This Week's Links
of Search Engine Ranking
Sink or Swim
What, Where, When
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and Other Silly Questions
by Joe Harkins - Mar 10, 99
Many Internet explorers fear and loathe "search
engines." They are the heavyweight champions of the Internet but, like Mike Tyson,
they are unable to resist every byte they find. Ask AltaVista or Lycos
or Excite or HotBot
for "Travel The Net"
and you'll get back a gazillion web sites addresses.
This week's column identifies sites that make search
engines less of a pain in the modem when looking for a good deal on a tour of China or the
name of that little hotel on the beach in Tahiti.
To start with, many so-called search engines aren't search engines at
all. The phrase originally referred to software programs that send digital spiders (also
called "robots") scurrying across the World Wide Web to make note of every word
they find on every page they encounter. The results are then indexed in gigantic databases
on doomsday-sized computers.
Something less complicated and more tightly focused was needed. That's
why "directories" like Yahoo or Netscape's
Open Directory are so popular despite their own built-in limitations.
Directories are organized like a public library catalog. A trained
person sifts through web addresses and examines the sites. Each is categorized based on
the site's primary purpose. If a site has more than one significant theme, it's
cross-listed in each category . . . sometimes. And sometimes it isn't.
In Yahoo, to find Travel The Net, you click your way down through
layers of categories for Recreation, Travel, News and Media,
Columns and Columnists. If you didn't know how the cataloger
defined it, you wouldn't find it.
Also, the sub-category
process is limited and inflexible. Travel The Net columns written months ago on subjects
such as handicapped
travel or fraudulent
travel contests or phony "name your own
price" airline ticket gimmicks, aren't there yet and probably never will be.
That exposes a directory's major limitation in that it can only be as
up to date as the humans who maintain it or as relevant as its own arbitrary categories.
Web sites change; new ones are born. The cataloging process never ends and is never 100%
accurate or current.
That's why learning how to use a genuine search engine will pay big
dividends. You'll find a comprehensive tutorial at Infobasic.
Unfortunately, despite the author's best intentions, the explanations repeat a mistake too
many computer experts make when talking to the rest of us. You first must grasp the
technical meaning of words such as "expression" and "operator." But
once you pass that hurdle, Infobasic teaches by generous and lucid examples.
Miner's tutorial is a less ambitious but useful plain-language explanation.
Freelance writer Sathish Kumar's Secrets
of Search Engine Ranking was created to help web site builders promote their creations
but his text is helpful to searchers as well.
Mining Company's current humorous radio and television ads poke fun at
the complexities of search engines in order to promote their own excellent human guides.
Ironically, MC's directory contains a long and valuable list of links to
The most complete source of search engine information is Search
Engine Watch. Its designer, Danny Sullivan, avoids the problem of techy language by
dividing his web site into separate sections for experts and us ordinary folks.
Among the special strengths of his site are the insights into
meta-search engines (MSEs). Those are search engines that launch many search engines at
That might sound like piling garbage onto piles of garbage, but it
isn't. MSEs use sophisticated software techniques, invisible to you, to sort out which
answers are more likely to be what you are looking for.
does it by reporting sites that contain the highest number of links to the keyword
searched on. The theory is that web sites that have more links to them are those richest
in that information. Dogpile is less
discriminating but allows searches in areas of the web that you may not have considered
such as newsgroups and wire services. Ask Jeeves
engages you in a version of the party game "20 Questions" to sort out what you
Finally, the best way of all to search the Internet is to let me do it
for you by suggesting a theme for a future column.
Recently Found: The resource
below was found since the original column was published.
Sink or Swim - This complete and easy to understand online seminar is
about search engines. It was created by Ross Tyner, M.L.S., Okanagan
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