to change your results.