The manager and effective online searching

How to use a search engine

We live in an age where information is freely available and where it moves at a tremendous pace. If you want to be successful, you should be able to navigate around the Internet at high speed, so that you never have to tell someone ‘I need more time to research that.’ It could mean the difference between getting or losing a contract.

Sounds easy, hey? But finding the RIGHT information when you get a bazillion possible hits, might not be so easy. You need to know how to use a search engine, such as Google, effectively.

Be specific

In the first place, you must word your search as clearly as you can. Let’s say that you need to make sure that your client has the correct permissions and licences to be able to sell his product with the branding of the next Soccer World Cup. Right. So what do you type into your search engine’s little window?

If you type in the words Soccer World Cup you are going to get hits from every possible World Cup that has ever and will ever take place. You will also get helpful hints about the world, and about cups of all shapes, sizes and types. Too much information! You need to be more specific. How can you remove those other pesky little suggestions and get the search engine to focus on Soccer World Cup?

Use double quotation marks

Well, one of the little secrets of doing a great search is to use double quotation marks before and after the words. This means that the search engine doesn’t look for the world or cup or soccer or any combination of those three words. It looks specifically for the words, “Soccer World Cup”.

The only danger is that you might have misspelled any one of these words, and then you might get you all the sites where people also misspelled these words, but none of the sites where the words have been spelled correctly. Be very careful when using these quotation marks.

Use the minus or plus sign

A safer option might be to use the minus or plus signs to make the search more specific. Again, suppose you typed in Soccer World Cup without quotation marks and you want to get rid of all the sites referring to the Rugby World Cup – what can you do? You can keep your entry Soccer World Cup and then you can add minus (use the normal short hyphen or minus sign) rugby. The words in your window will be:  Soccer World Cup -rugby. Remember: don’t leave a space after the minus sign and before the word that you want to deselect. What you did, is that you asked the search engine to look for any sites in which the words soccer, world or cup appears, but to remove the sites that refer to the word rugby.

You can do the opposite as well, by adding a plus sign before a word that you want, although you might as well then just type the word into the space.

Use “what is”

Another trick that you can remember is to use the words “what is next to the specific word that you are looking up. Some of the top sites that you will get in such a case will give you the definition(s) of the word.

This is very handy if you want to check that you are using terminology correctly, or if someone used a word that you don’t know and you want to make sure that you understood the person correctly.


So, in general, when doing a search, remember that if you use too few words, or make it too general, you will get way too many sites and that might mean that you don’t get to what you are really looking for.

On the other hand, if you get too specific, you might miss a very useful site that just happened to use a slightly different word.

So aim for the middle: enough words to be specific, but not too many that will lead to exclusion of possible sites.

About the author

Lalien CilliersLalien Cilliers. Project Manager. Content Development Manager. eLearning Developer & ICT Trainer [MIITP]. Website creator and social media pager. Helping others learn tough stuff the easy way. Eternally curious. Author of: 9 things you should know … if you ever want to become a manager: The New Manager series and A Guy’s Guide: New Home: How to Find and Furnish Your Own Place