Google 101 (and maybe 102)

I had planned to do a post about using Google search more efficiently and call it Google 101. I collected a bunch of links, but then I thought that it might be better to put it on one of our LibGuides at PCCC.

So, check out http://pccc.libguides.com/google101 which is a collection of tips and links to help you use the features of Google search and its related tools and services better.

I find all my students are using the Google Basic Search all the time and just typing in a few words to begin a search. They don't get much from the services offered, but they are satisfied with the results.

In fact, Google has gotten smart enough to figure out what you're probably trying to find even if you don't do it very well (like guessing at your typos and pre-guessing at what you are probably going to type next).

I am disappointed that Google removed the "advanced search" link on the home page. I'm guessing that it may be because the basic search is a lot more intelligent. When I start typing "incredibly loud" Google suggested incredibly loud and extremely close (for the book & film) which is actually wrong - but clicking that actually took me to the correct results on extremely loud and incredibly close. The search is smart enough to learn the mistakes most people are making when they search.

One quick tip is useful if you want to search a specific website (especially if the site doesn't have its own search feature) you can use Google to search the site. Put site: in a search as a modifier.  For example, you could search "social media" site:www.starbucks.com and get information on social media from the Starbucks corporate website.

Most students - and most teachers - don't know how search engines like Google do what they do. A basic description from howstuffworks.com says "A search engine uses software robots, called spiders, to build lists of the words found on Web sites. When a spider is building its lists, the process is called Web crawling.The usual starting points are lists of heavily used servers and popular pages. The spider will begin with a popular site, indexing the words on its pages and following every link found within the site. In this way, the spidering system quickly begins to travel, spreading out across the most widely used portions of the Web." 

Google searches are NOT case sensitive - "passaic county" and "Passaic County" will return the same results. A search will return results that include ALL of your search terms - putting "and" between terms is unnecessary, and Google also ignores common words and characters such as "where" and "how", as well as certain single digits and single letters.

Google uses stemming technology which means that it will sometimes search not only for your search terms, but also for words that are similar to some or all of those terms.

Google searches across all types of content including images, news, books, maps and videos (but not currently Google Scholar results except for JSTOR)

The term "cached" means you can see the contents of the web page when it was last indexed, so that if for some reason the site link doesn't connect you to the current page, you might still find the information you need in the cached version.

One of Google's big innovations was that it uses PageRank™ which ranks the popularity of the page based on how many other pages link to that page and the popularity/authority of those linking pages.

"Sponsored Links" are really ads paid for by businesses in order to be at the top of the results pages when you search. Companies pay Google each time someone clicks on one of these link/ads.

Like Wikipedia (although that's a whole other topic), students are using these tools, so I think we need to educate them on how to use them well.


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