The other day I found that one of my friends hates using search engines saying that they can never understand how people can find what they are looking for when they are not able to.
This came as quite a surprise so I asked them to search for something they were interested in. It was interesting to see how they fumbled their way through using keywords and the search engines in general. So where were they going wrong? They assumed that when they had to search using keywords that they had to know specifically what they were after. This is borne of not having a great understanding of how search engines work in todays mass of information.
In the beginning…
For those who are too young to remember how search engines originally worked, you did actually need to know what you wanted to look for. This was a catch-22 situation. If you knew what you were looking for, then you didn’t need to look for it. If you didn’t know what you were looking for, then you wouldn’t be able to look for it. You see, it all came down to the fact that webmasters were allowed to put masses of keywords into their websites – a list of words separated by commas. There never used to be anything wrong with that. It was how it worked ‘back in the day’. This meant that if a website had a particular string of keywords, the information could be found but obviously it was not possible to cover every single possibility of what may be searched for.
Of course today, having paragraphs worth of keywords is not deemed ‘good form’. So how can people search and find what they are looking for? Luckily for all of us, the information available on the world wide web has exploded and search engines have changed and therefore it is very rare to not receive results which contain the information that people are looking for. There is an infinite number of ways of gaining the information you are after, but I’ll explain a few so you can see how it works.
I decided, purely as a theoretical scenario, to get a Jack Russell and wanted to know how big they get, how long they live and what food is best to feed them. Firstly I searched with a few keywords which came up with the following results:
This result instantly gives information that you can read and pick up some basic information without even having to go to any websites. It gives a few general websites related to dogs and therefore Jack Russells. The next search was a little less specific:
This results displayed a very reduced number of references. Why? Because with Google, as with other search engines, they learn as people use it more. So what is the best way to search for any topic? That is down to personal choice, but the above examples show that it doesn’t matter how you use the search engines, they will always come up with relevant results. More and more people are beginning to use ‘human’ requests (as in the last example) and the results will become more and more relevant to you as a surfer.