What is a Search Engine and How Does it Work?
What is a Search Engine?
Google along with Bing and Yahoo are known as search engines. They allow you to find information on the internet. Using these tools efficiently with the amount of information out there is becoming increasingly difficult.
Most people are typing in what they are after into the search bar and seeing the results. It is very frustrating to see results that are not relevant or associated with your search term ranked highly.
How do they work?
Search engines send out bots – or web crawlers. These programs scan the pages on each website and store them in an index so that a massive database is formed of the web.
Once the information is stored, and you type in a search in the search bar. The search engines complex algorithm displays the most relevant information.
Unfortunately, even with the most complex algorithm, you will get information not relevant to your search.
This is where the advanced operators come into their own.
Advanced searching – or How to Get the Results YOU Want!
There are a few very simple techniques you can use to improve the quality of your results.
Using the boolean operators – basic techniques
Using the – operator
If you add the – sign between words then all of the search engines will exclude the results after the – sign.
Note there shouldn’t be a gap between the – sign and the second word.
e.g. photography -digital will exclude results on digital photography.
You can use multiple exclusions
e.g. photography -digital -course –magazine.
Will exclude digital along with courses and magazines.
Using the + operator.
+wealth – restricts the top answers to the word wealth.
If you are looking for a quoted phrase enclose it within double quote marks ” “
“Mike Oldfield” will return pages containing the phrase Mike Oldfield.
The ~ operator will search for first word and second word, along with synonyms.
The tilde (~) is used due to the mathematical symbol meaning ‘is similar to’
So ~cheap would also search for inexpensive, affordable low cost.
The operator can be used with any of the words.
So guitar ~tuition will bring back results for lessons, tutors and obviously tuition.
If you need to search for numbers, you know how frustrating it is that you need to know the exact number before you get the right result – well there is an operator to help you
If you are searching for an item in a price range you can use
Guitars $10..$100 – I have found that price in dollars works but price in pounds doesn’t
So 1..50 scrollsaw blades will return all of the results of scrollsaw blades with a value between 1 and 50
If you want to search for words in a specific order use the square brace [ ]
So [make money] will return result with make before money
The More Complex Operators or I Want the Results I Asked For!
The three search engines have added more complex operators so that you can customise your searches even further than above.
Here is a list of some of them.
Allintitle:[text] – this restricts the results to all of the words within the search
e.g. allintitle:acoustic guitars returns results with acoustic guitars in the title.
Inblogtitle:[text] – returns results of blogs with [text] in the title.
e.g. Inblogtitle:wealth – returns the blogs with wealth in their title.
Allintext:[text] returns sites with the [text] in the body of the site
e.g. allintext:wealth – return sites with wealth within the text of the site
site:[text] returns the result for [text] within a site
e.g. wealth site:moneymaker.com returns all the results of wealth within the website moneymaker.com
Define:[text] – returns the definition of the word [text]
e.g. define:bot retuns the definition of what a bot is.
filetype:[text] – this will restrict the results to the [text] filetype, this can be used anywhere in the search.
e.g. madonna filetype:mp3 will return madonna mp3’s
loc:[text] will search within a location, rather than globally.
loc:uk tourist attractions will search for tourist attractions within the uk.
feed:[text] – this will return the rss feeds and is a good way of finding blogs related to what you are searching for.
e.g. Feed:guitars returns the rss feeds for guitars
hasfeed:[text] will return the sites with the feeds
e.g. hasfeeds:guitars returns the results of sites with rss feeds with the word guitar.
Near:[number][text] used to search for two words and constrains how far apart they will be
e.g. guitar near:2 electric the two words will be within two words away from each other.
Noalter: keeps the search from being altered by the alteration service.
e.g. noalter:joiker – returns the results for joiker first
You can utilise these operators together as well to narrow down the search results.
So to search for v911 helicopter within ebay uk
We would search for
“v911 helicopter” site:ebay.co.uk
This comes back with 729 results including the results for all of the spares ( batteries, body parts etc)
At Last I Have the Results I Wanted – Thank You
So after finding out what is a search engine and how does it work. I hope this has opened your eyes to the possibilities of being able to search for what you want not what they think you want. Also saving your time and temper when you see totally unrelated results in the middle of what you are looking for.
Links to the major search engines for more search operators are:
If you need any more information on what is a search engine and how does it work or if you have any special ways of utilising the search engines to give you what you want please share them with us in the comments box below.
Thanks for reading