Search Engine Optimization FAQ
How To Use Search Engines

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How To Search:

There many ways to search for information on the web. To find out what works for you, experiment with the different techniques each engine offers. Some of these techniques are described below.

Most search engines use similar techniques, but may utilize different syntax. Do not hesitate to check out the help page links regarding the various search engines. In the long run, you'll save a lot of time and frustration on your quest for knowledge.

For the most part, you won't have to use the techniques described in Advanced Searching. But find what works for you and don't be afraid to try new things. Good Luck!

How to Use A Simple Search To Find What You Are Looking For:
How to Use An Advanced Search To Find What You Are Looking For:

How to Use A Simple Search To Find What You Are Looking For:

How can I perform an effective search? top
It's best to enter as many exact search terms or phrases qualifying the subject you're interested in as possible. The more precise you are with exact terms, the better the results.

How can I search using phrases? top
You can search for phrases by enclosing them inside quotations.

For example:
"Abraham Lincoln" finds occurrences of the name Abraham Lincoln, capitalized in just this way.

Another way to link words into phrases is to insert punctuation between them.

For example:
Abraham;Lincoln;Gettysburg;Address.

How can I search using required terms? top
You can have a keyword prefixed by a "+" symbol to mark words that must be present within the documents found. The "+" symbol may be used in conjunction with quotation marks, so you can include entire phrases within the returned documents.

Can I filter out results by excluding terms? top
You can use the "-" symbol as a prefix to exclude any terms. As with the "+" symbol, you may use the minus symbol with quotes.

How can I use wildcard characters to find what I'm looking for? top
With simple queries you're allowed to enter a wildcard character at the end of phrases substituting for any combination of letters. The asterisk (*) is AltaVista's wildcard character.

For example:
Butt* will return all occurrences of butt, butts, butter, button, etc. The asterisk cannot be used at the beginning or in the middle of words. It will substitute for up to five lower case letters.

How can I search for a document with a known title? top
To search for a document with a known title, enter the keyword title in the search window, and follow it with the title in double quotes.

For example:
title: "Mr. William Shakespeare and the Internet"

The most useful advice for searching (since the indices are text based whole words), is to be as precise as possible when describing what you're looking for, and exclude items you're not interested in.

For example:
"Viet Nam" +Saigon -conflict -war, will find information on Viet Nam and Saigon, and exclude information on the conflict.

How to Use An Advanced Search To Find What You Are Looking For:

What is an advanced search? top
Advanced search is the same as simple search, with the addition of boolean searching, proximity operators, and logical groupings with parentheses. With most search sites these options are only available if you select an advanced search option from the main page.

What is boolean searching? top
Boolean searching is when you use boolean logic to relate terms together for a search. Boolean logic uses operators like AND, OR and NOT. You can combine these operators with the terms you're searching for to make searches more precise.

You may enter these operators in lower or upper case, but it's probably best to use uppercase so they stand out from ordinary search terms. This makes the logic of the search more apparent. If these words are part of the terms you're searching for, they must be enclosed in quotes. It's best to group your terms within parentheses to avoid confusion, but this is not required.

What is a proximity operator? top
A proximity operator, such as NEAR, can be used to search for documents that have search terms close together.

Examples of boolean and proximity searches:

  1. horses AND carriages
  2. "Abraham Lincoln" AND "civil war"
  3. ("Abraham Lincoln") AND NOT ("civil war")
  4. (Note: Do NOT use x NOT y, it must be x AND NOT y)
  5. "Thomas Middleton" OR "Beaumont and Fletcher"
  6. (dogs OR cats) AND ("pet care")
  7. "William Shakespeare" NEAR internet
How do I find out how to use the advanced options for searching? top
Most search sites have a help page telling you how to conduct different searches.


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