Sunday, February 22, 2009

Online Search Tactics

I promised a post on how to search more efficiently online and here it is. I few well constructed searches will save you hours of browsing time and possibly help you to find items that others are missing, due to misspelling and such.

There is no reason to re-invent the wheel and there are tons of sites that explain how to search more efficiently. One that I found that I think does a good job of explaining this in easy to understand terms is a teaching guide I found at the Berkeley Library.

Here is an overview of search terms I use on a regular basis:

Quotation marks- putting quotes around a specific phrase will search for these words exactly as you typed them. For example, if you type in wedding dress, you will get results that have those words anywhere in the listing. However, if you put quotes around them, you will only get the listings that have those two words together.

*- this is called a wildcard term and can be used in place of other characters. I use this a lot when I am looking for something in a decade and want to make sure I get as many results as I can. For example, I want a dress from the 1950s, so i may search for vintage dress 195*. By using the wildcard after the 5, my search will include listings that have specific dates in them that I wouldn't have gotten if I just put 1950s. You can read more about wildcards here.

Boolean Terms
- this is similar to the AND search, but you are saying either of the words can be present and it doesn't have to be both. This search will result in a ton of results and should only be used if what you are looking for is obscure or rare.

AND- searches for listings that have both terms in them. Many search engines assume that if you type two words together without quotes around them that there is an AND between them and search for both terms anywhere in the listing. Both of the words need to present in the listing to show up in results.

NOT- this is a very helpful term for you if you are finding that your searches are bringing up results that are related to your desired search, but not what you want. For example, you are looking for vintage apron patterns and your search is bringing up a bunch of kid's patterns too. You could rephrase the search like this- vintage apron patterns NOT children.

A few more tips, some search engines require that boolean terms be in caps, so to be safe just always capitalize when using them. Also, you can use more than one of the terms when constructing a search to try and narrow down your results if there are a lot of them. However, some search engines may read the terms in certain order (NOT before AND) so you may have to try re-ordering your search sometimes.

Effective searching takes time and perseverance. What you are looking for is out there, believe me. Remember, you are at the mercy of the person who posted the item and they may have misspelled something or have different terms to describe something. What you consider a dressing gown, they would call a robe or house dress. Sometimes if I am having issues with remembering different terms, I do a Google image search and click on pictures of things that are similar to what I want for more term ideas. When in ebay or etsy, I make sure and make a mental note of tags or categories of items I like for future searches.

Good luck and good searching!

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