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The Perfect Search Engine: How to Pick the Right Tool for the Job


Young woman smiling working on a laptop computer
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Instead of reaching for the same search engine and the same search process that you always use - with limited results - why not step back a bit and see if there's a different way you can accomplish your next search task? This article is a step by step walk-through that takes you through common questions that are asked in a general search query.

Do you have a general search question that can be asked with a few key words?:

Google is always a safe bet for most search queries, and most of the time your search will be successful on the very first page of search results. Yahoo is also a great choice, and finds a lot of stuff that Google does not necessarily pick up.

Do you need an answer quickly and don't want to search for it?:

There are some search engines out there that are able to answer factual questions, among these are Answers.com, BrainBoost, Factbites, and Ask Jeeves. Wolfram Alpha is also fantastic for computational-based queries.

Would you like to search with more than one search engine at once?:

Search engines that combine results from multiple search tools are called metasearch engines. Good examples of metasearch engines are SurfWax, Ixquick, Search.com, and Mamma.

Do you need help in narrowing or broadening your search?:

There are quite a few search engines that will help you do this with clustered results or search suggestions. Some of these include Clusty, WiseNut, AOL Search, and Teoma, in addition to Gigablast, AllTheWeb, and SurfWax.

You can also filter your searches quit effectively with advanced Google search shortcuts.

Would you like to see a screenshot preview of search results? :

This is always a fun (and convenient) option; it's nice to see a quick thumbnail of your search results before you actually go there. Some search engines that provide screenshot previews include Exalead, TalkDigger, Kartoo, ZapMeta, and Search.com.

Do you need academic or research oriented results?:

There are lots of great search sites that deal primarily in academic and research oriented results. Included among there are Scirus, Yahoo Reference, National Geographic Map Machine, MagPortal, CompletePlanet, FirstGov,Google Scholar, and EducationWorld.

Do you need to find images, photos, clipart?:

Images on the Web are easy to find, especially with targeted image search engines such as Picsearch, Ditto, and of course, Google has some fantastic image search capabilities. This list of thirty free image resources is also a good choice.

Are you looking for multimedia? Sounds, movies, music?:

There's so much multimedia on the Web that your main problem will be finding enough time to look at it all. A couple of good places to start:


What is the best search engine for my needs?:


There are a LOT of great search engines out there, and you're sure to find at least one (or two, or three) that will fit your unique search needs. Here are a few more resources that can help you in your search for the best search engine:

  • The Ultimate Search Engine List: All-purpose search engines, visual search engines, people search engines...you'll find all these and more in this list of search engines, a comprehensive guide to the best search engines on the Web.
  • Top 10 Ways to Find Multimedia on the Web: Use these search engines to find some great audio files, BitTorrent files, free movie downloads, movie trailers, and all kinds of multimedia.
  • 100 Search Engines in 100 Days: One hundred of the best search engines out there today.
  • Top Ten Book Search Engines: Whether you're looking for a rare book, a used book, an audio book, or a comic book, chances are you can find it on the Web using one of these excellent book search engines.
  • Search Engines for Kids: If you have children, or are a child yourself, then this list of search engines and other sites just for kids is for you.
  • Google Cheat Sheet: You'll find that using these Google Search Shortcuts will greatly cut down on your Google search time, as well as make your Google searches more effective and more efficient.


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