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Stop Wasting Time – How to Search Like a Pro

Stop Wasting Time – How to Search Like a Pro

    While using a search engine to find information on the web isn’t quite as much of an endeavor as it was in the late 1990’s, it can still be a time-consuming task if you don’t know how to make use of the tools available to you that can cut down the time you’ll spend searching.  I worked in a public library for the better part of the last decade and in that capacity I’ve been asked every question under the sun and am expected to come up with an answer in an instant.  Thank goodness for Google is all I have to say.  While library workers have plenty of fancy databases and books at their disposal (which is wonderful in-depth and specialized research), it’s hard to deny that much of the information we need to find quickly can be pulled up much faster online.

    Similar to the library catalog, Google allows its users to input search terms to help retrieve the documents and information that they are looking for. Except with Google you are not just searching a few thousands books; instead you are searching millions and millions of websites that are growing in number by the day.  But a problem arises – how do you sort through this mess and find the information that you need? How do you find something, and how do you find it fast? And how do you sort the questionable sites from the legitimate and reliable ones? Who do you trust?

    Searching the web can be a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be that way. By learning just a few simple techniques, you can be on your way to Googling with the best. It’s a skill that in today’s day and age you need to learn.

    Getting started with search, and narrowing down your results with operators and Advanced Search.

    Searching Google can be as simple as typing a word (or words) into the search box and hitting “Enter” on your keyboard. You can make your search as broad as you want, or narrow it down to specifics for a smaller pool of results. Searching for “dogs” will yield you a high number of search results – way more than you or anyone has the time to search through. So at this point you would want to narrow down your search, and there are several ways of doing this. But first, the basic Google search rules you NEED TO KNOW:

    • Punctuation doesn’t count. So don’t worry about it. (Punctuation referring to . , ! and the like. Does not include – or ‘)
    • Keywords aren’t case sensitive. Google considers uppercase and lowercase letters to be equal.
    • You are limited to ten words. Everything after ten words is truncated and ignored.
    • Avoid misspellings. You won’t get the same search results. However, Google will show you the correct spelling and offer you the opportunity to do a search with the correct spelling.
    • Be specific. The more targeted your keywords, the better your results.
    • Singular and plural forms are different keywords to Google. So if the singular form doesn’t provide what you are looking for, try the plural form.
    • Google ignores most common, short words like the, and, or, after in,, how, I, it, is was, will be, and so on. Google will notify you at the top of your search results if they have ignored some of your search terms. (Google will only recognize AND and OR when all capitalized and used as an operator.)
    • Google finds results anywhere in a document, not just in its text (eg- the HTML of a page).
    • Word order matters to Google. The first word is the most important word, and so on.

    Now that you know the basics, let’s move on to some more advanced stuff.

    Search Operators

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    If your search for “dogs” got you more search results than you know what to do with and you can’t find what you are looking for, you can try adding search terms, such as “English Dogs” if you are searching for a particular type, or “dog breeding” if you want to learn about dog breeding. If entering more search terms still doesn’t cut it down enough, try adding quotation marks around your search terms – this will return only results with BOTH or ALL of your keywords in it.

    The asterisk or * is a wildcard operator, which can help you find something when you only know part of a phrase. The wildcard can be used to match whole words, but not partial words. For example the search “ I left my * in San Francisco” would return many matches for “I left my heart in San Francisco”, and might possibly return results for other similar phrases, like “I left my blood in San Francisco.”

    AND, OR, +, and – are some other popular operators that can help narrow down your searches. You may remember AND and OR from traditional Boolean searches. The AND and OR operators work only when typed in all capitalized letters. The AND operator between two search terms tells Google that the terms on either side of the AND should be included in the search results. The OR operator between two search terms tells Google to match any of the terms connected by the OR operator. + is an inclusion operator, which forces Google to include the indicated word on each result returned. It must come before the term to be included without anyspaces. – is the exclusion operator, which tells Google to exclude the specified term from any search results. Like the inclusion operator, the exclusion operator must come before the term without any spaces.

