Getting Better Research Materials
By Using Better Search Tools
150 years ago people who dreamed of becoming rich often went to
the mountains and streams of California searching for gold. Their
tools were shovels; pick axes, and metal pans. A few became rich
– most did not. Today, for those seeking to discover riches, or
at least a decent living, there is still gold lying around for
those who can find it – but most of it exists as information
accessible over the internet – and the tools you need to find it
are web browsers and search engines.
In doing research of any kind you have to be able to find and
access information and materials. This used to mean books,
papers, etc. collected and organized in a library. Catalogers
reviewed materials, classified them, assigned a number, created a
“card catalog”, and arranged the materials in sections
containing like materials. Finding information was a slow, and
often arduous, task.
You had to “look up” the subject in the card catalog. If you
didn’t find what you wanted under the word set you selected you
had find other words – the word or words that occurred to the
cataloger, might not be the ones you were considering. There was
never a consistent thread of analysis that one could rely upon
for finding the right books, because as you and I might think of
different words to find what we want, the book catalogers all
have their own personalities and therefore, they would frequently
select words to describe a book through their own colored lenses
Sometimes a thesaurus, or a reference librarian, was able to help
you find the book you wanted. And the catalog cards gave only a
hint of the actual contents of a book. Then you went to the
shelves, found the section, and looked at what else was near your
specific item of interest. Often you found “other things”
nearby, which were exactly what you were looking for in the first
The computer allowed the development of electronic databases and
automated searches. The Internet allowed access to many
databases. Search Engines are able to accomplish, in seconds,
what a person could not complete in a lifetime. But always we are
at the mercy of what is in the database, and how the analysis
tools interpret the database. Nonetheless, these Search Engines
are powerful tools, which you can use to accomplish market
research to find information that can help build and grow your
Most people today are familiar with, and spend some time on, the
World Wide Web – the Internet. So we know a little about web
browsers and search engines (sometimes very little). When you go
looking for information, it is the search engine that does most
of the work, and like other tools, they don’t have the same
talents and skills.
In doing a web search you first have to ask a question that
contains one or more “key words”, words you hope will lead you
to the information you seek. Common search engines include
Google, Yahoo, and MSN – and there are dozens of others. They
access different databases and are optimized for different kinds
of searches. Their designers create various features to find,
sort, arrange and display the search results in a comprehensible
fashion. When I did a Google search for “keyword research” it
reported 456,000 results; Yahoo reported 20,700,000 results.
Braggart! But how in the world can the program, or the user, ever
find what they are after in that many results?
One method that helps people find information that is more
relevant to what they need is clustering, which is simply a
feature of some search engines’ design, which combines different
parts of the results together based on specific principles.
Clustering can also provide built-in features, which provide a
set of related terms, almost like a thesaurus, including in the
results words related to your search keywords. Using clustered
search terms will allow you to broaden the specific search and
perhaps find something like that book on an adjoining shelf that
is exactly what you need.
Search engines find web content using key words or phrases to
locate items in databases. Both when doing market research, and
when building web sites and web content, key words are extremely
important. And clustering search features help you (or your
potential customers) find similar terms, which will lead you to
related (and possibly very important) information.
Using a search engine with clustered search features will lead
you to these related items that may greatly enhance the results
of your market research. Similarly, using appropriate keywords in
your web materials can enhance traffic to your site or articles.
One search engine that has clustering search features is
Carrot-2 Search has a simple user interface. Doing a sample
search by entering “keyword research” gave some interesting
results. On the left side of the results page is a box displaying
the results of the “clustered search feature”. Below this box
is a second box titled “Similar Terms”, their suggestions for
extended items beyond the keywords you entered. To the right of
the boxes is a list of “Resources” which resulted from the
search. The first 10 items found by the search are displayed,
with brief descriptions, the URL and a link to the target site.
Buttons between the screen header and the Results list gives
access to subsequent items found.
The clustered search results for this case were as follows:
* Search Engine
* Right Keywords
Some items have a plus sign (+) in front of the listed item and
that plus sign indicates that the listed word has a sub-list,
which can be displayed by clicking the (+) button. For instance,
clicking “Search Engine” displays a list of 8 sub-items.
The “Similar Terms” box listed seven sub-items. This display is
slightly confusing since the box uses word wrap and some links
are split between two lines. Focus on the type font size – they
toggle through 3 different font sizes – when the size changes,
you are seeing a different link. Click on a link and it will take
you to another list of items keyed to the specific similar term.
Carrot-2 Search (http://search.carrot2.org/stable/search) is a
meta-search engine with significant research capabilities that
produces excellent results. However, it still requires work,
thought and judgment to achieve your goals. But, give it a try.
You might just find that you will never have a need to go to any
of the Big Three search engines ever again.
Copyright (c) 2008-2012 Trey Pennewell
Subscribe to the Traffic Tips (http://writingpuzzle.com/pub/subscribe.php) mailing list and get a 25-page PDF that teaches how to get more traffic from Google. Then, go to http://WritingPuzzle.com/ to find training guides for writers and article marketers. Trey Pennewell has been creating content for the Internet since 2005.