Search Engines

If you've read our other articles, you're aware that search engines can be very effective for locating people. You're probably also aware that a quick search doesn't always provide the results you are seeking. As an example, a search for Tom Smith on Google returns 35,000,000 results. You'd be very lucky if you found who you were after in the first 10, 20, or even 100 results. Rather than head off to try other avenues, why not get specific with your search?

Tip #1

Try enclosing your search within quotation marks (i.e. "Tom Smith"). Rather than 35,000,000 results, you have narrowed it down to 279,000.

Tip #2

Include the area with your searches (i.e. "Tom Smith" "New York"). By using both the location and quotes, this search has now narrowed to 40,200 results.

There are many effective searching tools provided by each search engine apart from the simple search box. Try clicking the advanced search, or search tips links provided, and you'll start to get a better foundation of what you can really do. A few of the more common include the + symbol. Placed before a word or quoted phrase, the plus symbol enforces that the results will return only pages that have that exact word or quote on them. The - symbol does the exact opposite. If you're returning too many results of a specific nature, and it isn't what you're looking for, take them out of the results with the negative symbol.

By learning to use the search engines effectively, you're more likely to find the person you are seeking, and you'll save yourself a heap of time in the process.

Other Searches

All of the advanced usage tips on search engines can be applied to many online people searches. If you're not returning the results you are after, try moving up to the more advanced search where available. Yahoo! People Search for example has an advanced email search page. Rather than your simple first name, last name, and region search, you can also narrow things down by organization type, organization name, or even throw in an old email address.

Make the most of what's available, and use all the information you have at hand. Free people searches can be very effective, but they are even more effective when you use them well.

April 2005 :: Article 1.03