Q: After one of your recent Facebook workshops, I overheard you explaining how to use Google to search websites like MuckRack.com that don’t have a search option; can you explain how this is done?
A: It’s kind of amazing that in this information-driven age there are still a lot of websites that have no search option, or lots of them that have less than desirable results when they do offer it.
The tip I was discussing after the workshop was specifically for the MuckRack.com website, which is a site that consolidates the tweets of virtually every major journalist from just about every major media outlet.
Those wishing to contact a journalist that is working on a story specific to their expertise can mine this site for any posts that contain keywords that would pertain to that expertise.
For instance, if my data recovery division was interested in connecting with journalists that were discussing “data loss” as they were discussing it (the beauty of social media!) we would want to search the thousands of tweets for just those containing “data loss.”
But, since the site has no search function built in, you can specifically ask Google to searchMuckRack.com only by using the “site switch” (or command option).
In the example that I began with, if I want to see whether any journalists are tweeting about data loss, I would go to Google and type: “data loss” site:muckrack.com
Google will then bring back only those pages that it has indexed from MuckRack.com that contain those two words in that order (and this also works in Bing searches).
If I don’t put the quotation marks around “data loss,” Google will bring back any page that has “data” or “loss” instead of only those pages that have both words together in order.
One of the problems with using this as a mining tool is that you have to remember to go search the site on occasion, and if it doesn’t become habit you will soon forget it.
Here’s a power tip for those that want to constantly monitor any site like MuckRack for a specific search condition without having to remember to type in the search string manually: make it your start page!
Simply type in your desired search string and when it shows you the current results, tell your browser to make the current page your start page.
Now, every time you launch the browser for the first time, you will be presented with the most current search results without having to remember to look. If nothing has changed from the last time you looked, move on to your intended destination.
If you really want to get crazy, you can take advantage of tabbed browsing and have multiple search conditions automatically open in tabs every time you open your browser (search the Help section of your browser for the steps to “open multiple tabs on startup”) but be careful not to go overboard or your browser may take forever to open.
Another way that I like to use this switch is when I can’t find something using a site’s built-in search tool, especially when looking for help on a specific topic.
Because we are all used to how Google delivers search results and know how to easily choose options to refine the results, it can often generate better results.
If you run a website that has a weak search option or none at all, you can learn how to add a Google-driven search option to your site here: http://www.google.com/sitesearch
• Ken Colburn is president of Data Doctors Computer Services and host of the “Computer Corner” radio show, noon Saturdays on KTAR 92.3 FM or at www.datadoctors.com/radio. Readers may send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org