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Searching the web can be frustrating if you don't know how to filter out entries irrelevant to your query. Here are three quick tips that will help you earn your first merit badge for web searching. (Note: these tips assume you are entering your search at www.google.com but the tips will also work with bing or yahoo.)

1. Omit keywords with the dash (-) character.

Sometimes we want to ensure a search does not contain results with certain words. For example, to search for jokes for kids but without any of chickens crossing roads we can search with: jokes for kids -chicken. The '-chicken' part of the search tells the search engine that whatever you show me, make sure the word 'chicken' is not included. You can use the dash as many times as you wish to further remove undesired results, e.g. jokes for kids -chicken -knock.

2. Find exact matches by using quotes

Other times we want searches for an exact phrase, no exceptions. Using quotes around a phrase tells the search engine that results should contain those terms in that exact order. Quotes are most helpful when you want to search for names or phone numbers. For example, to find search results for tv and movies' most used phone number, search for "555 555 5555" and you will receive links for pages containing exactly 555 555 5555.

3. Limit a search to a single website with "site:"

This last tip helps tremendously when you just can't find a page or article in a site but you're sure you've seen it there before. For example, suppose a few weeks back you read an article on www.hamlethub.com about a tasty turnover recipe. However, you have no idea where on the site to return to that recipe. Instead of searching the whole web for turnover recipes, we can restrict our search to pages only available at www.hamlethub.com. To do this search, type in google: site:www.hamlethub.com turnover recipe. The 'site:www.hamlethub.com' part of the search effectively asks the google search engine to locate pages with the phrase 'turnover recipe' but only for those pages found on the hamlet hub website.

These three simple tips will greatly expand your search skills on the web. And try combining these tips to get even more, sometimes amusing, fine grained results, e.g. site:www.snopes.com "park rangers".

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