Web Search Tips and Tricks

1. How does Google’s search engine work?

It’s a secret! Google won’t tell you exactly how they do it, and they will blacklist you if they catch you trying to game their algorithm to improve your rank in the search results. But we know this much:
Robots scour the web and index everything, but really mostly just text.
Google will even find pages without links to them, but it may take a little longer.
Google uses a PageRank algorithm to weight the search results and determine the order of presentation.
Priority of search results is determined, in some manner, by the number of links to a page. (The rationale here is that a page more people link to is more important.)
Google makes most of its money by selling space for targeted advertising that appears on the search results pages they deliver to us.

2. Open a browser and go to http://www.google.com

3. Typing a search term.

Search for "white perch" using the regular Google Search button.
As you begin typing the words "white perch" what happens? Do you get a narrowing list of suggestions?
What happens if you pick the "I'm feeling lucky" option?

4. Try the following searches using these custom search options:

Search for: paris (caps don’t matter)
Search for: paris france (the default search uses “and”)
Search for: paris -france (minus means not)
Search for: “paris hilton” (in quotes means exact phrase)
Search for: paris or hilton (using or means find pages with either paris or hilton)
Search for: paris hilton (without quotes)
Search for: hilton paris (does the order of search terms make a difference?)
Compare results
Which search provided the best results if you were looking for the Hilton Hotel in Paris?
What third word might help in that search?

5. Note that Web is highlighted in the upper left. What happens if you click on Images or Maps, for example?

What additional options do you see when you click on More?

6. Google ignores common words unless you tell it not to

Compare results of the following searches:
Use +word to force Google to include common words in a search, as in the following example:
Search for: +the merchant +of venice
Search for: "the merchant of venice"
Seach for: the merchant of venice
Search for: merchant venice

7. Sponsored links...what are they?

Search for: invisibility cloak
What comes up in Sponsored Links? Any invisibility cloaks for sale?
Would you buy one?

8. Open a browser to: http://scholar.google.com

Search for the word: caffeine
Now try that same search in regular google

Homework: What do you think would happen if you used the word “sex”?

9. Google’s SafeSearch

On the Google search page, in the upper right, choose Settings/Search Settings
Set the desired level of filtering under SafeSearch Filtering

10. What do Google search results look like in other countries?

Results vary depending on the privacy and censorship rules of each country.
In China, a Google search on Tiananmen Square doesn’t mention the 1989 massacre.
So much for "Don't Be Evil"

11. Search engine vs. calculation engine

Go to wolframalpha.com
Type in: distance from earth to moon
Do the same in Google
How do they differ?

12. Other search engines:

Pick a term and search for it in both Google and Bing and compare.
What are metasearch engines? Examples: webcrawler, dogpile

13. Try “babelfish.yahoo.com” for a language translation.

Translate “Where is the bathroom?” or some other phrase you might need in a foreign land.
Do a reverse translation back to English...does it still make sense?

14: What if I want to search the way a website used to look in the past?

Try the Wayback Machine at http://www.archive.org and use NAU’s website for example

15: People searches

Google search name and city and state
People under 30? Try Facebook (membership required)
People with a telephone line registered in their name (a landline, usually older people), try whitepages.com
Missed a call? Whitepages is also good for reverse phone lookups
Look yourself up...what information is correct? What is wrong?

16: Map searches

Search for your home address in each of the following and compare:
maps.google.com
mapquest.com
maps.yahoo.com

17. How do I clear my search history from my browser?

Covering your tracks: useful when shopping for Christmas presents or looking up old girlfriends :D
You will want to find History and hit the Clear button...usually Tools/Options or Preferences
You can also tell your browser not to keep a history (useful in computer labs)

Questions?