Most don't know what they're getting from Net searches

Published: Tuesday, January 25, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 24, 2005 at 11:10 p.m.


How to make your searches better

  • Make sure you know what's advertising and what's not. Hint: "sponsored links" aren't real results.
  • Use quotation marks when you're searching for a phrase. It's especially useful for tracking down song lyrics.
  • Try different search engines for different tasks. Some work better than others for local listings or pure research.
  • Try phrasing a search in the form of a question on sites such as
  • Read a search engine's "help" link. Each site has its own quirks, such as Google's tilde-key trick, which looks up synonyms to your query.
    SOURCE: Dallas Morning News research

  • Don't be so sure you know what you're doing on Google.
    Most search engine visitors don't understand how to use search engines effectively. And many can't tell the difference between real search results and paid advertisements, says a study released Sunday.
    But many Internet users think they're terrific searchers, says the report by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.
    "Two-thirds of people are just enormously confident and satisfied and happy with search engines," said Deb Fallows, senior research fellow at Pew. "Those same people haven't even heard about the difference between paid and unpaid results."
    While 92 percent of search engine users say they know what they're doing when they search, only 38 percent knew that search engines provide advertising links based on their searches.
    Google, Yahoo and Microsoft's MSN Search all label their paid results as "sponsored" links.
    But who cares whether you're getting the perfect result when you're just wasting time on the Net?
    About one-third of searchers said they wouldn't even bother looking up some of their search queries if the Internet didn't exist.
    In other words, they searched just because the Web was there. That explains why celebrities-of-the-moment such as Lindsay Lohan and rapper The Game dominated Yahoo's top search terms last week.
    Longtime Internet users take searches more seriously. Among Internet veterans, 70 percent said they couldn't live without Web searching, compared with 54 percent of the general population.

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