Maths to Instruct the Search Engines

Cape Times (South Africa), September 2, 2008 | Go to article overview

Maths to Instruct the Search Engines


Last week I started explaining how to improve Google searches to remove extraneous information using a pre-search analysis. This week I'm continuing with an introduction to "search engine maths" which will help you to instruct search engines such as Google effectively.

When used in constructing a search expression, simple Boolean logic can be very useful for finding what you want with precision.

See www.adam.ac.uk/info/ boolean.html for a basic introduction. In most cases, however, I find you can easily add or subtract your way to better Google searches with the following "search maths" tips.

Using the plus (+) symbol before each search term ensures that a search engine finds pages that have all the words you enter, not just some of them.

For example, imagine that you wanted to reserve a camping space in the Drakensberg.

You might start out simply searching for "Drakensberg camping". If so, you'd probably get too many off-target results. Instead, try searching for all the words you know must appear on the type of page you're looking for, like this: +Drakensberg +camping +reservations. Sometimes, you want a search engine to find pages that have one word on them but not another word. The minus symbol (-) lets you do this.

For example, imagine you want information specifically about Windows XP but keep getting pages about Windows 98 or Windows 95 too. You could eliminate them with a search like this: Windows XP -98 -95.

The pre-search analysis will specify certain obvious words to exclude in searches; frequently you will need to add more omissions to this list as a search progresses.

Symbols and phrase searches can be combined to create targeted searches. …

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