    Advanced Search

    Another method of narrowing down your search is by using “advanced search” instead of just the regular simple search. You can choose this option by clicking on “advanced search” right next to the search box. The advanced search function allows you to narrow down your search to specific file types, publication dates, languages, specific sites, and more. The more options that you choose, the fewer search results you will receive, and the more likely they are to be what you are looking for. However, you want to be sure that you aren’t narrowing it down too much whereby you wouldn’t find enough stuff. If you don’t get enough results, then try removing some of your limiters. If you get too many results, try adding a limiter. Using advanced search will help you find what you are looking for faster because you don’t have to sort through as much stuff that is not what you are looking for.

    Understanding Search Results:

    Now that you have narrowed down your search and gotten your search results, how do you interpret them? How do you know that what was returned is what you are looking for? Understanding search results is a very importance aspect of research. If you know what you are looking for, you can save yourself a lot of time. Additionally, knowing how to read your search results can help you learn useful hints for refining a searching and finding what you are looking for.

    By default, Google returns only 10 results per page. However, you can change this by clicking on “Preferences”, or through the “Advanced Search” page. The pages are displayed in the order of their PageRank. Pages with the highest PageRank are at the top of the list. PageRank is determined by a number of factors to ensure that you get the best quality information.

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    After you have completed a search, the number of search results found will be displayed in the upper-right corner above the search results, as well as the length of time it took for Google to conduct the search. This number of results is not the precise number, but rather an estimate. Next to the number of results and the time it took to complete the search, you will also find links to each of your search terms. These links will take you to the word’s definition on Answers.com.

    Each result is represented by the page’s title and a snippet of text from the web page. The title links to the page. If a title is not available for that site, the URL will be provided. Beneath the site’s snippet of information, you will also see a Cached link and a Similar Pages link.

    Cached Results

    If you click the Cached link in a search result, a copy of the web page that Google has downloaded and saved in its cache server appears. It is a snapshot of the web page from a specific time- the date that Google downloaded it. It is very likely that the web page has changed since Google downloaded it. So why should you open a cached result? First, your search terms are highlighted on the cached page, so it makes it easier to find the specific block of information you are looking for. Cached pages open more quickly than the live site because Google’s servers are far superior to anyone elses, and if you can’t access the actual web page for some reason (it was moved, deleted, server is down, etc.) you will still be able to view the page.

    Similar Pages

    Clicking the Similar Pages link will return other results that are most similar to what you are you have found on a particular site. This will most often return competing sites will similar information, and when you are looking for information on a particular subject, but need more than one source, this is a great way to go.

    Evaluating the Source

    So you’ve found the information that you’ve been looking for, but how do you know if it is from a reliable source? Anyone can post anything on the web, so how can you judge the accuracy of the information you find?

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    Web Pages to Avoid

    Spam Pages. Spam pages are pages placed by sites that are deceptive in nature. They contain keywords intended to fool Google and essentially exist for the sole purpose of displaying advertisements. Google weeds out most of these, but sometimes one gets through. Fortunately, you can report it to Google at www.google.com/contact/spamreport.html so that they can eliminate it from their search results.

    Commecial Pages. These types of sites are obviously trying to sell you something, which is good if you are looking to buy something, but not good if you are trying to find reliable, unbiased information. These types of websites are typically not helpful to researchers unless you are looking to buy something or are looking for product information.

    Logon Pages. These sites contain logon pages, which usually means you have to subscribe to the site in order to view the information. Subscriptions may just require you to fill out a form and provide personal information, or they may cost you money. Unless this is your last resort, don’t waste the time. You can always come back later. These pages can be identified by those asking for usernames and passwords.

    Error Pages. These pages usually contain the word “Error” somewhere in the snippet and on the page and usually describe the type of error. There’s nothing useful to you here, so if you see “error” don’t go there.

