Search Like A Geek

Some people search the Internet as if they were Neanderthals standing on the steps of the Library of Congress mumbling, “Me want food!” While other, more sophisticated searchers behave more like a person entering the Library of Congress, approaching the librarian, and saying, “Excuse me, please lead me to your books on agriculture and food production, and while you’re at it, please show me your books on fine dining in the Washington, D.C. area.” Whom would you choose to be?

Back in high school, there was the “in-crowd,” which was frequently comprised of jocks, as well as the “nerds” and other social cliques. Today, many of these “geeks” are wildly successful, while others are asking us if we want fries with our burgers.

Since so much of our lives and economy are dominated by computers, software, and the Internet, being a geek today is not so bad. It is prudent to become proficient in Internet usage. By understanding how search engines and directories function, as many geeks already do, you will locate the information you seek more easily, quickly, and with significantly less frustration. You will have an advantage over the vast majority of individuals who lack the ability to quickly identify specific pieces of information. And by saving you time in your day-to-day business operations, this benefit can translate into significant financial savings. In addition, if you operate a website, learning how to search will aid your efforts to optimize it for search engines.

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 glasses, and inserting a pocket protector into the front pocket of your shirt.

Use as many appropriate words as possible.
Next weekend in New York City, I’m looking for tickets to see the new musical Wicked on Broadway. If you simply type the word “tickets” into Google’s search box, you will receive 99.6 million results, which is incredibly cumbersome. appears first in the search results. It took me four clicks to reach their listing for Wicked tickets, but they were sold out for the next six weeks, so it was a dead end since I wanted to go this weekend.

When I searched for tickets to see Wicked on the website, I found that they were only available for performances in Toronto. Another dead end, I need tickets for the New York City performance.

The third result only sold airline and cruise tickets, which is also not what I’m seeking. After visiting four additional websites, I was still unable to locate the desired information. I was irritated, impatient, and on the verge of throwing my computer out the window and giving up.

If I had used a few more pertinent terms in my search, the results would have been significantly better. I typed “New York City Broadway Wicked Musical Tickets” into Google and received 230,000 results as opposed to 99 million, which is significantly more manageable.

The first result was, which provided “Wicked on Broadway Ticket Tips and Seating Information.” Therefore, I clicked on the link and discovered a number of details regarding purchasing Broadway tickets, New York City travel tips, and additional information on the musical Wicked.

The next two results on Google were a href=””>> and a href=””>>.

Both a href=””>> and a href=””>BestShowTicketsLa Consequently, by carefully selecting appropriate search terms and using more than one or two words, I was able to find what I was looking for much more quickly and easily than by simply using the word ‘tickets’.

I am not suggesting that you use countless words without reason. Consider very specific words related to what you’re looking for, be creative, and pay attention to the order in which you enter the words. Both “broadway wicked musical tickets” and “broadway wicked musical tickets” will yield different results.

Never use a single-word search. Avoid using only two words. Use between 3 and 7 words. However, this search rule adheres to the law of diminishing returns. Therefore, a search using 25 words will likely yield few or no results. Therefore, there is a “sweet spot” that you must discover for each search, but it is almost always more than 1-2 words.

Utilize multiple search engines.
When conducting a Web search, I utilize multiple browsers, search engines, and directories. The distinction between the two is that search engines are operated automatically, whereas directories are managed manually. Google is a search engine that displays search results for websites that have not been examined in advance. In contrast, directories contain only websites that have been evaluated by a person. Consequently, the results you obtain will vary. At, you will find a comprehensive list of directories.

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 simultaneously on your desktop. Choose your search terms with care, use more than two words, and try the exact same phrase in Yahoo, MSN, Google, and a preferred directory using a different browser for each. Thus, you can compare results to determine which is the best. You can also try a new site I discovered called a href=” “>>, which allows you to search both Google and Yahoo simultaneously.

Utilize modifiers when searching.
Back to the tickets example, let’s say I wanted to find airline tickets, but every time I searched for tickets, the majority of results were for sports and theater tickets. Using the minus sign (-) next to the word ‘theater’, I could eliminate all those irrelevant results.
Poor results: tickets
Better search: New York tickets
Even better search: New York airline tickets – theater

Try adding a minus sign before words you don’t want to appear in search results if you’re receiving a large number of irrelevant results.

Another useful tip is to use quotation marks around your phrases. By doing so, you instruct the search engine to locate the exact phrase in the specified order. By incorporating quotations, you become much more specific. You’ll get very different results using quotes. If you searched for “2005 NBA playoff tickets” without quotation marks, you are requesting the search engine to return results that include the terms 2005, NBA, playoff, and tickets. Therefore, you will likely discover airline tickets, football playoff information, NBA history, etc. If you enclose your phrase in quotation marks, you will get much closer to the desired result.

Utilize the “Find” feature.
Believe me; this one recommendation alone is worth the price of admission. This will save you a substantial amount of time. Have you ever landed on a Web page with a great deal of text, and a quick scan of the page failed to yield the desired information? In actuality, the scanning causes vertigo.

Try this: while holding the ‘Ctrl’ key, press the ‘F’ key (this works on PCs only). A ‘Find’ dialogue box must appear. Simply enter the word or phrase you wish to find in the box and press the ‘Enter’ key, and it will locate every instance of it on the current web page. This will save you significant time if you remember to use it.

On the Internet, one can get lost. There is an abundance of information, but almost none of it is relevant to your needs at any given time. If you use the Internet for business, your ability to locate pertinent information quickly will always put you ahead of the competition. By following these simple tips, you will obtain more accurate search results, reducing your frustration, saving you time, and giving you an advantage over those who are still searching for information like a caveman on the library steps.

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