By Marla Keene
Information overload, be damned. You need the right information at your fingertips in order to run your business properly.
The problem with information for many of us is twofold: One, we don’t have a dedicated research department to take care of our backlog of product research, market trend analysis, and other small information needs that crop up on a daily basis; and secondly, we’re not exactly sure how to pull all the information we need from the 1.5 billion (give or take a few) websites currently on the world wide web because we’re too busy with two dozen other demands to become research experts.
The following are six tips on where and how to find information quickly—a crash course in web research—so you can get the information you need and move on to more important tasks.
1. Always know market trends through Google
Google is a powerful indicator of what people are currently searching for. You can access this information by going to trends.google.com where you can either view recently trending terms, or research trending information relating to your own industry. This data can be limited by time, by geographic area, or by subgroup search like image search or news. It can also be compared to a second, third, or fourth term by entering these into the search boxes at the top of the page.
2. Get your keywords for free
WordStream (www.wordstream.com/keywords) allows users to access the keyword search tool more than two dozen times at no charge. Keywords are still very important for optimizing your online content, for driving the right traffic to your website, and for moving your site to the top of search results. But do you know if you’re using the right ones?
Search terms have become longer as more users search via their smartphones using voice queries. Use this tool to research your keyword use and to tailor your online marketing for better SEO results.
3. Optimize the search on any website
Have you ever spent valuable time staring at yet another page of a seemingly endless website because they don’t have a search option, looking for a piece of information you need but that you forgot to bookmark? Don’t ever feel that pain again. Instead, type site:websitename.com search term. Press enter.
When I tried this for site:allbusiness.com expert, I was rewarded with 11,300 results in less than half a second. By adding another search term I can narrow down the search results and find exactly what I’m looking for.
Incidentally, this works for entire domains as well. If I were to enter site: Edu NC engineering scholarship, I could quickly find every scholarship available for an engineering degree at a North Carolina university.
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4. Go back to the future
It’s been said you cannot erase the digital past. In many ways, that’s true, but sometimes things happen that make websites go poof, at least on the front side of the web. If that’s ever happened to you and you’re suddenly left with a void to fill, or if you need to find some market research from a page that used to be there but no longer is, try going to web.archive.org to see if that page has ever been archived.
You can enter the web address into the search bar on the page and see if any iterations have been captured in the past. Captures are marked on a calendar that goes back to the beginning of the web, with more complete captures appearing as larger circles and incomplete captures (perhaps only of landing pages) appearing as smaller circles. The archive also holds various texts, images, video, audio, and software, most available free for download.
5. Use a picture
Did you know you can search the web using an image or a graphic just as you can a search term? Click on the camera icon on the Google toolbar; you will be asked to either paste in an image URL or to upload your own image.
Why would you want to do this? For many reasons. Maybe you want to see if any competitors have stolen your product images and are using them illegally. Maybe you want to find out more information about the item in question, but don’t know what it’s called or what it’s used for. Maybe you found the image somewhere and need to find if it’s a Creative Commons image or if you need to get permission from someone before you can legally add it to your website.
6. Use operators to narrow search results
It may be a little reminiscent of seventh grade math, but operators are your friend. These limiting elements will help return the exact information you’re looking for. Following is a list of some of the most useful:
Intext: Inurl: Intitle:—These search terms will limit your search to results with your search words in the location you’ve specified. For example, Intext: blue bicycle will only bring up pages with text referring to blue bicycles. Inurl: pdf will only bring up URLs that are also pdfs. Intitle: photography will only bring up pages with photography in their title.
Asterisk (*)—An asterisk is a placeholder for an unknown, which is great if you’re not exactly sure what you’re looking for. “Stop chasing the money * Tony” will be enough to bring back the quote “Stop chasing the money and start chasing the passion.”
Quotes (“)—Use quotation marks if you know exactly what you’re searching for in order to eliminate other options. “The Hard Thing About Hard Things” in quotes will limit your search results to the book by Ben Horowitz and articles relating to the book.
Related—Want to know which websites compare to yours in Google? Type related: before your URL. For example, when I run related:www.axcontrol.com (my company) through Google, the search returns fifteen other industrial automation resellers. This is a great way to search out possible competitors you may not be aware of.
7. (A little bonus) Google is a less annoying Siri
Many of the things Siri does, Google can do—minus the annoying jokes. Data conversions? Check. Currency conversions? Yup. Check flights or available hotel rooms? Sure. Google will even tell you the time difference between cities. Most of this information is easily had by typing the basic information into Google’s toolbar.
For example, type “New York Paris time” into Google, and Google will respond with the current time for each city along with a statement that “Paris is 6 hours ahead of New York.” This kind of information is typically had by simple search terms, like “Weather *zip code,*” “Time *place,* or “Define *word.*” When it comes to data, it’s best to keep your request simple.
RELATED: How to Optimize Your Small Business Website for Voice Search
About the Author
Post by: Marla Keene
Marla Keene writes about technical advances occurring within the IT, energy, power, and manufacturing sectors, as well as the challenges of marketing to customers within these industries. Her work has been featured on Shapeways.com, Medium.com, and ANSI.org.
Company: AX Control
Connect with me on Twitter.
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