Having fun with search engines on the World Wide Web | SummitDaily.com

Having fun with search engines on the World Wide Web

eRin pheiL

Happy Friday, everyone. Today we’re going to explore several fun things you can try with some of the major search engines available on the Web.

That’s right. Search engines do more than just allow you to search for Britney Spears Web sites. I know, I know – you can hardly believe it. So let’s move on to the good stuff.

To start off, here’s a trivia question for you: How many searches are conducted each day over at Google? Take a guess. The answer is at the end of this column.

All right. Let’s learn about a service offered by a search engine you’ve probably never used before. It is called Alexa. Alexa can provide you with all sorts of interesting information about any Web site you choose. It can even tell you the popularity of a Web site compared to all other Web sites in the world.

First, go to Alexa: http://www.alexa.com. Then, think of a Web site in your head. Any Web site at all. It could be your company Web site, your family Web site, your favorite shopping Web site, etc. Type the site’s full address into the main search box at the top of Alexa’s main page – remember to add in the “www” at the beginning and the “.com” (or other extension) at the end.

For example, if I want to enter my timeforcake Web site, I would type in http://www.timeforcake.com. Then, simply click the “Go” button.

And voila! Alexa whisks us to a page telling us all sorts of things about the Web site. My favorite piece of information is the site’s traffic rank, shown at the top of the page. I see that my timeforcake site is ranked 3,719,235th in the world!

I had no idea I was so popular! (Let me tell you: it’s very entertaining to compare the popularity/ranking of friends’ and competitors’ sites. Ha! My kid’s site is more popular than your kid’s!)

Additionally, Alexa gives you a list of Web sites that link into the site you typed in, a date telling you how long the Web site has been live, webmaster contact information, a “People who visit this page also visit .” list, and sometimes, if the site is popular enough, Web site reviews.

Next, if you can tear yourself away from dear Alexa, we’re going to move over to a cool service offered by “alltheweb.”

Alltheweb is a great search engine, and it offers a neat feature that shows you an updated – to the second – list of the last 10 searches people performed using the alltheweb search engine.

Go to: http://www.alltheweb.com/recentqueries and see for yourself. I just took a look and saw that, just a split second ago, people were searching for “ottawa’s super ex,” “water analysis ions,” “tv guide uk,” “agl,” and “binaural beat.” Hmmm.

The list will be different each time you visit the page. You’ll also notice there’s a “Refresh this list” link at the bottom of the list. Clicking this will bring up the very last 10 searches typed into the search engine. You’ll get something different each time you refresh and it’s fascinating to see the variety of different things people around the world are searching for.

OK. For those of you not comfortable with more advanced searches, this next bit may seem confusing. Feel free to skip it if you’d like. I think many of you, however, will find this rather interesting.

Google just started up a brand-new service that allows you to search for synonyms of words. All you have to do is type in a “~” (tilde) before a word to receive search results including synonyms of that word.

For example, if you’re having problems using your Microsoft Outlook Express e-mail program, you could go to Google and type in “Outlook Express ~help” and Google will present you with Outlook Express-related sites offering tutorials, guides, support, etc.

But folks, the real fun exists in looking at what Google thinks are synonyms. You can do this by typing in “~word” then “-word.” (“~word” tells Google to conduct a search for all the synonyms of “word”, while “-word” subtracts all search results directly related to “word.” Read that last sentence again. Slowly. It makes sense.)

Let’s look at a couple of examples – then it’s time for you to try it out. I tried the search “~punk -punk,” only to discover that Google believes “anarchy” is “punk’s” sole synonym!

The search “~knights, -knights” brings up. . Days Inn! Google’s synonym search can definitely be useful but as you can see, it can provide hours of quality entertainment as well. If you find any funny synonym searches, e-mail me and let me know.

Oh, yes. I bet you’re dying to know the answer to the trivia question posed at the beginning of the article, aren’t you? The answer: about 250 million searches are made every single day at google.com, as of February.

Was your guess close? If you came within 150,000, you win. All winners receive a free slice of ice cream cake, redeemable this weekend anywhere they can find it, compliments of their own pocketbooks. Congratulations! And see you all next week.

Based in Frisco, eRin pheiL is the primary creative force behind timeforcake (www.timeforcake.com). She can be reached via phone at (970) 668-0709 or e-mail at info@timeforcake.com.

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