Getting Better Research Materials By Using Better Search Tools150 years ago people who dreamed of becoming rich often went to the mountains and streams of California searching for gold. Their tools were shovels; pick axes, and metal pans. A few became rich - most did not. Today, for those seeking to discover riches, or at least a decent living, there is still gold lying around for those who can find it - but most of it exists as information accessible over the internet - and the tools you need to find it are web browsers and search engines.
In doing research of any kind you have to be able to find and access information and materials. This used to mean books, papers, etc. collected and organized in a library. Catalogers reviewed materials, classified them, assigned a number, created a "card catalog", and arranged the materials in sections containing like materials. Finding information was a slow, and often arduous, task.
You had to "look up" the subject in the card catalog. If you didn't find what you wanted under the word set you selected you had find other words - the word or words that occurred to the cataloger, might not be the ones you were considering. There was never a consistent thread of analysis that one could rely upon for finding the right books, because as you and I might think of different words to find what we want, the book catalogers all have their own personalities and therefore, they would frequently select words to describe a book through their own colored lenses of analysis.
Sometimes a thesaurus, or a reference librarian, was able to help you find the book you wanted. And the catalog cards gave only a hint of the actual contents of a book. Then you went to the shelves, found the section, and looked at what else was near your specific item of interest. Often you found "other things" nearby, which were exactly what you were looking for in the first place.
The computer allowed the development of electronic databases and automated searches. The Internet allowed access to many databases. Search Engines are able to accomplish, in seconds, what a person could not complete in a lifetime. But always we are at the mercy of what is in the database, and how the analysis tools interpret the database. Nonetheless, these Search Engines are powerful tools, which you can use to accomplish market research to find information that can help build and grow your business.
Most people today are familiar with, and spend some time on, the World Wide Web - the Internet. So we know a little about web browsers and search engines (sometimes very little). When you go looking for information, it is the search engine that does most of the work, and like other tools, they don't have the same talents and skills.
In doing a web search you first have to ask a question that contains one or more "key words", words you hope will lead you to the information you seek. Common search engines include Google, Yahoo, and MSN - and there are dozens of others. They access different databases and are optimized for different kinds of searches. Their designers create various features to find, sort, arrange and display the search results in a comprehensible fashion. When I did a Google search for "keyword research" it reported 456,000 results; Yahoo reported 20,700,000 results. Braggart! But how in the world can the program, or the user, ever find what they are after in that many results?
One method that helps people find information that is more relevant to what they need is clustering, which is simply a feature of some search engines' design, which combines different parts of the results together based on specific principles. Clustering can also provide built-in features, which provide a set of related terms, almost like a thesaurus, including in the results words related to your search keywords. Using clustered search terms will allow you to broaden the specific search and perhaps find something like that book on an adjoining shelf that is exactly what you need.
Search engines find web content using key words or phrases to locate items in databases. Both when doing market research, and when building web sites and web content, key words are extremely important. And clustering search features help you (or your potential customers) find similar terms, which will lead you to related (and possibly very important) information.
Using a search engine with clustered search features will lead you to these related items that may greatly enhance the results of your market research. Similarly, using appropriate keywords in your web materials can enhance traffic to your site or articles. One search engine that has clustering search features is widow.com/
Widow Search has a simple user interface. Doing a sample search by entering "keyword research" gave some interesting results. On the left side of the results page is a box displaying the results of the "clustered search feature". Below this box is a second box titled "Similar Terms", their suggestions for extended items beyond the keywords you entered. To the right of the boxes is a list of "Resources" which resulted from the search. The first 10 items found by the search are displayed, with brief descriptions, the URL and a link to the target site. Buttons between the screen header and the Results list gives access to subsequent items found.
The clustered search results for this case were as follows:
* Search Engine
Some items have a plus sign (+) in front of the listed item and that plus sign indicates that the listed word has a sub-list, which can be displayed by clicking the (+) button. For instance, clicking "Search Engine" displays a list of 8 sub-items.
The "Similar Terms" box listed seven sub-items. This display is slightly confusing since the box uses word wrap and some links are split between two lines. Focus on the type font size - they toggle through 3 different font sizes - when the size changes, you are seeing a different link. Click on a link and it will take you to another list of items keyed to the specific similar term.
Widow Search (widow.com/) is a meta-search engine with significant research capabilities that produces excellent results. However, it still requires work, thought and judgment to achieve your goals. But, give it a try. You might just find that you will never have a need to go to any of the Big Three search engines ever again.