Section 5 Web Myths > URLs > Search Engines > Special Directories > Exercise > Precision Searching Strategies > Exercise

Trial and Error

If the first few sites in a set of search results prove unhelpful, use these sites to reconsider your search terms. They may very well indicate that you need different search terms, or you need to broaden or narrow them, or that you need to put them in context. In other words, you may have to do multiple searches before you get the results you are looking for.

In addition, when you check results, go beyond the first few documents. Because of the way search engines rank documents for relevance, you may have to look well beyond the first few hits to find what you really want.

Consider Ranking

Search engines differ in the ways they rank results. Many give a higher ranking to sites that contain the search terms in the URL, headline, and first few paragraphs. In others, the more frequently a search term appears in a document the more relevant to a search it is judged to be. Others rank a document more relevant if the search terms appear close together. These considerations are known as on-the-page rankings.

Other search engines employ off-the-page rankings to determine relevance. A document may be given high relevance if there are many links to it from pages ranked high by the search engine. Google ranks a page by the number of pages that link to it, so the more frequently a document is linked to, the better it is considered to be. Some companies pay search engines for high placement on a results list.

Change Search Engines

If several searches using
one search engine produce unsatisfactory results, try another. No two search engines have the same collection of Web pages, so another search engine might produce a better set of results.

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