Using Search Engines For Beginners – Part Two

Using Quotation Marks To Multiply Search results. Now that you know how to add and subtract terms, (see issue #13 of Mender) we can move on to multiplication. As in normal math, multiplying terms through a “phrase search” can be a much better way to get the answers. For example, remember when we wanted pages about reserving a campsite in Arizona? We entered all the terms like this:

+Arizona +camping +reservations

This brings back pages which have all those words on them, but there’s no guarantee that the words may necessarily be near each other. You could get a page that mentions Arizona in the opening paragraph but then later on talks about getting camping reservations in the Grand Canyon. All the words you added together would appear on this page, but it still might not be the information you are seeking. Doing a phrase search avoids this problem. This is where you tell a search engine to give you pages where the terms appear in exactly the order you specify. Do this by putting quotation marks around the phrase, like this:

“Grand Canyon camping reservations”

Now, only pages that have all the words and in this exact order will be listed. The answers should be much more on target than with simple addition. Likewise, in this example?

+windows +2000 +bugs

As you can imagine, multiplying the terms together within a phrase search would work better, because that exact phrase probably appears on relevant pages dealing with Windows 2000 bugs. So try this:

“windows 2000 bugs” and include the quotation marks.

Combining Symbols

Now we’re getting fancy. Once you’ve mastered adding, subtracting and multiplying, you can combine these symbols to easily create targeted

searches. For example, a person wants pages only about Star Trek’s original series? We searched this way:

star trek -voyager -deep -space -nine -next -generation

A better search might use subtraction and multiplication together:

“star trek” -voyager -“deep space nine” -“next generation”

Where Does This Work?

Practically all of the major search engines support Search Engine Mat. Here are some specific issues involving particular search engines. AltaVista is a little unusual in that it has automatic phrase detection. Thus, you shouldn’t need to use the quotation marks, although you still can, if you prefer. You may also need to use the + symbol within quotation marks at Google. See Google’s Search Assistance Features for more information about phrase searching at Google.

Snap, Lycos, MSN Search, Netscape Search and Yahoo are unusual in they are primarily directories, which are built by humans. Editors list sites by category, and they usually give each site a short description. When you search at a directory, you are first shown matching web sites, if there are no matching web sites at all, you are then shown matching web pages which come from search engine listings. You can still use Search Engine Math at directories, despite them being slightly different from regular search engines that crawl the web. Good luck and good searching.