How to Narrow Down Web Searching Results

by Maya Austen

Search engines produce results by matching the words submitted in a search query to the words written on pages published on the Web. A special algorithm is then used to rank the results from most to least relevant before the findings are presented. While the way search engines respond to user queries is sophisticated, the system is not perfect. You can sometimes be presented with too many results. And the search engine's organization of the results is not always helpful. One way to ensure that you find what you want when you search the Web is to employ techniques to narrow down the search results.

Perform a phrase search. If you want to look for pages published on the Web that contain a very specific phrase, encase the phrase in quotation marks. With a phrase search, the search results will only contain Web pages that have the exact words of the phrase as written in your query. A phrase search is useful if you are searching the Web for someone's name, for example, looking up song lyrics, or searching for information about something that has a specific, title such as a book or movie.

Use the plus sign operative by placing the + symbol immediately before a word. The plus sign operative tells the search engine that you want to conduct a search for a word as it is written. This will prevent the search engine from including Web pages that contain synonyms of the word in the search results. For example, if you simply write "Bikes" in the search engine search box, Web pages containing the words "bicycles" or motorcycles" can also be included in the search results. If you enter "+Bikes" instead, only Web pages containing the word "Bikes" are returned.

Exclude Web pages that contain certain words from the search results. This is accomplished by using the minus sign (-) operative. For example, if you enter "chocolate -bar" in the search engine search box, only those Web pages that contain the word "chocolate" and that do not contain the word "bar" are listed in the results.

Confine your search to a specific website by using the "site:" operative. For instance, if you enter "site:example.com red shoes" in the search engine search box, only Web pages on the example.com website containing the words "red shoes" will be listed in the search results.

Limit your search to words found in the URL of the Web addresses by using the "URL:" operative. For instance, if you enter "URL: red shoes" in the search engine search box, only Web pages containing the words "red shoes" in the URL are listed in the search results.

Use the "Title:" operative to confine your search to words contained with the Title heading of a Web page. For instance, if you enter "title: red shoes" in the search engine search box, only Web pages containing the words "red shoes" in the title of the Web page summary are listed in the search results.

Add additional words to your search query. For example, if you are looking for information on the 1996 "Mission Impossible" movie, do not just type "Mission Impossible" in the search engine search box. Be more specific. Add "Tom Cruise" and "1996," for example.

About the Author

Maya Austen began freelance writing in 2009. She has written for many online publications on a wide variety of topics ranging from physical fitness to amateur astronomy. She's also an author and e-book publisher. Austen has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from the New England Institute of Art and currently lives in Boston, Mass.

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