There are three basic types of search tools that most people use to find what they are looking for on the Web (there's more than this, but these are the basics that everyone should start with):
- Search Engines
- Subject Directories
- MetaSearch Tools
Search the Web with Search EnginesSearch engines are large, spider created databases of web pages that help searchers find specific information on any given subject. You type in a keyword or phrase and the search engine retrieves pages that correspond to your search query.
Search results gathered from these search engines are not always relevant to the keywords entered, since these engines are not intuitive and cannot infer dynamically what it is you might be searching for (although results are getting better all the time).
Interpretation of relevancy is different in each search engine. Many search engines have included categories to direct users to more relevant sites based on these particular topics. Want to learn more about search engines? Check out my article titled How To Pick A Search Engine - Search Engines 101, or discover literally hundreds of search engines with the The Ultimate Search Engine List.
Search the Web with Subject DirectoriesSubject directories in general are more smaller and selective that search engines. They use categories to focus your search, and their sites are arranged by categories, not just by keywords. Subject directories are handy for broad searches, as well as finding specific web sites. Most subject directories' main purpose is to be informational, rather than commerical. A good example of a search directory is Yahoo, a combination search engine/search directory/search portal, or one of the original search directories, Open Directory or DMOZ for short.
Search the Web with Metasearch EnginesMetasearch engines get their search results from several search engines. Users will receive the best hits to their keywords from each search engine. Metasearch tools are a good place to start for very broad results, but do not (usually) give the same quality results as using each search engine and directory. Check out my list of profiled metasearch engines.
Web Search Tools - The BasicsIn a very small nutshell, these are the three main Web search tools that you can use to explore the Web. Once you've gotten comfortable with these, you can move on to niche, or vertical, search engines, specialized directories, user-generated content hubs, social bookmarking sites...the list is endless. Here are just a few of the resources that you might like to try:
- Search Engines: This is a table of 100 different search engines. You're sure to find one here that will fit your unique search needs.
- Invisible Web Gateways: There's a lot more to the Web than what you can find with search engines, and that's the Invisible Web.
- Discussion Groups and Message Boards: Connecting on the Web is one of the most popular things to do. Find a group that shares your interests.
In addition, if you'd like to learn more about basic Web searching, try my Web Search 101 content hub: Web Search 101. You'll find all sorts of great introductory Web search material here.