    Page Moved Pages. These usually contain the words “page moved”, “site moved”, “redirect” or “redirecting”. Often times this means that the web page no longer exists and you are being forwarded to the main page of the site.

    How to Evaluate Resources:(AAOCC Guidelines Source: http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/ENGI/eval_criteria.html)

    Many websites exist simply to get you to buy into their point of view and disseminate inaccurate information. Although Google’s PageRank system does provide you with good results, it is still up to you as the user to determine the quality of the information.

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    In determining the quality of the information, following the AAOCC (authority, accuracy, objectivity, currency, coverage) guidelines laid out by the University of California Berkley and ask these questions of the website:

    Authority

    • Who are the authors? Are they qualified? Are they credible?
    • With whom are they affiliated? Do their affiliations affect their credibility?
    • Who is the publisher? What is the publisher’s reputation?

    Accuracy

    • Is the information accurate? Is it reliable and error-free?
    • Are the interpretations and implications reasonable?
    • Is there evidence to support conclusions? Is the evidence verifiable?
    • Do the authors properly list their sources, references or citations with dates, page numbers or web addresses, etc.?

    Objectivity

    • What is the purpose? What do the authors want to accomplish?
    • Does this purpose affect the presentation?
    • Is there an implicit or explicit bias?
    • Is the information fact, opinion, spoof, or satirical?

    Currency

    • Is the information current? Is it still valid?
    • When was the site last updated?
    • Is the site well-maintained? Are there any broken links?

    Coverage

    • Is the information relevant to your topic and assignment?
    • What is the intended audience?
    • Is the material presented at an appropriate level?
    • Is the information complete? Is it unique?

    When to Call in the Pros

    If after learning these search techniques you still can’t cut down the amount of time you spend searching for information, it might be time to enlist the help of a professional, such as a librarian.  Head on over to your local library, or if you’re digitally inclined, most libraries offer live online reference help these days.  Trust me when I say they’ll be more than happy to help you out.

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    Julie McCormick

    Julie McCormick is a writer, and co-owner of The Cleveland Leader, a Technorati Top 1000 site.

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    Published on September 25, 2020

    10 Best VPNs to Browse the Internet More Securely

    10 Best VPNs to Browse the Internet More Securely

    When it comes to digital security, public Wi-Fi networks aren’t safe enough, making it much easier for hackers to access your personal data. Whether you are studying in a library or scrolling through Facebook in a coffeehouse, it is vital to have a VPN installed on your device.

    VPNs work wonders when it comes to securing your internet connection. By creating an encrypted tunnel between a remote server run by the VPN service, they protect your personal data from prying eyes. There is a variety of VPNs available on the web, and we have collated a list of the best VPNs that stand out from the rest.

    How to Choose a VPN

    • Free trial period – Free trials allow you to try the product risk-free. The same idea technically applies to those with 30-day full refunds as well.
    • Speed – You want your VPN to be just as fast as the internet speed at home. Good quality VPNs are ones where you see little difference between those speeds.
    • Device connection – Of course, the more devices that can connect to VPNs, the better. It increases the customers’ coverage and the product’s value. You also want to consider compatibility since fewer VPNs may work for Mac or Windows only.
    • Number of servers – The number of servers determines how much capacity a VPN can handle while you are connected. The more servers there are, the more users it can handle without running into potential disconnections or slow speeds.
    • Kill switch feature – Having this feature means that your IP address isn’t exposed if the VPN disconnects for some reason. A lack of this feature is a big deal since the whole reason why you’re paying for a VPN is to hide your IP address, among other things. (Find out how to avoid getting tracked online here: Big Brother Is Watching You Online: How To Avoid Being Tracked)

    Why You Should Trust Us

    Our hand-picked VPNs are incredibly efficient and offer such distinctive features that grant you safe browsing. They outperform many VPNs in terms of both speed and security. Their primary aim is to provide you the utmost security, thus enabling you to surf the web safely and prevent any potential threat from causing harm.

