How searching works.

A Search Engine image

The Northampton Business Directory, like other directories on the Internet, is a catalogue of businesses and their websites sorted by categories. The directory is organised by real people making contact with businesses. Ensuring the companies listed in the Directory create useful and relevant listings for all users.

On the other hand, Search Engines, use automated programs called Spiders, to look for information based on keywords entered by users. Common ones such as Google have many different methods for seeking information to find exactly the right response to a request. Directories like the Northampton Business Directory rely on users knowing the type of business or site category needed to find the right information.

Searching the Northampton Business Directory is easy. Simply browse the list of categories provided, and then drill down through the categories and businesses from there. Alternatively, users can type a query into the search function box and browse the results provided. The search results list web sites by category and subcategory, based on the entire web site rather than keywords or just one page of a site.

General Searching Techniques

Most people use Google, Yahoo or Bing. They enter keywords or phrases to try and find the information they seek. This works well but many results on the top pages are paid for or are sponsored results. However, research shows most users only view the top 40 results, paid or not.

Many companies employ webmasters and search8 engine optimisation (SEO) specialists to make sure their pages appear in the top two or three pages of results. There are many tricks to improve the accuracy and usefulness of a search query while avoiding duplicate or paid results.

The search engines themselves use proprietary algorithms to determine the page rank of a website. Page rank is simply how high the page is listed on search results. Google tweaks their algorithms several times a month and changes their result layouts in tests to improve ad revenues and improved visitor experience. This constant change makes it difficult for webmasters and SEO workers to keep websites up-to-date and in the proper format to perform well in the results.

search engine optimisation

Google uses items on the website including the page name, page title and headings in H1 through H6 format, amount of text, keywords, images, links, and frequency of updates to the page. The engine “spiders” or search “crawlers” that do the automated searches must incorporate these items into their search processes for every web page on the internet.

Users enter keywords or phrases, and the search15 engine, retrieves pages corresponding to that enquiry. The pages may not always be relevant to the data entered. Search16 engines, are not intuitive and as such they cannot make inferences about what results the user seeks.

One key to getting the best results is learning to use speciality searches, searches for a specific area of interest or region, and learning to become an expert. Most engines have advanced options and tools. These make searches much more relevant and specific to the information users truly want.

Start by entering the most specific criteria possible. Tell the search engine exactly what information is needed and try different ways to get the information. The Web is full of articles about basic searching terms, keyword information and searching tips and tricks.

Speciality search engines including region or nation-specific engines are a boon to searchers seeking information specific to certain areas. Searching Google.com works well for the US and the world in general. However, if a searcher knows they are seeking a site based in the UK, for instance the Northampton Business Directory, they are more likely to find the sites they want by searching www.google.co.uk for UK-specific results. Most engines have free translation services allowing web users to read documents or websites from around the world.

web searching

Another trick of experienced web searchers is the use of the so-called Invisible Web. The term “Invisible Web” refers to the vast amount of information that engines and web directories do not access directly, such as databases and institution-specific web directories. This information is also known as the “Deep Web.” Many Internet users have created their own web directories and lists, which search engines do not access directly. Sites such as Deep Web Search, OCLC, and Library Spot specialise in accessing the deep web data bases, libraries and other resources.

Another important aspect to successful searching is learning how to expand or narrow the results effectively. For instance, change the wording to add different keywords. Try alternate spellings of words and ordering terms differently. Find synonyms for the terms.

Metasearch engines, such as Search.com retrieve results from many different engines at the same time. Search.com pulls results from the major companies, including Google, Alta Vista, Yahoo and more. Some Metasearch engines also track other internet users Web searches, what is trending on the Internet, and what other users are bookmarking or sharing on social networking sites. This can be very useful in helping searchers narrow or clarify their own searches.

Searching specific domains, such as .edu, .gov and .org can help limit results to those from the specified domain only. Use the command site: .edu “searchterm” in the search box. This allows the user to search for the “searchterm” only on sites ending in .edu. Google cheat sheets list many handy search tips and tricks, as well. Here are some of the more common and very handy searching tips.

Use quotation marks around search terms when search47ing for a phrase. This tells the engine to show only pages that use those terms in the exact order typed by the user. Typing the same phrase without quotation marks will return sites that contain one or more of the terms, which could be a huge number of sites.

Inurl syntax lets searchers look for words within the URL of a specific site. This is a good way to find sites that may not have been found entering a search word or phrase. If the user wants to find only sites that contain the word “Flower” in the site name, they would type inurl:flower in the search box.

Similarly, it is easy to find terms and documents related to the original search term. Add a tilde (~) in front of a search term to tell the search engine to return related terms. Entering ~careers in the Google search box tells Google to return results with the word careers, as well as related terms like jobs, employment, professions and more.

Math symbols are another common method to expand or contract search engine results. Placing the word AND between two search terms ensures the search returns results with both words listed. The MINUS sign (-) tells a search engine to exclude words commonly attached to the search word. Searchers can string excluded words together with a series of –searchword1 –searchword2 –searchword3. The plus sign (+) before a search term ensures that word will be returned in all the search results. These can be strung together in the same way as the (-) sign terms.


Boolean search terms operate on a similar concept as math terms when creating limited and relevant search strings. The word AND operates much like the (+) sign by telling the search engine to return results that contain all the words separated by the word. Separating terms with the word OR broadens the search by allowing the search engine to return results that contain any of the listed terms. Narrow searches by using NOT before an unwanted word, similar to how the (-) sign is used in the math method of searching.

Effective searches depend on the user as well as the website publishers. Pages must be prepared correctly, including accurate site maps, in order for search engine spiders to find the appropriate results. Many smaller companies do not have the personnel or budget for such work. If this is an issue, please contact Northampton Business Directory for help in producing detailed sitemaps for websites in order to improve page rank and access to the unique articles and features of any given web page.


Why are some companies always at the top in search results?

To achieve top positioning in the results page for a certain term or group of keywords takes knowledge, experience and time. If you would like to know how we prepare our pages for UK search engine optimisation there is a free SEO book which explains everything you need to know, then if you don’t have the time, call us, we are here to help with your business website.

Final Thoughts

All the search engines are clever, and know a lot more about you than you might think. If you use Google and always search for the same type of brand or similar products, it filters the results and supplies what it knows will interest you. If you always do a search for your company brand, over time you will see your website higher in the page rankings, but nobody else does. To get an unbiased view of where your site is really listed, try using StartPage, it has your privacy in mind.

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