Smarter searching for all – Part 1

For most people , putting a few words into the standard Google search box is about as sophisticated as their searching gets. But in certain jobs, like competitive intelligence (CI), being able to go beyond basic searching is a critical skill. Earlier this year, smarter searching was one of the topics discussed at a get together of Sydney based CI practitioners.  Inspired by the suggestions shared at that session, plus my own experience, I thought I might do a few posts on how  to improve your search for information on the net.

Google search a specific domain.

Lets face it, the search capability on some sites isn’t great.  Sometimes it’s because the site is simply using a poor search engine, other times it’s because the results may have been manipulated so that certain pages (like promotions and special offers) are pushed to the top of search results. To get around this, use a Google search restricted to the web site (domain) you want to search. This can be accessed under the advanced search for Google or by entering in to the Google search  “site:domain.com” (replacing domain.com with the site you want to search).

Google search a specific file type

If you’re looking for pictures of someone or something, there’s images.google.com, and if video is what you’re seeking, it’s video.google.com.  But what if you’re looking for something else – like a document or slide presentation? Once again, advanced search for Google is your friend as its lets you restrict your search to a specified file type. Alternatively you can use “filetype:ext” (where ext is the extension of the file type you are after such as pdf, doc, or ppt).

The combination search

A useful trick from my experience is to combine a domain specific search with a search for a specific file type. I most frequently use this to find copies of product spec sheets and brochures, since these are often in .pdf format. But to give you some inspiration to try this out, some examples of the valuable information I’ve found using this technique include

  • details of several competitors pricing ( an .xls document on a government web site);
  • a competitors sales presentation for its channel partners (a .ppt on the channel partners ftp site); and
  • copies of whitepapers and case studies that normally require you to provide your details to a sales person to gain access to. (a .pdf on a competitors site).

The combination of these two techniques can really help improve your search for information. But what if you’re still struggling to wade through tens of pages of search results? Or what if your search turns up too few items of interest? Stay tuned because I’ll have suggestions for solving these problems (and more tips and tricks) in subsequent smarter searching posts.


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