Delegates on the recent Advanced Internet Search Strategies workshop held at Manchester Business School came from the commercial sector, charities and the NHS. It was a lively day and the group came up with a very interesting list of Top 10 Tips:
1. It isn’t you!
You run your search a second time in Google and you get a completely different set of results despite having run the same search a mere 20 minutes before. Or you run a site search in Google but the results come from here, there and everywhere. Or your results bear no resemblance whatsoever to your search strategy. Don’t worry – it isn’t you. Google does play up at times and results are rarely consistent or reproducible from one moment to the next. If you are having serious difficulties getting any sense out of Google, don’t struggle. Try another search engine (Yahoo, AlltheWeb Livesearch, Ask, Exalead, Windows Live).
OK – we slagged off Google in Tip 1 but it can still deliver the goods a lot of the time and is the first port of call for most of us. Make sure, though, that you are using the advanced search features to the full and that you are using the right part of Google for example News for current headlines, Images, Blogsearch etc.
3. AlltheWeb Livesearch – http://livesearch.alltheweb.com/
Start typing in your search and AlltheWeb Livesearch immediately displays results and alternative search strategies that change as you type. The changing results help you spot when you are starting to go wrong with your search and the suggested alternative searches can be useful if you are unsure of how to tackle a subject.
4. Google Maps/Local – http://maps.google.co.uk/.
Great maps combining ordinary street maps with satellite images. (The business search option is not always reliable, though, and Google does not seem to want to tell you where railway stations are).
5. Use the Wayback Machine (http://www.archive.org/) to see what was being said on a web site in the past or to track down “lost” documents and pages.
6. Remember that you are searching an out of date index of the web when you are using Google et al. Google is the least up to date: Yahoo and MSN/Windows Live seem to be the most frequently updated.
7. Explore Blogs as potential sources of information opinions on industry events, products etc and RSS feeds as a means of delivering search alerts and current news headlines. You will need a feed reader for RSS feeds: try Newsgator.com (web based reader) or Omea (http://www.jetbrains.com/omea/reader/) if you are looking for a PC based reader.
8. Trovando – http://www.trovando.it/
Enables you enter your search strategy once and run it in different types of search tools one by one for example web, images, news, blogs, audio, video.
9. Repeat the most important terms or terms in your search one or more times. This will often change the order in which your results are sorted and give you different results.
10. If your search involves numbers, distances, weights, prices or measurements of any sort use the numeric range search in Google. For example:
toblerone 1..5 kg
to find online shops selling large(!) bars of toblerone
TV advertising spend forecasts 2005..2012
to look for forecasts mentioning years from 2005 to 2012.