A lot of people who may consider themselves adept at finding information on the internet may not be getting the most out of their searches, according to a Canadian web expert who appeared at a banking compliance conference in Grand Cayman last month.
Web Investigator Inc.’s John Pyrick was speaking to a group of compliance officers about fraud and the best ways to find information about potential clients. However, his tips could also be applied to most people who use the internet in their jobs or daily lives.
‘You’re privileged to be working in this area at this time,’ Mr. Pyrick told the conference. ‘If you think back 10, 15 years your predecessors didn’t have access to all this information.’
There are several techniques which can be used to improve web searches, get more information, and speed up the time it takes to access that information, Mr. Pyrick said.
The first rule is ‘don’t become Google-dependent.’
According to Mr. Pyrick, google.com has only the fifth-largest number of web pages in its index at 2.14 trillion. The search engine with the largest number of pages indexed is Windows Live at 5.09 trillion, followed by Ask Jeeves with 3.15 trillion pages, Yahoo with 2.92 trillion, and Exalted which indexes 2.31 trillion web pages. In other words, you might find more on a particular topic using a different search site.
‘No search engine covers 100 per cent of the web,’ he said.
He also advised web surfers to be aware, despite all the information on the internet, there are some places where search engines simply do not go. Mr. Pyrick called those areas the ‘invisible web.’
‘A lot of these (search engines) can’t get into a public records database,’ he said. ‘Basically what happens is they’ll hit a wall and can’t go any further.’
Many countries post public data such as court records, information about criminal offenders, or certain information on publicly traded companies on websites. This information can be sorted out on sites such as onsightresources.com (international), searchsystems.net (international), or statelocalgov.net (US).
Mr. Pyrick said some web sites charge for retrieval of such information. He also cautioned that more public records would be available in certain jurisdictions than in others, so it depends where one is searching for the information.
Many times the problem with internet searches is too much information. Mr. Pyrick offered some advice on choosing the best tool for the job.
‘We all suffer from getting too many results,’ he said. ‘Search engines are great if you’re looking for something unique, someone’s name or a business address. If you’re searching for an unfamiliar topic, you might want to try a directory.’
There are several frequently used internet search directories which help determine categories of information you may be looking for. One of the largest is dmoz.org. Another which lists results by category is clusty.org.
Depending on which country you’re searching for the information in, Mr. Pyrick said finding a site which is created in that country will often be more helpful or contain more specific information than others maintained outside that country.
He said sites like searchengineguide.com or searchenginecolossus.com can help find more country-specific or more detailed information.
Mr. Pyrick said a few simple tricks can also make for more effective web searches. He said internet users should set a specific time limit on their searches to avoid getting distracted; he advised developing a priority list before starting a search, and building up an inventory of ‘high-value’ sites – those with more accurate information.