Web Search Tools: Here’s the Basics

Three essential search tools to help you find what you’re looking for online

When you’re just starting out on the web, it can be quite overwhelming to understand which tools are best to use to find what you’re looking for. There are so many options: how do I find something online? How can I stay safe while online? How can I see what I want to see without a lot of clutter? The web is definitely a double-edged sword. while the availability of information is absolutely amazing, it can also be quite intimidating if you don’t know how to get it in a way that makes sense.

That’s where the essential tools come in that can help you organize information on the web into more meaningful channels. There are three basic types of search tools that most people use to find what they’re looking for online (there are more, but these are the basics everyone should start with):

Search engines
Topics Catalogs
Meta search tools
None of these search tools allow you to search the entire web. this would be an almost impossible task. However, you can use these web search tools to scour different parts of the web, get different types of information, and expand your web search horizons.

Search the Web with search engines
Search engines are large, spider (software programs) created databases of web pages that help searchers find specific information on a given topic. You type in a keyword or phrase and the search engine retrieves pages that match your search query.

The search results collected by these search engines are not always relevant to the keywords entered, since these engines are not intuitive and cannot dynamically explain what you might be looking for (although the results are getting better more and more). That’s why it’s important to learn how to search as efficiently as possible using techniques like Boolean searching or basic Google search techniques.

Each search engine interprets relevance differently. Many search engines have included categories to direct users to more relevant sites based on these specific topics. Want to learn more about search engines? Check out my article on How to Choose a Search Engine – Search Engines 101, or discover literally hundreds of search engines with the Ultimate Search Engine Directory.

Search the web for directories
Object directories, in general, are smaller and more selective than search engines. They use categories to focus your search and their sites are sorted by category rather than just keywords. Topic directories are handy for broad searches as well as finding specific sites. The main purpose of most directory items is to be informational rather than commercial. A good example of a search directory is the

Yahoo , a combined search engine / search directory / search portal, or one of the original search directories, Open Directory or DMOZ for short.

Search the Web with Metasearch engines
Metasearch engines get search results from various search engines. Users will get the best hits on their keywords from every search engine. Metasearch tools are a good place to start for very broad results, but they don’t (usually) give the same quality results as using every search engine and directory.

Web Search Tools – The Basics
In a very small shell, these are the three main web search tools you can use to explore the web. Once you’re familiar with these, you can move on to niche or vertical search engines, niche directories, user-generated content hubs, social bookmarking sites … the list is endless. Here are just a few of the resources you might want to try:

Search Engines: Here are the ten most popular search engines. You’re sure to find one here that will fit your unique search needs.
The Invisible Web : There is much more to the web than you can find with search engines, and that is the invisible web.
Social Media : Going online is one of the most popular things to do. Find a group that shares your interests.
Additionally, if you want to learn more about basic web search, try Web Search 101. You’ll find all kinds of great introductory web search material here to help you become a more confident searcher.

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