In this Guide
Are you an expert Google searcher? This guide discusses basic and advanced Google search features and is guaranteed to save you a lot of time over the course of your searching career.
A recent study by the Online Library Computer Center (OCLC) found that 84% of individuals begin an information search using Google. A similar study found that less than 1% of all Google searchers proceed past the first page of results. Because I am a responsible librarian, I will comment straight away that the NYIT Library subscribes to 1000s of deep web subscription products. These products include magazines, reports, and peer-reviewed journal articles, and you can only access them because you are an NYIT student. When you graduate, a wealth of resources identical or similar to these will be available to you either through your employer, the government, or your local library. Considering the overwhelming numbers, however, this guide will consider both what you are you likely to find when you Google - yes, I am using Google as a verb - as well as how to effectively search Google using some very simple strategies.
What is in the Google Index
PageRank & Hypertext Matching Analysis
Google uses an algorithm for ranking its web pages known as PageRank and analyzes page content using Hypertext-Matching Analysis. The higher the PageRank the more important the page is deemed to be. There are over 100 factors affecting PageRank, and the algorithm is modified frequently. According to Google, this algorithm includes over 500 million variables and 2 billion terms. A few key aspects Google deems important are:
- How popular a page is.
- The size and position of the search terms within the page.
- The proximity of the search terms within the page.
- Preferences based on prior searches and stored data.
- Click-through-rate data.
When the Googlebot spider scans web servers on the the Internet, it creates an index and reports back relevant findings. While retrieved search results will not surpass 1000 items, currently 2,670,000,000 items are consulted in one form or another. The graphic below displays the step-by-step process taken when conducting a search.
"Life of a Google Query" http://www.google.com/corporate/tech.html
What happens when you hit search
It looks like we are making significant progress! Now we need to consider what happens when you click on the search button. Search engines are not yet capable of understanding natural language, or semantics. Moreover, Google does not know what you are inferring. Are you looking for a bass guitar? Or are you interested in fishing for bass? As a result, every word that you include in your search matters - every word.
When you perform a search, you must think in terms of strategy. For example, what nouns, verbs and/or adjectives express the results that you are trying to arrive at? One useful approach to developing this strategy is to create a mindmap. Mindmapping is essentially an analysis of your subject. Below, I have created a mindmap for a search on Federico Garcia Lorca, the great Spanish poet.
Finally, keep in mind that your search will be processed using boolean algebra. Normally, when you consult a database in advanced mode, you will see the options and, or, and not next to the text entry boxes. In basic mode, Google always applies the "And" operator. In Google's advanced search mode, the boolean operators are more apparent. To see how boolean operators are used in constructing search queries, watch the presentation below. In short, the And function is inclusive, the Not function substracts, and the Or function takes into account similarities.