    Among the best VPNs’ many unique features include split tunneling, strict logging policies, high encryption level, and availability of international servers. We have gathered them in this article to enlighten our readers and offer the best pieces of advice before you get one. Therefore, take our word for it, and if you go for a VPN mentioned below, you’d be fully appeased.

    1. NordVPN

    The most popular VPN on the market these days is NordVPN, and it’s easy to see why. It has widespread coverage, offering a selection of over 5,000 servers spanning across 59 countries.[1] Due to the high number of servers, its speed is similar to your Wi-Fi at home.

    Lifehack’s CEO, Leon, has been using NordVPN for many years and wants to recommend it for its remarkable server count in different locations with no-logs policy. The VPN perfectly works with Netflix and Fire TV stick, too.

    NordVPN is also compatible with Mac, Windows, and Linux. You can download the app onto Chrome, Firefox, Android, and Mac OS. Thanks to its massive coverage, it’s easy to connect multiple devices onto these servers.

    In terms of pricing, while NordVPN doesn’t have a free trial period, they argue that their plans are considerably cheaper than those of their competitors. For example, a one-year plan for ExpressVPN costs $8.32 per month, but NordVPN only charges $6.99 monthly.

    NordVPN has a new protocol called NordLynx that is based on WireGuard with speed benefits, though it’s still under development.[2] If you’re looking for general quality and affordability, this is one of the best VPNs around.

    Buy this VPN.

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    2. ExpressVPN

    ExpressVPN is the second-best option out there for keeping your privacy while browsing the internet. Like many other VPNs here, they will encrypt your IP address, offer vast coverage, and can have multiple devices connected to their servers.

    Compared to NordVPN, while the pricing point is higher, ExpressVPN’s biggest selling point is the number of countries that their connection covers. Depending on where you are in the world, this may be the only option you have. They have fewer servers — 160, to be precise — but they make up for the low server count by covering 94 countries.[3]

    Cost-wise, your best bet is to go with the yearly plan where they charge $8.32 a month. They also have one- and six-month plans.

    Buy this VPN.

    3. Surf Shark

    With regards to Surf Shark, you can connect multiple devices to its servers, and it’s compatible with Windows, Linux, and Mac. It is also available on Android, iOS, Chrome, Firefox, and FireTV.

    Furthermore, Surf Shark can whitelist apps and sites, letting them bypass the VPN. This, along with the lines of split-tunneling, is another feature that many VPNs offer. The difference is that Surf Shark allows you to whitelist specific apps or any website, while most VPNs will whitelist all sites or none at all.

    The other consideration for this app is the price. While lower-tier plans are more expensive compared to others, Surf Shark’s 24-month plan is priced at $2.69 a month, so it’s cheaper than even NordVPN’s equivalent plan!

    Buy this VPN.

    4. CyberGhost

    Another top-reviewed VPN is CyberGhost. They’ve been around for 15 years and have fine-tuned their offers and features to stay competitive. They provide the standard package of browsing the web and logging into accounts safely and give you access to regionally blocked content.

    The network also maintains security from hackers, malware, and phishing. Aside from that, you can connect multiple devices, and it’s compatible with all kinds of platforms.

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    What separates CyberGhost from the others is their extensive coverage. They have multiple servers, and the pricing point is still very low. It covers over 88 countries and has roughly 6200 servers for you to choose from, all while charging $2.75 for their 18-month plan.

    Buy this VPN.

    5. IPVanish

    IPVanish’s prime purpose is to give users online freedom by providing fast speeds and private connections. It’s clear that they can meet that promise as they provide many of the features that have been listed previously from their competitors.

    IPVanish is a part of SugarSync now. What is that, you may ask? It’s a cloud-based service that syncs files across devices and computers for sharing, backup, and many more. What this means is that other devices can access various files and videos so long as they are connected to your specific VPN. Furthermore, it can serve as a backup plan if you get hacked or lose your device for some reason.

