Finding a way to contact someone has gotten a lot easier: just type their name into Google and follow a few links. For many people, you’ll quickly find a profile on Facebook, a blog or even an email address you can use to get in touch. But a Google search doesn’t turn up good results for everyone. Maybe the person you’re trying to reach has a fairly common name. You may need a tool a little better than a simple Google search to find him.

1. 123people

123people provides a good start when you’re looking for someone online. You can type in just a first name and a last name and get pictures, phone numbers, email addresses, Amazon wishlists, websites, documents and more. It turns up a lot of search results for relatively common names — or names that refer to someone famous in addition to the person you’re looking for. The only drawback to so much information is that it can take a little while to search through it all and find the specific person you’re searching for.

2. Pipl

Pipl is a free search tool, although it brings in results from several other sites which do charge for access to particular records. Between those various sources, Pipl turns up a good number addresses and phone numbers, along with links to public records, online mentions and other useful pieces of information. Particularly helpful is Pipl’s ability to search withing a specific city, state or zip code. If you know the geographic location of the person in question, you’ll be able to narrow down search results to that area.

3. YoName

If you’re confident the person you want to find has a profile on some social networking site, a good search tool is YoName. The site searches across a whole list of different social networking sites, from big names like MySpace to less common options like Webshots. The results can take a little time to look through, but the process is made easier by the fact that they’re laid out in a table — you can browse through it quickly.

4. Zoom Info

Zoom Info is particularly useful if you’re looking to connect with someone at their job. Search results include job titles and employers, along with locations. The site offers a ‘contact this person’ button, but requires you to sign up for a free trial in order to use it. After the free trial, using that button and some of the site’s other features cost $99 per month. If you’re willing to do a little more legwork by calling up the company listed and seeing if you can ask for a direct number or email address, you can generally skip paying that fee.

5. Jobster

Jobster’s main focus is searching for jobs, but it also offers a tool to search for individuals. In most cases, it’s used for employers and recruiters looking for leads — but it can offer up some contact information that can help your search. A few other job sites offer a similar opportunity, as well.

6. Inmate Search

Unfortunately, you may find yourself in need of Inmate Search — while the site isn’t pretty, it includes a list of contact information for each state’s system for finding inmates, as well as the federal system. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of options for searching all states at once, but if you know the state the person you’re looking for might be incarcerated in, you can speed up the search process.

7. Intelius

To access most of the information available through Intelius, you’ll be asked to pay a fee. The site offers everything from phone numbers to complete background checks and actually can have useful information. I have purchased information from Intelius in the past and it did lead me to exactly the person I was looking for. However, I know the price tag (often starting around $40) can be off-putting, especially if you’re only casually searching or if you need to find information on a long list of people.

8. Zaba Search

I know many people who swear by Zaba Search when it comes to searching public records for free. I’ve had minimal luck on it myself, but if you’re having some difficulty, it may be worth a try. The reverse phone look on Zaba Search is particularly problematic — the site actually uses Intelius to look up phone numbers, which charges for the information.

Other Options

There are more than a few other options for searching for people out there. These eight are just options I’ve actually used in the past. There are also a lot of specialized search tools, like if you’re trying to find a person’s criminal record or you want to look for someone who works for the US government. You can also check social networking sites individually — most search tools that cover social media focus on larger sites, and ignore the smaller ones, along with forums and message boards. Unfortunately, there’s still not a particularly good tool for searching such sites — even if you’re willing to pay. You’re left with essentially searching those sites by hand.

The drawback to the options listed above is that they all primarily focus on the U.S. I’ve had little luck finding resources for international searches. If you have any suggestions, please share them in the comments.

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