Be your own spin doctor

Effective use of the Internet is no longer a helpful perk--it's a necessary business tool. Spin your own Web by learning to search the Internet efficiently and hone in quickly on the information you need.

May 01, 2000

As both a card-carrying member of Generation X and products editor for Professional Remodeler magazine, I use the Internet every day. In fact, I can't fathom how my predecessors managed to do their jobs without it. The information I require for research is readily available online, but if I can't find what I need when I'm on deadline, it doesn't do me any good. Developing strategies and skills for speedy Web surfing has been a necessity.

For remodelers, the same skills can also improve project management, design and client interaction. Many manufacturers have product literature, photographs and specification data on their Web sites. Some even have systems in place for ordering products online. You can find information on the products you use, and even use those same sites to help present projects to potential clients--but not until you find it.

The first key to effective Web surfing is to use the right surfboard: find a search engine that works for you. Not all search engines are alike, and Yahoo! (http://www.yahoo.com) isn't always the best choice. AltaVista (http://www.altavista.com), WebCrawler, (http://www.Webcrawler.com) and Lycos (http://www.lycos.com) are also popular. HousingZone even has its own engine, ZoneIn, that searches more than 2,500 industry specific web sites. This will eliminate some of the extraneous response such as Microsoft.com when you type in "Windows."

After some testing and trial, choose a main engine that seems to be most intuitive for you - different search engines will bring up different Web sites, even when the exact same search terms are entered. But don't write off the other search engines once you've chosen your primary. No search engine can fulfill all your Web needs, and you should always try a few other engines if your main one doesn't come up with what you're looking for after a few tries.

When entering search terms, keep the following in mind:

 

 

  • Use simple words. Boil down your search to three or four simple keywords

     

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  • Use single words. Separate single words with commas, because people can often describe the same thing in different ways. "Circular, saw, tool" will often work better than "circular saw."

     

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  • Put the main term first. In English, adjectives are used before nouns, but when searching, it's important to remember to put your main noun first, because this is the first ruler your search engine will use to measure Web sites. "Tool, power" is more direct than "power tool."

     

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  • Rearrange before you give up. Different engines organize topics differently. If "remodeling, tips" doesn't work, try "tips, remodeling" before moving on to a new set of words.

     

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  • Narrow down as best as you can. Often the biggest frustration for Web surfers is finding too many sites, instead of too few. If a search for "tool, power" turns up thousands of sites, try another search with more specific terms, such as "store, online, tool, power."

     

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  • Don't forget to try direct addresses first. Often, you can save a lot of time by trying a few addresses directly, before turning to a search engine. Most manufacturers' sites consist of the company name sandwiched between the Web standards, such as "www.pella.com." This doesn't hold true for all companies, though, so don't neglect to try your search engine if a direct search doesn't work.
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