Many people struggle to formulate their search terms in search engines. It is important to know the basics, in other words, how to search effectively. This is essential for tracking competitors or types of products. You will also see that search engines can teach you much more than you thought about your competitors’ websites. To keep matters simple, we will only refer to Google, which is considered to be the most relevant tool.
How to formulate an effective search?
First, it is important to understand how a search engine works.
An engine such as Google is constantly browsing the internet to index (meaning record in its database) all the pages.
It is therefore able to know all the new pages and what changes have been carried out to the pages that were already in its database.
Then, to classify the results, Google applies an algorithm based both on the content of the page (the title of the page, the words it contains, analysis of the markers used during its development, and so on) and on its popularity (are there lots of links to this page? And are the links to this page themselves popular?).
While Google’s results are excellent, it still needs to juggle with several billion pages indexed within its database and so its task needs to be simplified by entering an accurate search.
To achieve a happy medium, it will be necessary to learn how to formulate your searches:
- Google takes word order into account, and will therefore first display the pages that use terms in the same order as you.
- Google will then use all the keywords that you provide. So if your search contains five different words, it will not display any page which only had four of the five words. This actually allows you to refine your search, or, on the contrary, widen it, by removing a keyword.
- If you are searching for a specific expression, you simply need to place it in between quotation marks. For example, if you enter “Changing table”, the results won’t be the same as if you had entered: Changing table. In the second case, Google may bring up pages that do not sell changing tables and instead display coffee tables and baby changing furniture.
- Lastly, it is possible to just search for a specific type of document (Excel, Word, PowerPoint, PDF… ). You simply need to type “filetype:” followed by the type of file at the end of the search (xls, doc, ppt, pdf… ).
To make sure you have fully understood, let’s imagine a practical scenario. On the WiziShop blog we published a file on product pages. Imagine that you want to find this file using Google:
1. Type: product pages, you will obtain more than 10 million pages. There is too much noise.
2. Typing “product pages” with the quotation marks, will refine the search and display more accurate results.
3. You remember that the file is in pdf format, so you enter “product pages” filetype: pdf.
4. To make sure that only this file is brought up, you simply need to specify the name of the website: wizishop “product pages” filetype: pdf.
What Google can teach you about your competitor:
There are lots of other very interesting searches to know about in relation to Google. It is really easy to find out how many of your competitor’s pages are indexed in Google’s database. The number that Google gives us may quickly give you an idea of the number of products your competitor offers for sale. To find this out, you need to type in the search site: followed by the website address.
For example, we could compare the size of a site such as Amazon to that of its French competitor Rakuten:
We can also obtain an idea of a website’s popularity, which is gauged by the number of people who connect to the website in question. The numbers provided by Google are to be taken with a pinch of salt but may give an interesting general idea.
The phrasing is as follows: link: followed by the website address. Naturally, the more popular a website is, the harder it will be to compete against it. If we take the same example, we can see that Amazon receives more than 3 billion hits while its French counterpart receives around 60 million hits!
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