Any way you look at it, the internet is massive. As of 2020, there were over 6 billion web pages indexed. The information on those pages covers every subject known to humankind, and probably a few that are completely made up. In the face of odds like that, the chances you find what you are actually looking for should be very slim indeed.
Luckily we have search engines, from Alta Vista and Ask Jeeves from years ago, right up to Bing and the mighty, all-conquering Google to fish the answers out for us. However, with all of that information to sift through, even Google won’t get it right all of the time. If you want to find what you are actually looking for on the internet, then you not only need to give Google a helping hand, you might have to look in other places altogether.
#1 Make sure you are asking the right question
You will have no doubt heard the phrase ‘garbage in, garbage out’ in the world of tech and computing. Well, that is also true when searching the internet, only on a much larger scale. If you don’t want to spend your entire day scrolling through pages of things that are vaguely what you asked for, you need to be specific.
Google and the other search engines are built to give you exactly what you asked for. So, if you just typed in ‘TVs’, be prepared for a load of results. If you type in the model number of the TV, you’ll get more of what you want. That example is a bit obvious, but if you apply the same principles to every search, you’ll waste far less time to find what you are actually looking for.
#2 Use a specialist search engine
This is where you leave Google behind and go very niche. Despite all of the criticism, Google is a very powerful tool, but it does try and cover everything. For very specific things, you need to look for a specialist search engine. There is nothing odd about this, it’s like visiting the local hardware store because they probably won’t have that color paint at the supermarket.
Plenty of them exist. For example, if you’re looking for the best royalty-free images for your blogs, you would search on Pixabay, and if you wanted the best datasheet locator you would go to Octopart. The same also applies by the way, if you want to be found in specialist areas. So, the amateur photographer needs to ensure they are listed on Pixabay, and electronics components manufacturers need to make sure they are on Octopart
#3 Be wary of manufactured results
The value of a first-page result on Google can’t be underestimated. For this reason, businesses will pay individuals or agencies to make sure their website fits in with Google’s criteria. Although Google changes this regularly (known as an algorithm update) these ‘search engine optimization’ people are good at their jobs. This means that what you see at the top of the search results might not be exactly what you’re looking for, but instead exactly what ticks every box in Google’s search criteria.
These top answers will normally be dominated by the companies who have the most money to spend, so they dominate certain ‘keywords’. You can bypass this by either clicking straight over to page two or three and seeing what is there or by cross-referencing your answer.
You can do this by using another search engine such as Bing or the wonderfully named DuckDuckGo, and see what those search engines come up with for the same search. If a website features on the front page of three different search engines, it probably has a decent answer for what you are looking for.