Search Tips #3

What to do with 50 Million Hits!

© 2000 by Walt Howe
(last updated 17 February 2006)

When you search for information on the big search engines which index millions of pages, you often get thousands of pages of hits in return. If the information you need is among the first pages listed, the large numbers do not matter. But if the information you are looking for is just as likely to be a hundred screens deep into the search results as it is at the top, you have to find a better way to reach what you need than to read through all the screens.

  • Phrase Searching. One of the simplest ways to improving your searches overlooked by many is to search for phrases in double quote marks instead of for single words.

  • Boolean Searching. A more powerful technique is to construct complex Boolean expressions in your search (see Search Guide #2: Boolean Searching). Boolean searching can be used with AltaVista, Excite, HotBot, and Lycos.

  • Similar Pages.Some search engines let you search for more pages similar to one you find. If you find a page in Google that is basically what you want, but think there may be others like it that are better, note the address and go to Google's Advanced search. You can then search for pages similar to the first one you found. This can be very useful in narrowing down too many hits.

Familiarize yourself with these search refinement techniques and find what works best for you.

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