The Importance of Google Fu

Whatever search engine you prefer – Google, Bing, Dogpile, whatever – it’s hugely important that you be good at it. Especially if you’re in the IT industry, the ability to hunt stuff down on the Web – and to get useful results – is massively important as a job skill.

It pains me to see IT professionals punching in search queries like “how to install something using powershell.” That’s an inefficient query; the search engine is going to drop all but “something” (pretend that’s a product name), “install,” and “powershell” because everything else is a “noise word.” “Using” and “how” might be used to filter the results a bit, but that’s a pretty inefficient query. Word order is also important to search engines; I’d probably rephrase that query as “something install powershell” to put the emphasis on the product first, installation second, and powershell last. I might even search for something install “using powershell”, putting “using powershell” in quotes to force it as a phrase.

But learning from your results is important, too. For example, I recently got a fee t-shirt from some tequila brand during a promotion in a bar. I love this t-shirt. It’s very comfy and it fits great. Problem is, the tequila brand had their own label printed, so I can’t tell who makes the thing. But they did list the fabric as a cotton-polyester-rayon blend.

To the cloud!

I started with cotton-polyester-rayon blend t as my query. The first page of results was mostly some American Apparel retailers, with a bunch of Alibab.com hits. Not useful unless you want crates of shirts. But most of the results featured the phrase tri-blend, suggesting that’s a common industry term for this kind of shirt. Awesome. Off to Amazon, which will restrict my results to a more retail-friendly listing. I might not want to buy from Amazon, but by using their more-specialized search engine, I’ll get more specific results.

tri-blend men’s tee turned up several nice hits. I could add ringer, I found, to get shirts that have a color banded color and sleeve openings. Using Amazon’s category-narrowing for just “men’s shirts” helped trim the result event more – I was really looking for a manufacturer brand or model, so I could see what colors and shirt styles were available. I didn’t see any of the major commodity brands like Hanes, suggesting I’d be shopping more in the lifestyle brands like Hurley or Volcom or something. Okay. A quick search at Hanes.com for tri-blend confirmed they don’t offer anything.

That means Amazon might be my best bet, and Next Level seemed to have several types that looked like the fit I wanted. Back to Google for next level shirts, leading me to the manufacturer’s Web site, nextlevelapparel.com. I wanted to see if they sold to any major chains I might have locally (I’m twitchy about buying clothing online), and their Web site helped me find some choices. This all took about 5 minutes, not counting the time I spent typing this article ;).

Anyway… the point of this is that I went with a pretty decent query to start with, eliminated noise words on my own, and used word order to get the search engine to focus on what I wanted most. I learned a new term (“tri-blend”) that let me get much more specific, and move to a more-specific search engine (Amazon) to see what else was available. Narrowing down a few specific brands helped even more.

Search fu. You got any?