Monday, October 7, 2013

Short Tips: How to Find just about Anything Online

I'm going to start posting short tips. These won't be like the longer articles I post and will likely be not as well edited, but I'm hoping to build up some readership and they say posting more often helps. By the way, if you follow this blog and enjoy these posts, I would appreciate it if you click the little buttons in the margins to post them to Facebook and Twitter.

Anyway, this tip has to do with using search engines effectively. Frequently, people will ask me a question about something like grammar, writing or technology. It takes me ten minutes or so to come up with an answer. Usually, all I have to do is type in one search into the search engines. So, how do we use them more effectively.

First, go for the "long tail" search. That means type in an entire sentence or phrase instead of just one or two words. Search engines are much smarter now than in the past. You can search most in normal language. For instance, today I needed some information about sales tax in California. I just typed into Google: "What are the sales tax requirements in the state of California for home businesses on the internet?"

The top result was a listing of pages from the State Board of Equalization (the sales tax people). One click on one page and there was a publication about selling over the internet.

Second, go to the source. Okay, I've got a blog. But don't take everything I say as gospel without checking it out for yourself. Anyone can create a blog or a webpage. So, when you look something up online, see who is putting it out. If you want to know about sales tax, your best bet is to go to the state agency that governs sales tax and not a blog by someone who may or may not know what they are talking about.

Finally, compare results. When the question is something for which there may be a variety of possible answers, compare them and look for both similarities and variabilities. For instance, I'm constantly looking up stuff about punctuation and grammar. Some "old school" sites may give the traditional answer, but they may not recognize that even language changes over time. So, by comparing a number of sites you can see what is the most common use which may or may not be the traditional favorite.

I hope these tips help.


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