    Buy this VPN.

    6. Private Internet Access

    Private Internet Access (PIA) is a remarkably generous company in many ways. Aside from the obvious features, they offer great incentives and discounts for people to try out their products. They claim to be the most trustworthy and reliable VPN around, and we believe that.

    One notable thing is that PIA offers a free two-month trial. Compared to other VPNs to this point, none have provided free trials (though all come with a 30-day money-back guarantee). On top of that, small businesses can avail of their VPN at a discounted rate. There is also the fact that their pricing plans go as low as $2.69 a month for two years, and they let you pay with gift cards.

    In terms of specs, PIA has over 2695 servers that cover 47 countries right now.

    These particular aspects make PIA unique and one of the best VPNs to consider.

    Buy this VPN.

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    7. Hotspot Shield

    Hotspot Shield is all about offering protection while you’re browsing the internet or using streaming services like Netflix. The encryption is military-grade, and its speed is ultra-fast. In truth, it is even marketed as one of the fastest VPNs.

    Hotspot Shield offers a plan that only costs  $7.99 a month; however, it’s one of the few in this list to provide its services for free. Like other Freemium apps, the free version comes with limited features. That said, it gives you a much better feel for the VPN.

    Also, take note that the encryption feature is still there, though the limitations in the free plan include connecting to one location in the US and having limited streaming options and speed.

    Buy this VPN.

    8. TunnelBear

    As unusual as a name choice for an online security protection service can be, TunnelBear is nothing short of incredible. It makes our list of the best VPNs for various reasons.

    The biggest one is that the company goes through a yearly security audit. This is notable because many VPNs don’t bother about independent audits to ensure their systems are secure and safe from any issues. This is critical as VPNs have gotten some bad reputation over the years, as TunnelBear has noted in their post about their security audit.[4] The fact that they are doing this annually ensures that nothing is being compromised.

    Furthermore, TunnelBear offers limited services for free, but even their paid plans are pretty cheap. For individuals, you’re merely paying $3.33 per month. The only catch is that you can connect five devices regardless of which paid plan you pick.

    Buy this VPN.

    9. Norton

    Norton has been on the security scene for some time, and it’s actually one of the founders of the internet security industry. It started with virus and malware protection in 1991 and has since branched off to other sectors as the industry has shifted.

    As you might expect from a company that’s been around for a long time, Norton provides excellent services, and a few of their other services have gone into the VPN package. In reality, Norton is the only one thus far to offer a password manager with their VPN services. They provide 50GB of cloud storage as well.

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    Norton has one of the cheapest VPNs, considering you can get their deluxe plan at $49.99 per year. That comes up to roughly $4.17 a month. It might be slightly higher than other equivalent plans, but you get a lot of extra value that makes it worth the price.

    Buy this VPN.

    10. StrongVPN

    The final VPN we want to cover is StrongVPN. Like many others, it’s great at blocking unnecessary web traffic and providing a fast and simple solution to navigating the internet without any hindrance.

    StrongVPN has over 900 servers. It is available in more than 30 countries and compatible with all devices. Beyond that, the only notable selling point it has compared to others is that it also offers Sugarsync services and 250GB of storage, irrespective of your chosen plan.

    As for the pricing, their year-long plan costs $5.83 a month, while their month-long one is $10.

    Buy this VPN.

    Bottom Line

    Getting online protection is important these days, and companies recognize this.

    With more hacks and breaches occurring every single day, the best VPNs can provide an excellent haven for many people who value their security and privacy.

    We hope that by putting together this list, you’ll be able to find the best VPN that you can trust and enjoy using. As you can see, there are several great options with no real wrong one out there. Pick the VPN that’s best for you.

    Featured photo credit: Petter Lagson via unsplash.com

    Reference

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