Getting the best from Google is up to you…

As regular readers will know, in my blog’s statistics is a section listing a selection of search engine terms that have brought people to my blog. Sometimes, what the person is looking for isn’t there, so that provides me with subjects for posts. All too often, though, I see a search term that is so rubbish, I don’t know how anyone could hope to extract anything useful from Google, or any other search engine.

This is one such, “camers for hanicap”  – what the hell does that mean? OK, the last word is probably handicap (or handicapped – who can tell?), but “camers” – I haven’t the remotest idea. It could be “carers”, but r and m are so far apart on the keyboard that I can’t see it as a typo, and I’m baffled.

Look, it’s quite simple, if you want to get the best from Google (other search engines are available), then you have to phrase – and spell – your questions properly. And to maximise your results, you have to be prepared to change the form of words once or twice, as it’s impossible to predict which form of words will get the best response from Google. For maximum precision, though, you should consider using the Advanced Search function, which adds the ability, among other things, to use a selection of specific keywords.

The important thing to remember, though, is that if you type garbage in, you’ll get garbage out – GIGO is probably the computer industry’s oldest acronym, and it’s as true today was it ever was because – and hold onto this thought – computers can’t think. They believe what you tell them, and if you can’t be arsed to check your spelling, or phrase a question correctly, then you’re screwed. OK, I accept that some people couldn’t spell properly if you put a gun to their heads, so here’s a tip – type your question in Word, or whatever word processor you use, and hit the spell-check button. Then, when everything is as it should be, copy and paste it into Google. That will give you far better odds of getting something useful back that just throwing “camers for hanicap” at it!

True, Google will try to correct your spelling – it’ll even try when your spelling is perfect, because it’s just matching keywords, and will come up with the closest match – or, occasionally, something so utterly left-field it’s baffling, so make sure your spelling is correct, and don’t be sidetracked if Google offers an alternate spelling, because there’s a very good chance it will be irrelevant.

Finally, an anecdote. I had a friend who thought I was wonderful because I could extract useful information on almost any subject from Google, when she couldn’t. That, though, was purely because I took care with what I was asking, and she – although she could type and spell perfectly well – just couldn’t be bothered at all, so what she mostly got out of Google, in response to her ill-written and badly spelled searches, was garbage. Think on, as we say up North…

Footnote: I had to return to this subject when I saw this horror-show “comments on” children and balanced diet . That couldn’t be more wrong. Using quotes means that Google will focus on “comments on” to the exclusion of the important part – children and balanced diet. Done properly, “children and balanced diet” would be in quotes – comments about is utterly redundant. And not putting anything in quotes will widen the field – at the top of the results, Google shows you exactly what it searched for, so use quotes only when it doesn’t do as you asked.

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