Sometimes it may seem your Internet searches take you down an endless rabbit hole, while other searches produce results that differ vastly from what you are looking for. Learning search term operators and other advanced practices can help you use Bing, Google, Yahoo or virtually any search engine more effectively.

Basic Search Tips

Be specific. Use words that describe precisely what you want to know. For instance, searching "bluebird" may result in everything from bus lines to cafes, but "eastern bluebird song" provides details on the bird call. Avoid using punctuation or stop words, such as "the," "a" or "of," as most search engines are programmed to ignore them. Include common operators. Place quotation marks around phrases to search for those exact words, use "AND" between two words you want to include or place "OR" when you want one word or the other to appear in search results.

Bing

Advanced keywords can boost your results on Bing. Use "ext:" followed by the file type to find files, such as "calculator instructions ext:pdf." Search a particular website using "site:" or list your preference for a type of site using "prefer:" followed by the website name or type of site along with your keywords. For instance, "public health prefer:.craigslist.org" will provide a list of job ads on Craigslist and "public health site:.gov" will provide government health information.

Google

Omit words that you don't want in results by using a dash, such as "peanut butter sandwich -jelly." Use the "site:" operator to search a site or try "related:" to find websites similar to another. For instance, "related:cnn.com" provides links to a variety of news websites. If you can't remember a word or want to find search results for similar phrases, use an asterisk, such as "a * in disguise." You can narrow shopping results using the "number..number" operator, such as "television 100..500," which provides results with prices, measurements and other numerical information.

Yahoo

Narrow your results with "AND" or a plus sign (+) to signify words you want to include, "NOT" or a minus sign (-) to denote words you want to omit and quotation marks when you want to search for an exact phrase. Find pages that link to a specific site using the "link:" operator. You must use "http://" with this operator, such as "link:http://www.food.com." Discover the meaning of a word using "define:" or use "region:" to find results in a particular region, such as "region:europe" or "region:southamerica."