advice on search engines

Most Web users have their own favourite search engines. The search engines have been steadily merging and consolidating, so the choice is no longer so wide.

Tip for UK users

Use the UK version of a search engine, if there is one. Response time may be quicker. Better still, they usually offer more-focused, UK-only searches, but be aware that you may miss some useful results. This is because search engines can't always tell if a site is a UK one. Some UK organisations have a .com address rather than a .co.uk one, either because they do business internationally or because they have pretensions! If you're looking for a particular UK organisation, first do a UK search, then a whole-Web search if it fails.

Our top recommendation remains Google. Google is very fast, has one of the largest indexes and surpasses its rivals for the relevance of its results. Just remember that Google (like nearly all search engines these days) looks for all your search words. If you type in "soccer football" it will return only pages containing both words, not "soccer" or "football".

Google is a "pure" search engine, where you enter keywords to get the results. Sometimes, using a (human-compiled) search directory is more appropriate. Here, you browse a hierarchy of subject classifications. Yahoo is the top choice but the Google Directory is also good.

Yahoo is not as good as Google for "pure" (keyword) searches, in our view, as it may not be as comprehensive. It is nevertheless good for a "second opinion".

AllTheWeb and AltaVista are now owned by Yahoo and deliver very similar results to Yahoo itself. Similarly, other search engines often use the indexes (databases) of Google or Yahoo to deliver their results.

Search engines make their money from displaying adverts and/or by including links in their search results to Web sites that pay them to do so. These are often listed as "sponsored links". There is no guarantee that they are any more relevant to your search, or of higher quality, than entries in the main results list.