the Web Like a Pro
by Reid Goldsborough
July 1, 2003
When searching for information on the Web, do you just
fire up Google [www.google.com]
and type in a word or two? You’re not alone.
Despite Google’s effectiveness as an Internet search
tool, you probably could be a lot more productive in finding
the information you’re after, using Google or any
other search site. So says Paul Krupin, and he’s
Krupin, who has worked for the past 24 years as a researcher
for the U.S. Department of Energy, wants to help others
be better Web searchers. He has written a series of new
books titled Magic Search Words [www.magicsearchwords.com],
and he’s in the process of launching a pay Web site
that automates Web searching using his ideas [www.searchwordpro.com].
The books deal with Web searching involving narrow topics,
including jobs, scholarships, and health, and he’s
currently writing another about how to most productively
search for information at work. He shared with me his
One simple trick is to add search words to your search
string, words that will more finely hone your results.
Use words that are relevant to the information you’re
seeking and that will eliminate irrelevant pages.
If you’re searching for tips to help you improve
office productivity by eliminating unnecessary paperwork,
for instance, don’t just type: office productivity.
Doing this in Google gives you nearly 2 million Web pages.
Instead you could type: office productivity tips paperwork.
This brings up about 8,000 pages.
You can further refine your results by enclosing multiword
terms within quotation marks. With the above example,
the search string would be: “office productivity”
tips paperwork. This narrows the results to 200 pages.
Since Google does an excellent job of placing the most
relevant sites up front, all you typically would need
to do is peruse the first screen or first few screens
of these results.
Another simple trick is to use the minus sign to further
eliminate irrelevant pages. You can place it in front
of words related to subject matter you’re not interested
in or in front of types of Web sites you’re not
You can eliminate most commercial Web sites, for instance,
from your search results by adding “-.com”
(without the quotation marks) to your search string. Instead
of pages from advertising-laden dot-coms, you’ll
turn up pages from .org, .edu, and .gov sites, which may
provide more reliable information.
If you want to home in on sites strictly from, say, government
agencies, you can add “.gov” (without the
quotation marks) to your search string.
Another trick is to experiment with different words in
your search string, adding some and eliminating others,
or switching the positions of the same words, then perusing
Since different search sites use different search technologies
and bring back different results, you can also try typing
in the same search string at other search sites, including
such promising new search sites as Teoma [www.teoma.com]
and Vivisimo [www.vivisimo.com].
If you’re looking for just the most current information,
you can experiment with adding the current year to your
Some information, from the so-called “invisible
Web,” is hidden within databases at Web sites and
is accessible only by using that site’s search tool.
One way to find this information is to include the term
“searchable online database” (with the quotation
marks) in your Google search string, then use the site’s
own search engine.
If you’re looking for information at an individual
site but that site doesn’t have its own search tool,
with Google, you can add to your search string “site:”
(without the quotation marks) followed by the site’s
URL (address). Make sure you don’t skip a space
between site: and the site’s address.
Regardless of how you turn up information on the Web,
exercise care in evaluating it, says Krupin. Try to determine
the source of the information, and ask yourself if this
source appears qualified and unbiased or is instead just
trying to sell you something. Also, try to verify the
information by finding at least one other reputable source
that provides the same or similar information, particularly
if the information diverges from your current understanding
or involves a critical business, health, or family decision.
“The Web is now the library of humanity, similar
to the ancient library of Alexandria, housing mankind’s
cumulative knowledge,” waxes Krupin, a bit too optimistically.
Much knowledge still resides elsewhere, in books and other
publications, not yet online, and in heads, not yet published.
But a great deal of valuable information can be found
on the Web, if you know how to look for it.
is a syndicated columnist and author of the book Straight
Talk About the Information Superhighway. He can be
reached at firstname.lastname@example.org