What is a Search Engine?

Do you know what a search engine actually is? For being my blog reader and subscriber I hope you do, but check out this video in which 50 passersby of different ages and backgrounds in the Times Square in New York were asked the question of “what is a browser”, “What is the difference between a search engine and a browser” and to my surprise less than 8% of people knew what they actually are.

You can notice some even tried to convince Google as a browser, how funny?? Only one girl could manage to get it nearly right where she answered – “A browser is when you know what you’re looking for and a search engine is when you are searching for something”. Let’s not completely reply on her brief definition of a search engine, but try to know more about it which is as follows:


Search Engine is a software that lets a user specify search terms. The search engine then finds websites or web-pages that contain those terms. And over time a search engine builds a searchable terms that can be matched to web sites. So, in short a search engine can be defined as a software tool for finding and organizing resources on the World Wide Web. The examples of some of the best and most popular search engines include Google, Bing, and Ask

The search terms better known as keyword(s) or phrases entered into a search engine’s search box are called queries. These queries need not be necessarily phrased as a question since words such as “what”, “a”, “is”, “the” etc. would be ignored in search results. It’s always a good practice to enter specific keywords related to the website or web page you’re searching for making sure your spelling is correct.

Here are Some of the Useful Methods of Searching:

  • Use more than one keyword.
  • Use quotes when searching for specific items.
  • Use Boolean queries.
  • Use + sign or – sign.
  • Use wildcard (*)

Importance of Boolean Query in Search Engine

The Boolean Query terms useful for searching efficiently are – AND, OR, NOT. For example,

  • By entering “twitter AND facebook” (without quotes) in the search engine’s search box results in web pages containing both the words twitter and facebook in any order.
  • When you search for “google OR feedburner” it results in sites containing the words “google” and “feedburner”, or just the word “google” or just the word “feedburner”.
  • Whereas searching for “stumbleupon AND NOT digg” results in pages containing the keyword “stumbleupon” excluding sites containing both “stumbleupon” and “digg”

Use of Wildcard (*)

Wildcard * is used to indicate a group of unknown characters, so searching for – “Information Technology” *.edu results in all the .edu sites containing the term Information technology.

In brief, + sign is used to search the term exactly as is whereas using – sign you can exclude terms you don’t expect to return in search engine result pages. To find out more on the importance of + and – signs in search engine along with some more search tips and tricks, check out these resources:


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *