November 30


Gather Intelligence, Not Simply Data

by: Bill Ringle

Data, data everywhere

and a manager that cares not to think.

Business needs decision support —

Instead we’re awash in digital ink!

— Bill Ringle

The next time that you type a keyword phrase into your favorite search engine and get back several hundred thousand “hits” on your “report” consider the following distinctions between Internet resource portals (sources of information about web sites based upon category, keyword, or other related arrangement to assist people in finding relevant sites based upon an entered request).

All resource portals are in essence database systems. They contain web site listings and information about each site. That information could be in a variety of forms depending on the search engine. It could range from the first few paragraphs of text from the home page (also known as the default or index page), all the text from every page on the site, to just the meta tags (html code that lists keywords and descriptions of the site irrespective of the page content). The basic idea is that when a visitor to the resource portal enters a keyword phrase, the database searches its records to find the best matches according to rules that it has. These “hits” are then returned to the person making the request to evaluate and use. Resource portals are funded largely through advertising that appears on the pages as the visitor interacts with the database interface.

A directory (such as Yahoo or Northern Lights) gathers its listings manually. In other words, an entry is not considered until someone from outside the company submits it (several end-user software packages and online services can automate this process). Best uses for a directory are when you are looking for a broad, well-organized, but non-comprehensive range of information.

A search engine (such as Alta Vista, Excite, or HotBot) gets its database input from software run from the search engine site sometimes called a “web spider” since it “crawls the web” looking for sites to include. This a more proactive approach, and as a result, search engines typically have a much longer list of sites to compare your search phrase against than directories.

The more familiar you are with the advanced features of a particular search engine, the better you will be able to succeed in the most important challenge of using a search engine: narrowing your search. Use a search engine when you’re looking for depth of information on a particular topic; be wary, though, of non-authoritative sources that a search engine turns up.

Specialized search engines are the best place to find answers to very particular queries, such as telephone look-ups on, industrial pump vendors on, or word origins on, for example.

Metacrawlers (such as search attempt to give you the best of both search engines and directories by submitting and organizing queries sent to several search engines at one time. Local software versions of this method are available. The best that I’ve seen are Copernic (Windows and Macintosh versions), and Apple’s Sherlock, an integrated operating system feature.

Expand the tools in your toolkit. Visit to browse the latest information if you’re curious.

After all, with over 70,000 search engines available, the superior tool for the purpose at hand may be different than the one or two places you normally look. It’s a big Internet out there. Developing your search engine skills is a key step in getting smarter about how you use the Internet.

About the Author:

Entrepreneurs can find more resources to build their business at:
Bill Ringle works with business leaders from high tech and professional service entrepreneurs in the Greater Philadelphia region and shares the strategies and tools for accelerating growth through my Business Gym with business leaders from across the United States and in 15 different countries.


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