May 5th - 2010

WIRED OFFICE: Getting the most from your Search

Searching on the internet has become an integral part of our lives. There is an infinite amount of information sitting just a few keystrokes/mouse clicks/touch and presses away.

Searching on the internet has become an integral part of our lives. There is an infinite amount of information sitting just a few keystrokes/mouse clicks/touch and presses away.

Search engines use automated computer programs known as spiders or robots/bots to continuously crawl the World Wide Web and create an index of the words on each page. The purpose of the index is to allow information to be found as quickly as possible. Ranking may be determined by the number of times a word appears on a page or on the location of the word on the page, for instance whether it appears near the top of the document, in sub-headings, in links, in the meta tags or in the page title. Every search engine has a different formula for assigning weight to the words in its index, which is why a search for the same word or term on different search engines will produce different results. Currently, the most popular search engines are Google (, Bing (, and ask (

How do you quickly find what you’re searching for?
When researching something on the internet, you can start by going to your favourite search utility, typing whatever comes to mind in the search box and pressing the Enter key. The search engine will scan its database and return a list of links to websites containing the word or words specified. Because the databases are very large, search engines often return numerous pages of results. To narrow your results and have the most relevant pages appear at the top of the results list, it is helpful to have some search techniques in hand.

Keywords: Each and every word you enter in your search will affect your results. Prior to conducting a search, you might want to consider breaking down your topic into key concepts. In one or two sentences, determine what you want to find on the internet. Underline the main concepts in the statement. Choose descriptive words. Be sure to check your spelling. Enter the resulting words into your search engine’s search box. Search generally ignores punctuation and is case insensitive – it doesn’t matter if you use uppercase or lowercase characters (for example, ontario or Ontario will give you the same results).

Phrase searching: Placing double quotes around a group of words tells the search engine to only retrieve information in which those words appear in the exact same order.

Boolean search operators: Boolean search techniques can be used to carry out effective searches. The most frequently used Boolean operators are AND and OR. Connecting search terms with AND tells the search engine to retrieve web pages containing all the keywords in the search. AND helps to narrow your search results as it limits results to pages where all the keywords appear. Linking search terms with OR tells the search engine to retrieve web pages containing any and all keywords. OR expands your search results. You can combine OR statements with AND statements. Boolean operators must be entered as uppercase characters.

Some Google-specific features
Google has created some features to address common searches. These features are specific to Google.

  • Dictionary – to see a definition for a word or phrase, type the word define followed by the word(s) you want defined. For example, define search returns the web definition of the word “search”.
  • Postal Codes – enter a postal code into Google search and you'll be presented with a small map of the postal code’s general location.
  • Mortgage Rates – if you type mortgage rates, you should see a link to a site where you can view and compare mortgage rates from participating lenders.

Search evolving’s main focus is answering questions. You enter a question in the search box, and potential answers are listed. This approach to search appears to be expanding to other search engines. It certainly makes it easier for you to find information when you can directly enter the question. But, do keep the questions simple, and only one question at a time.

About meta-search engines
When using a meta-search engine, you submit keywords in the search box, and it transmits your search simultaneously to several individual search engines. Within a few seconds, results are returned from all the search engines queried. Meta-search engines do not own a database of web pages. They send your search terms to the databases maintained by search engine companies.

Using individual search engines will give you the most precise search results. Using meta-searchers such as Dogpile (, Surfwax (, and Copernic ( is effective if you want to explore more broadly.

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Ontario Real Estate Association

Jean-Adrien Delicano

Manager, Media Relations

416-445-9910 ext. 246