Monday, October 29, 2007

30 Search Tips

Mary Ellen Bates, who owns Bates Information Services, is one of the nation’s leading experts in customized information research. Her "30 Search Tips" presentation always is a must-attend session at Internet Librarian. Here's a podcast of it.

1. - Firefox fix for Google that offers nice customization features. Removes ads; offers infinite scroll of results; numbers the results so you can tell where you left off; and provides links to let you easily repeat your search using other search engines.

2. Google's Experimental Search offers a new way to see search results. Add view:timeline or view:info to the search query to see different results. Can get dates, measurements, and locations highlighted in search results and images that appear on the web pages are included in the results.

3. Simply Google. Excellent overview site of all Google’s features and sites, downloads, blogs. This is a nice site to give customers to introduce them to Google’s features, filters, etc.

4. Limit your Google image search to retrieving faces by typing &imgtype=face to the end of search result’s URL. In, add filter:face to the query. Result will present images that include faces. The results are not perfect.

5. Limit your image search results to black and white images. Use the pull-down menu in's image search results. Add filter:bw to your query in Can combine with face search in

6. SearchMash is an unbranded Google site. Results are sorted by web page. “Horn of Africa” was her example. Other search results -- images, blogs, videos, Wikipedia -- are presented in upper right corner of results page. URL in results list provides main URL of the site where the information item found and not the URL of the actual page. You can click on that URL to continue your search limited to the site. This is an easy way to drill down through a site and to teach customers that sites have more than one page.

7. In Google, an asterisk (*) is a placeholder for a whole word. It's kind of a NEAR operator. Example: “tax ** increase” (This tip went by way too fast!)

8. GooFresh limits a Google search to only sites recently added or updated in the index. Great for doing a repeated search. Can limit to today, yesterday, last seven days, or last 30 days. It's not perfect, but this is one way to find fresher results. Side note: Mary Ellen recommends we subscribe to the ResearchBuzz newsletter. It pulls sites that are useful for researchers -- lots of databases and invisible web content.

9. More Google date limiting. In Advanced Search, pull down the Date menu to limit to material first seen anywhere from the last 24 hours to the last year. You also can create your own date limiter by adding &as_qdr=dn to the search results page’s URL, where n represents the number of day Her sample search was for the last nine days of results for the Colorado Rockies.

10. compares Google and Yahoo search results. Can “prefer” results from one or the other using the Trust-o-meter. Google and Yahoo orphans -- sites unique to each browser -- are tabs at the top of the results page.

11. Yahoo’s Mindset feature. Are you researching or shopping? Hybrid cars was the example. Use slider bar to reorder results by your intent.

12. MSN’s cool Keyword Group Detection, a synonym suggestion tool. Intended for helping search engine advertisers identify similar words to buy ads for. Example: Searching for "aluminum" brings up "aluminium," the British spelling. This is not a taxonomy or a thesaurus, but it can be helpful for searchers looking for pages created by “regular” people. It also provides a way to find common misspellings. Check “parallel.”

13. I’d prefer this... At, add prefer:word to query. These search results are ranked higher.

14. Live Search Academic offers great search results including page; sort options; and slider bar for verbosity. On the latter, slide it one way to get the petite Cliffs Notes version of the search results, the other way for the full information. Infinite scrolling so you never have to click on a Next link. Mouse over to see abstract in a frame on the right side.

15. MSN’s Keyword Mutation Detection, a common misspelling-suggestion engine.

16.'s maps offer both driving and walking directions. Walking directions are often shorter. Local topography is taken into account.

17. - Use Exalead’s NEAR/n operator to limit results where words are close to each other. Example: (solar OR sun) NEAR/3 power.

18. Exalead supports true wild-card internal truncation for alternate spellings.
- colo?r retrieves color or colour
- globali.ation - The period represents exactly one character so you'll retrieve both the American and British spellings.
- gr(a|e)y whale - a way to limit to specific alternate spellings
- paral+el+ -- The plus symbol is used to mean one or more of the preceding character. Good when you're not sure if there are multiples of a character.

19. Use the search engines’ quick answer feature. Ask’s is especially good.

20. Gigablast's limit to multiple sets. Look at query syntax in the Help file. John | Smith tells search engine to look for first name. Then it looks for sites that contain the word "Smith." Results are ranked only by the second word. Mind you, the first word has to be there, but the ranking is only by second word. Way to get common first word out of results. (I'm not sure how I'll use this, but it's one of the 30 tips, guys.)

21. SnapSearch is very visual and it offer a preview of your result in an actual connection before you visit the site. Helps those who evaluate a site by its look.

22. PageBull is a metasearch tool that's entirely visual that's useful for right-brained searchers. Results are screens of thumbnails from sites. Good for quickly finding a page you remember seeing in the recent past.

23. Squidoo is a hybrid of a web page, interactive polls, Flickr-like photos, notes from readers, and a blog. Great way to share resources with colleagues. Example was Workwalker. It's a way of building your own personalized page with a lot of interaction with users. It's better than enabling blog comments.

24. - The search results deliver small fact-bites in sentences. Maximum of 30 results, however. You may be able to learn what you want without visiting a site.

25. TextRunner for “information mining." It looks for assertions. Example: “what kills bacteria” TextRunner is an experiment from University of Washington that's in beta.

26. is a great source for international statistics. Cool tool for presenting graphical information. The data is from WHO, World Bank, CIA World Factbook, UNESCO, NGOs, etc. Example: Confidence in social institutions

27. TouchGraph finds relationships among URLs. It's good for finding related concepts. Uses Google’s “similar pages” function. Finds related books in Amazon. Uses subject terms. Use for name searching to see how someone relates to other people.

28. Need to get a crash course on a topic? Check out podcast lectures from Yale, Princeton, UC Berkeley, Stanford, and Johns Hopkins professors.

29. OneLook is a reverse dictionary where you can find a word by its definition. Great for those senior moments where you can't think of a word. Example: Large birds.

30. is a vertical search engine on steroids. Excellent clustering on health, US politics, finance, travel, autos, video games, etc. Filter a search by criteria. Can see more liberal or more conservative sites when you're looking for political views. Still in beta.

Mary Ellen offers free subscriptions to her epublication, Search Tip of the Month. I subscribe and recommend it. You can view previous tips and sign up here.

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