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Search Engines

Updated on April 12, 2006

Search the internet better, faster and more effectively. Find what you need without hassle! Don't just rely on Google to get it right for you! Use the right search engine at the right time for the right search.

[NOTE: This is still a work in progress - much more to come yet] 

Resources on my site

I've got a lot of material on my own site regarding search engines, some of which (but not much) is duplicated here. Feel free to browse around my site if you need more information on search as well as using this list.

You know what you're looking for

If you know what you're looking for, describe it with a few keywords. Using more keywords will let you focus more closely and accurately, and will result in fewer results. Use double quote marks for a phrase search rather than two words, since this will focus the search more closely again. Consider using the minus symbol to eliminate inappropriate words.

Factual information

If you need factual information most search engines will eventually give it to you. However, some are better than others at this, and this is a small listing of some of the best of them

Comparing results from different search engines

Not all search engines are created equal. Some have more information than others, some have less, but none of the them (Google included!) have it all. These resources show you what you're missing.

If you're not sure of what you want, get an overview instead.

Sometimes you don't know quite what you want. In cases like this, you want to use a Directory or Index based search engine. These provide you with various categories and you can drill down until you get to the section you want. Then identify an appropriate looking site and take a look there for the exact information you want.

Take the category approach with results

Sometimes you can't think of a particularly good search - it happens to all of us. When that happens, do the best search that you can think of, and get the search engine to do the work by suggesting some categories to narrow down or broaden out your search for you.

Limiting by date

Sometimes you don't want everything, and you certainly don't want it ranked the way that the search engines think is best. There are some resources that will allow you to limit by date, or alternatively to re-order your results by date.

Multi/Meta search engines for comprehensiveness

If you want to search a lot of search engines, doing it one after another is a real pain. There are a number out there that will let you search half a dozen or more in one go. The advantage is a broader search, the disadvantage is that you can only use fairly simple syntax.

I want to re-rank my results

Sometimes the default order of relevance ranking just doesn't work. It's at times like this that you need a search engine that has a little more flexibility than the average. The following search engines will let you re-rank your results in a number of different ways.

If you want visual results

Most search engines simply provide a textual result, with one site listed after another. Some search engines however provide their results in a visual format. It's not my preferred method of seeing things, but a lot of people like them, particularly students.

Websites that you can trust

Most search engines just rank on what they think is relevant. That doesn't mean however that the information contained is any good. There are lots of rubbish sites that can get a high ranking, simply because they know how to get there. If you want a set of sites with trustworthy data, or you want a 'best of' in a subject area, try one of the following:

Academic information

If you need academic information, it's a real pain to have to sift through all of the commercial sites that come up in a listing. There are a number of search engines that you can use to focus your search just on academic material.

Country or regional searching

Many search engines allow you to limit your searching in some way by location, but they're not always terribly good at it. In Google you can try to limit to just those URLs that end in .uk, but that's not always the best move. Sometimes it's worth just trying a regional search engine instead.

The hidden or invisible web

The 'hidden' or 'invisible' web refers to those sites that have databases behind the page, and you need to use the search engine offered on the site to get to the data that you need. Because of the way that this data is made available, it's not possible for the majority of search engines to access and then index this information.

These engines can be very useful if you're looking for specialised and reliable information, or that difficult to get hold of data.

New search engines

As I discover new search engines I'll pop them into this category, so it's going to be a chronologically arranged collection. However, if I think a search engine is particularly good in another category it'll go there instead, so this is a bit of an 'also ran' listing.

Simple searching

Sometimes all that you want is a quick way to do a simple search, without the hassle. There are a few utilities out there that make this easier.


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