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Research 101 – Search Engines

Some time ago, I wrote a column about how to conduct public relations research online and why it’s important to do so. Looking back on that column, I see that I was blinded by Google. In retrospect, I did not provide good advice to my readers. To rectify this transgression, I’ll once again provide you with a list of research resources – but this time I’ll give you more thorough advice.

I’ll start by providing you with a list of search engines that you may find useful. Later, I’ll offer advice on news search services, fee-based services, reference websites, how to search and what to search for. Remember, being able to conduct proper research is an important part of public relations, and half the battle is knowing where to find information and how to look for it. When it comes to basic search engine searches, the golden rule is to simply use as many sources as possible. If you take my advice, your job in PR will be easier.

Search Engines

Google (http://www.google.com): Start with Google, but don’t limit yourself to just one search. Google is most likely the most comprehensive search tool available, but it’s impossible to index everything ever written. Google does have the best image search available and its ease of use still makes it a must when trying to track down phone numbers, email addresses and other standard information.

Yahoo! (http://search.yahoo.com): Yahoo! has beefed up its search tool and it gets better with every tweak. Of all the companies out there, Yahoo! probably has the best shot at producing a product better or equal to Google.

AllTheWeb.com (http://www.alltheweb.com): Now owned by Overture, which is owned by Yahoo!, AllTheWeb.com is not as good as it once was – but it’s still good. This search engine seems to have a knack for returning obscure message board postings. Use in tandem with either Yahoo! or Google.

MSN Live (http://www.live.com): A surprisingly improved offering compared to past products. Microsoft is sinking a lot of money into search, so I suspect MSN will continue to improve. An up-and-coming search resource, but use in tandem with one of the big guns.

Netscape (http://netscape.aol.com): It still exists!? Ignore this portal.

AltaVista (http://www.altavista.com): Another Overture-owned product that’s a few steps behind AllTheWeb.com.

Ask (http://www.ask.com): A basic search service with sometimes old and expired results. When you click on a search result link, the page comes up in an annoying frame.

Mamma.com (http://www.mamma.com): A solid meta search engine that won’t give you everything you need, but it’s a good secondary engine. And if you’re a basketball fan, Dallas Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban recently took a big stake in the company. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad.

Hotbot (http://www.hotbot.com): It would probably be best if this company finally called it quits. Not suggested for comprehensive research.

Dogpile (http://www.dogpile.com): Like Queryster.com, Dogpile aggregates search results from various engines, but this time they’re all presented on one page. Useable, but not for use as a primary search engine.

Ixquick (http://www.ixquick.com): A meta search engine that’s not very impressive.

Metacrawler (http://www.metacrawler.com): See Ixquick.

DMOZ (http://www.dmoz.org): The Open Directory Project, DMOZ provides users with human-selected websites that are categorized. Decent for when you are searching for a topic-specific website as opposed to specific information.

Clusty (http://clusty.com): Interesting search engine that “clusters” results so you can weed through some chaff. Good for when you’re searching for something specific that may not sound too specific. But won’t give you all the results you need.

Search.com (http://www.search.com): CNET’s answer to the question, “How do you ruin a great domain name?” The answer: By building Search.com. A few years ago, this was actually a very little search engine; now it’s just bad.

Kanoodle.com (http://www.kanoodle.com): If the annoyingly small font used for search results doesn’t drive you away, the general quality of the product will. Kanoodle doesn’t even let you see the URL you’re about to click. A supremely awful product not for use when doing research.

You can ignore offerings from companies such as Excite.com and InfoSpace, which use other providers to power their search engines.

Yes, I realize that once again, I’ve promoted Google as the best available search engine. But this time it’s important for me to point out that you should use Google in conjunction with another search engine. You’ll be surprised to find that results vary greatly from search engine to search engine and even Google can’t find you everything.

For now, happy searching and good luck!

This article, written by Ben Silverman, originally appeared in PR Fuel (http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel), a free weekly newsletter from eReleases (http://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. To subscribe to PR Fuel, visit: http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel/subscribe/.

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