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Internet Search Engines


Internet - series of rules allowing various computers to connect and communicate.
World Wide Web - software protocol running on top of the internet; allows users easy access to files stored on internet computers.
Browsing – following a series of hypertext links.
Searching - relies on software that matches specified keywords to locate the most relevant documents.
Hit - jargon for an item retrieved by an online search that seems to match keywords and conditions specified in a search query. Also called results.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) - techniques that utilize keywords and metatags used to increase a website's ranking on results pages.
Search Strategy:
-What is the purpose of the search?
-Critical to finding what you are looking for. A good, clear question will save hours of work.
-Visualize your destination.
-Frame your question – who, what, when, where, why, how: select words that would be on the page.
-Only you know what you are searching for. The search engine does not. You provide what is important.
-Information comes from people. Computers are only as smart as the person who programmed it.


There are four basic search methods to help a searcher isolate relevant information or resources on the Internet. Following is a brief list of some of the search methods and tools currently available for searching the Web.

TIP: Before using a search tool go to the help or information page on their Web site and find out the specifics about that tools search features. The various directories and engines can differ greatly so this can save you a lot of time and frustration and help to optimize your results!

  • 1. Search Engine - Searches the Web with software using keywords chosen by searcher.
  • 2. Web/Subject Directory - Organized collection of Web sites categorized by subject areas.
    • Open Model depends on volunteer editors
    • Closed Model assembled by skilled professionals
  • 3. Meta-Search Engine - Searches multiple search engines and other Internet sources with a single query.
  • 4. Federated Search Engine - allow users to search multiple data sources with a single query from a single user interface.

Note: For a comprehensive discussion of the various search engines and directories available including search strategies, reviews, search features, statistics and comparisons go to Search Engine Showdown.


Web Directories:

Web Directories or Subject Directories have the advantage of using human-selected resources as opposed to the sites that are returned by search engines which are selected and ranked using software. These directories are topically arranged and classified to facilitate easier searching.

Meta-Search Engines:  

Meta-search engines can be a valuable tool for retrieving information from the internet, but should be used with caution. Many only retrieve the top 10-50 returns from each search engine which may exclude many relevant sites.  

  • Dogpile - Provides means to compare results of various search engines.
  • Mamma – The mother of all search engines.
  • Surfwax – Helps you get the best grip on information.
  • Ixquick – Searches MSN, Yahoo, Ask, Altavista, Wisenut.

 Image Search Engines:

 Other Search Engines:

TIP: Recent studies have shown that there is very little overlap or duplication among the various search tools and only a small percentage of available Web sites are actually retrieved by search engines. To compensate for this, it is a good idea to repeat your search using several different tools, even when using meta-search engines.