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Most of us have used Google, or some other search engine like Bing or Yahoo, to find information on the internet. These search engines all use a database of current web pages, key words and hyperlinks to media on the web.

The difference between the various search engines is how they use the database and how they rank the web pages and linked documents with respect to your query, presenting the most relevant results first. Here is a link to Google’s explanation of how their search engine works: howsearchworks.

Even with the best of ranking systems, we are often presented with too much information and too many pages of search results. That’s when filtering the results or refining our search query with advanced search options can help.

Making a simple Google search

To start a Google search, regardless of which search engine your web browser is set to use, type in your address or search bar. This takes you to the Google search web page. Below the text box you will see two buttons: “Google Search” and “I’m Feeling Lucky.”

After typing in your query, if you click on “I’m Feeling Lucky” you jump immediately to the top ranked search result without seeing all of the possible search results.

Alternatively, if you click on “Google Search” several new icons and links will appear immediately below the search box, followed by a screen full of ranked search results. These new links allow you to filter the search results and eliminate some of the information overload.

Filtering your search results

You can narrow the list of results by using the filter links below the search box on the results page. The list of filters varies depending on your search query. Some filter examples are all, images, videos, news, shopping, books, and “… more” – which includes maps, flights, finance and personal.

At the far-right of the list of filter links, you will find “Tools.” Clicking on “Tools” adds another row of filter links. Examples of additional filters are image color options, and date ranges.

Advanced search options

To start, type “advanced search” in the Google search box. The first result will be advanced search. Click on that link.

This gives you a form to create a more precise search query. Fill in any options that you need to use. Option examples: “all these words,” “this exact phrase,” “any of these words,” “none of these words” and “numbers ranging from X to X.” Note, when filling in “this exact phrase,” put the phrase in quotes.

You can further narrow your search results by filling in these options: “language,” “region,” “last update” (of the web page), “site or domain” (.edu, .org, or .gov), “terms appearing” (on the web page), “Safe-Search” (filters sexually explicit content), “file type” (pdf, jpg, or docx) and “usage rights.”

Yahoo also has a form for advanced searches:

Searching and filtering in Bing are similar to Google, but Bing doesn’t use an advanced search form. Bing uses search operators (also used by Google) to do advanced searches. To learn more about search operators, go to: Free video training course

There is a link to the free training course through the Contra Costa County Library. It is presented by Google Senior Research Scientist Daniel Russell:

Have a tech question or want to see an archive of previous Tech Tips columns? Go to the Computer Club website and click on the LINKS menu choice at the top-right of the page.

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