Better answers

Yesterday, I had mused a bit about search engines.  I got some interesting questions – Dogpile?  Why certainly!  Why just “Go” when you can “Go Fetch”?

Many people just stick with the default search engine that comes with their browser and that’s OK.  Search engines generally all do a wonderful job of bringing back good results from your search query.  This can be frustrating, at times, if you don’t know how best to ask for that search.  Enter a single word like “house” and you’ll get all kinds of diverse results that may not even close to what you’re looking for.

I just did it on Google and got some interesting results.  First, it knew I was searching from Canada and so I got the Canadian Election Doodle.  My results included the television show by that name followed by real estate agents in this area.  It’s Google’s way of trying to guess what I was looking for, given my search parameters.  Bing landed on a beautiful graphic and its results actually gave pictures of houses before getting into television shows.  There were links to the election and tonight’s baseball game so it definitely had a Canadian feel.  Yahoo! had the same landing page as any other days and it featured some election stories.  When I did my search there, I got results about the television show.  I don’t recall ever actually watching it.  Are these search engines telling me something?

The actual answer is that my search was so vague, I didn’t really have a chance of easily getting what I might be searching for.  I’m a sucker for reading stories to help the cause like this one “11 Google Tricks That Will Change The Way You Search“.  If only I could remember them all.  Plus the tricks and tips from all of the other related articles.  In the Bing world, there’s actually a website called Bing tips and tricks.  Am I going to have to memorize those as well?

Apparently, searching for “house” on the landing page just doesn’t cut it.

Quite frankly, I don’t have the mind capacity (or the will) to memorize all of these tips and tricks. 

Fortunately, most search engines have me covered there.  There’s a relatively well hidden better solution.  It’s called “Advanced Search” and you do have to go looking for it.  And I’ll tell you, the search <grin> is worth it.

In Google, go here instead.  https://www.google.ca/advanced_search?hl=en-CA&fg=1

Or Yahoo! Advanced http://search.yahoo.com/search/options?fr=fp-top&p=

Bing used to have an advanced search feature but I can’t find it.  You can still learn the tips and tricks to get better results.  http://bingtricks.com/bing-advanced-search

Duckduckgo uses advanced search terms https://duck.co/help/results/syntax and bangs https://duckduckgo.com/bang.

I’m such a fan of the advanced search feature.  For too long, I saw students fumble with the basic search interface in search of results and then compromised on what they could find instead of finding exactly what they’re looking for.  There really is a difference.

When at the school district, I had located all of the advanced search links and pulled them together into a page that we called the Student Reference Portal.  This was set as the starting page for all students so that they could immediately launch into a search environment that gave them a better chance of finding what they were looking for.  Of course, it still requires the proper use of data to be submitted to the search engine but that just goes to that element of digital literacy.  That’s always worth teaching.

If you’re looking for that “one click” experience to get you to the advanced search, you can do it right now.  Find that advanced search feature for whatever search engine that you elect to use and bookmark it.  It will remain there quick and easy for future use.

Now, when you need to be productive in your searching, instead of crossing your fingers and typing www….. (which is a skill in itself), just click on the bookmark and away you go.  I like to have a couple bookmarked because, as we all know, the exact result you’re looking for may be easier found in one search engine than another.

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