Look for information like a nerd.

Some people search the Internet like a Neanderthal grunting, “Me want food!” as he stands in front of the Library of Congress steps. Other, more sophisticated searchers imitate a person walking into the Library of Congress, approaching the librarian, and saying, “Pardon me, please lead me to your books on agriculture and growing food, and while you’re at it, please show me your books on fine dining in the Washington D.C. area.” Which character would you prefer to be?

There was the ‘in-crowd,’ which was often populated by jocks, and then there were the geeks, among other social clicks, back in high school. Many of those ‘geeks’ are now hugely successful, while some of the unfortunate ones are now asking if we want fries with our burgers.

So being a geek today isn’t so bad, especially since computers, software, and the Internet control so much of our lives and economy. It’s a good idea to learn as much as you can about how to use the Internet. You’ll find the information you’re looking for more easily, quickly, and with a lot less frustration if you understand how search engines and directories work, as many geeks already do. Knowing how to quickly pinpoint specific pieces of information will put you ahead of the majority of people who lack these abilities. And by saving you time in your day-to-day business, this advantage can add up to a lot of money. If you run your own website, learning how to search will also aid your search engine optimization efforts.

So, join me in learning how to search like a geek by pulling up your pants to make high-waters, applying masking tape to the bridge of your eyeglasses, and inserting a pocket protector in your front shirt pocket.

It’s best if you use as many appropriate words as possible.
Let’s say I’m looking for tickets to a new Broadway musical called Wicked in New York City next weekend. You’ll get 99.6 million results if you just type the word ‘tickets’ into Google’s search box, which is a lot. Ticketmaster.com is the first result. I got to their Wicked ticket listing after 4 clicks, but they were out of stock for up to 6 weeks, so it was a dead end since I wanted to go next weekend.

The next result was Tickets.com, where I found Wicked tickets only in Toronto when I searched for it on their site. Another dead end: I’m looking for tickets to the New York City production.

The third result only offered airline and cruise tickets, which isn’t exactly what I’m looking for. I still hadn’t found what I was looking for after visiting four more websites. I was becoming increasingly frustrated and impatient, and I was on the verge of throwing my computer out the window and giving up completely.

My search results would have been much better if I had used a few more appropriate words. I tried searching for ‘new york city broadway wicked musical tickets’ on Google and got 230,000 results instead of 99 million, which is slightly more manageable.

The first result was www.musicalschwartz.com, which provided ‘Ticket Tips – Wicked on Broadway, Seating information.’ So I clicked on it and learned a lot about buying Broadway tickets, NYC travel tips, and other Wicked the musical information.


Both  had tickets for the Broadway musical Wicked in New York City on the weekend I wanted. So, rather than searching with the word ‘tickets,’ I found what I was looking for much more easily and quickly by carefully selecting appropriate words to search with and using more than one or two words.

I am not suggesting you use lots and lots of words willy nilly. The best method is to come up with a list of very specific words related to what you’re looking for, be creative, and pay attention to the order in which you put the words. You’ll get different results if you search for ‘broadway wicked musical tickets’ and ‘tickets broadway wicked musical.’

Never conduct a search based on a single word. Avoid using only two words. Make an effort to use 3–7 words. However, the law of diminishing returns applies to this search rule. As a result, searching with 25 words will likely yield few or no results. So, for any given search, there is a “sweet spot” that you’ll have to find, but it almost always involves more than 1-2 words.

Use a variety of search engines.
When I search the Internet, I use multiple browsers and search engines or directories. The difference between the two is that search engines are run by computers, whereas directories are run by people. Google is a search engine that displays search results for websites that no one has ever visited. Websites that have been reviewed by a person, on the other hand, are found in directories. As a result, your outcomes will vary.

Open your browser and select ‘New’ > ‘Window’ from the ‘File’ menu in the top left corner. Repeat this process until you have three or more browsers open on your desktop at once. Use more than two words in your search terms, and try the same exact phrase in Yahoo, MSN, Google, and a favourite directory using different browsers. You can then compare the results to determine which are the best.

In your searches, use modifiers.
Let’s return to the tickets example. Let’s say I wanted to buy airline tickets, but every time I searched for tickets, the majority of the results were for sports and theatre tickets. Using the minus (-) sign next to the word ‘theatre,’ I was able to eliminate all of the irrelevant results.
Ticket search is a bad idea.
Ticket to New York is a better option.
Even better, try looking for airline tickets to New York –theatre.

If you’re getting a lot of irrelevant results from your searches, try adding a minus sign to the words you don’t want to appear.

Another useful tip is to use quotation marks around your phrases. By doing so, you’re instructing the search engine to look for the exact phrase in the order you specify. You can be much more specific by using quotes. When you use quotes, you’ll get very different results. If you typed in ‘2005 NBA playoff tickets’ (without the quotes), the search engine will look for websites that contain the words 2005, NBA, playoff, and tickets. As a result, you’ll most likely find airline tickets, football playoff information, NBA history, and so on. You’ll get a lot closer to what you want if you put quotes around your phrase.

Make use of the ‘Find’ feature.
This one suggestion, believe me, is worth the price of admission. If you do this, you will save a lot of time. Have you ever gotten to a Web page with a lot of text and found that quickly scanning the page doesn’t produce what you’re looking for? The scanning, in fact, makes you dizzy.

Try this: press the ‘F’ key while holding down the ‘Ctrl’ key (this works on PCs only). A dialogue box labelled “Find” should appear. Simply type the word or phrase you’re looking for in the box and press ‘Enter,’ and it will find every instance of it on the current Web page. If you remember to use it, you will save a lot of time.

On the Internet, it’s easy to get lost. There is a lot of information out there, and almost none of it is relevant to what you want at any given time. If you use the Internet for business, being able to quickly locate appropriate and relevant information will always put you ahead of the pack. You will find more accurate results by following these simple suggestions, which will reduce your frustration, save you time, and give you an advantage over others who are still searching for information like a caveman on the library steps.

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