How to use a Search Engine
By: Scott Hendison      Published: April 1998  -



A search engine is a commercial service on the World Wide Web that allows users to search for any information they can think of 24 hours a day 365 days a year. The intense competition among search engines is fueled solely by advertising dollars. Now there are even people who make their living helping others websites be more "findable" by the search engines.

As many of us have found out, it can be very difficult and time consuming to sift through all the information that comes your way when you try to search for information on a search engine. A simple search can get hundreds or even thousands of results.

It hasn't always been that way, though. In May of 1994, my wife and I decided to buy a house. Being semi-savvy on the computer, I thought I would try to search the Web for listings. I went to my preferred search engine site, and typed in "houses sale Portland Oregon." I got back only three matches.

Today, that same query, on that same search engine, gets exactly 60,681 matches.

On many search engines, simply putting a plus sign between your words, and leaving no spaces, will greatly reduce the number of matches or "hits." The plus signs tell the search engine to only include links that have all of your key words, instead of just a few, or even one.

The same search that yielded over 60,000 results turns up with only 456 when phrased with plus signs, "houses+sale+Portland+Oregon".

I have found that the quickest way to get right to what you want is to exaggerate your search parameters. By this I mean to do a search for your ideal result, for example, houses + sale + Portland + Oregon + affordable + fenced + Max + busses + police + freeways + kids + schools + blue." Obviously this search will net you zero results, but then you gradually decrease your requirements by eliminating one or two words at a time until you end up with a workable number of links to choose from.

Some engines will not recognize the plus sign; for no apparent reason they prefer commas. Others will automatically assume that you want all the words included unless you tell it you don't! There are no consistent rules, but a link to each search engine's individual guidelines can be usually be found somewhere on their home page. Sometimes it's called "search tips" or "advanced searches." You can quickly learn each engine's preferences and quirks by reading their information page. If the directions are too complex, change to another search engine that better suits your technical expertise.

It is up to each company to have an easy method of understanding their guidelines, and getting you the consumer exactly what you want. Their advertising rates are based on how frequently they are used. Treat them as you would any other business. If you're not happy, take your business elsewhere. Remember, you are the customer, and they work for you, not the other way around!



Copyright 1998, All Rights Reserved


Scott Hendison is the CEO of Search Commander. He is a former Portland computer store retailer that built a local on-site service business through Pay Per click and organic search engine optimization. In 2003, he started focusing exclusively on search marketing.


Today he is a search engine marketing consultant that serves clients in 5 countries, who find him on the front page of most search engines for "internet consultant" and related phrases.