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Search the Web More Efficiently: Tips, Techniques and Strategies (Part I)

By Daniel Bazac
Posted Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Studies show that after email, searching the Web is the most popular activity on the Internet. Searching is easy; finding what you're looking for can sometimes be difficult. Hopefully the advice below will make your next Web search a breeze.

Do you really need the Web?

Before using the Web to search for information, you'll have to ask yourself if the Web is the most appropriate medium to use to find your information. You can find a florist shop in your neighborhood faster by using the local, printed Yellow Pages instead of using the Web. And sometimes a library can give you better, more comprehensive answers than the Web.

However, in most of the cases, the best and fastest way to find information is... a Web search.

Obviously, the first thing you need to search the Web is a computer with Internet access.

Before really starting your search, you'll have to decide which browser you are going to use. As a reminder, a browser, according to WhatIs.com is a program "that provides a way to look at and interact with all the information on the World Wide Web." You can select a popular browser such as Explorer, Netscape, Mozilla or Opera or you can use an alternative browser. My favorite: Avant Browser. (I have NO connection with them) Keep in mind that some browsers are faster or have more options. You can download these browsers from their companies' web sites.

Tools for searching the Web

There are many search tools available: search engines, subject directories / virtual libraries, invisible (deep) web databases, meta search engines, etc.

A search engine is a keyword searchable database of Internet files that uses a software program to continually scour the Web. The resulting information is then indexed and stored in its database.

My favorite search engines are:

* Google™ [http://www.google.com/] * AlltheWeb [http://www.alltheweb.com/] * MSN [http://www.msn.com/] * Teoma [http://www.teoma.com/] * AltaVista [http://www.altavista.com/] * WiseNut [http://www.wisenut.com/]

A subject directory (web directory) is a searchable collection of Web pages gathered, selected and organized by human editors into hierarchically subject categories. A virtual library is a web directory that includes highly selective links, chosen mostly by librarians.

Web directories cover a much smaller proportion of the Web but using them will bring you more highly relevant results. The largest web directories index a few million pages compared with the billions of pages indexed by some major search engines.

Remember that the web directories - like the search engines - do not search the Web directly. Instead, they search their own databases of indexed Web pages. Also, be aware that directories might not be up-to-date. Some search engines are in fact hybrid search tools because they are both search engines and web directories. (Google™, for example, has a search engine and a directory, powered by Open Directory Project)

Some widely used web directories are:

* Google™ Directory [http://directory.google.com/] * Open Directory Project (ODP) [http://www.dmoz.org/] * Yahoo! [http://www.yahoo.com/] * Zeal [http://www.zeal.com/] * JoeAnt [http://www.joeant.com/] * Gimpsy [http://www.gimpsy.com/]

Popular virtual libraries include:

* Librarians' Index to the Internet [http://www.lii.org/] * Internet Public Library [http://www.ipl.org/] * The WWW Virtual Library [http://www.vlib.org/] * Internet Scout Project [http://www.scout.wisc.edu/Archives/] * BUBL Link [http://www.bubl.ac.uk/]

The so-called invisible (deep) web is a collection of online information stored in live databases accessible on the Web but not indexed by traditional search engines. Examples of excellent invisible web databases are:

* ProFusion [http://www.profusion.com/] * Invisible-web.net [http://www.invisible-web.net/] * Complete Planet [http://www.completeplanet.com/] * Resource Discovery Network [http://www.rdn.ac.uk/] * direct search (Gary Price) [http://www.freepint.com/gary/direct.htm]

A meta search engine (also known as metacrawler or multithreaded engine) is a search tool that sends your query simultaneously to several search engines, web directories and sometimes to the so-called invisible (deep) web. After collecting the results, the meta search engine removes the duplicate links and - according to its algorithm - will combine and rank the results into a single merged list.

Because most of the meta search engines take only the top 10 or 20 from each search engine, you can expect excellent results, "la crème de la crème."

But be aware that because some search engines and web directories do not support advanced searching techniques - such as quotation marks to enclose phrases or Boolean operators - no results from those search engines will appear in the meta search engines' results list when those techniques are used.

Remember, meta search engines do not maintain their own databases and therefore cannot accept web site submissions.

The best meta search engines are:

* ez2Find [http://www.ez2find.com/] * Vivisimo [http://www.vivisimo.com/] * InfoGrid [http://www.infogrid.com/] * Infonetware [http://www.infonetware.com/] * iBoogie [http://www.iboogie.com/]

A special kind of meta search engine is the search utility (also called desktop search programs or client-side search software). Unlike the web-based meta search engines listed above, search utilities are software programs that you download to your computer. The most popular are:

* Copernic [http://www.copernic.com/en/index.html] * Arrow Search [http://www.rt-software.co.uk/arrow_search/] * SearchRocket [http://www.searchrocket.com/] * WebFerret [http://www.ferretsoft.com/index.html] * ProtoSearch [http://www.npccenterprises.com/products.shtml]

Meta search engines are excellent tools, but they do not eliminate the need for search engines.

For more about meta search engines, see my article: The Meta Search Engines: A Web Searcher's Best Friends.

Please see Part II.

About the Author
Daniel Bazac is the Search Engine Marketer for Web Design in New York [http://www.web-design-in-new-york.com], a site design, search engine optimization and promotion company. He also maintains Bazac Weblog [http://www.bazac.blogspot.com/] a blog about the search engines and search engine marketing news and articles. He can be reached at mailto:danielbazac@hotmail.com .