Practical Application: Analyzing the Use of Search Engines, Keywords & Web Portals

Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

Search engines, web portals, and keywords are the keys to the doors that open onto a world of information available to us on the Internet. Now you can use what you've learned about these topics and apply it to three fictional scenarios.

Searching the Web

If you're like most people today, when you want to find the answer to something, or discover more information about a topic, you turn to an encyclopedia - right? Well, not exactly. Encyclopedias were once all the rage... thick, multiple volumes of printed data covering a vast array of topics from A to Z... where you could find a limited amount of detail on a limited array of topics. Well, today, we have the biggest and best ''encyclopedia'' ever written. We call it the Internet.

Using that Internet, though, means you need to know how to thumb through all that information somehow. Gone are the nice hefty books with nicely labeled spines of where to find what. Now you have to learn and understand some basics elements of searching... to help you thumb through less tangible encyclopedias. Some of those elements are keywords, search engines, and web portals. Those three topics were all covered in this lesson: Search Engines, Keywords & Web Portals.

So now, we're going to put your Internet smarts to the test and see how much you know about those three topics. In the next section, you'll get to read and analyze three scenarios. Use what you've learned to help the primary character in each lesson conduct a web search. Think through the analysis questions provided as you consider how to use search engines, web portals, and keywords to seek out the best information.

Internet Search Scenarios

Scenario 1: Looking for Lunch

Kaitlyn is out of town, exploring the great southern city of Charleston, South Carolina. She has taken in a lot of the local sights and explored a little bit of the town's history. Now, it's approaching lunch time, so Kaitlyn and her friends are trying to decide where to find the best soul food restaurants in the city, so they can all grab a bite to eat. How would you approach this situation?

Ask Yourself:

  1. Should Kaitlyn use a search engine or a web portal?
  2. What type of keywords should she choose?
  3. Why should she choose those keywords?

Possible Solution:

Kaitlyn's best bet is probably to head straight for a search engine, so she can start her quest for information. Search engines like Google and Bing allow you to retrieve information on any one of millions and millions of topics. You simply need to know how to choose the appropriate keywords to find the most useful (targeted) results.

In this instance, since Kaitlyn is looking for a specific type of food, some good keywords to start with might be ''soul food.'' This will eliminate restaurants that serve Chinese food or Indian food, for example. Next, she can further refine her search so that it is realistic as well... by adding her location to the keywords (or simply typing ''near me'' since search engines on a smartphone already know your location). Finally, she's not looking for any-any restaurant. Kaitlyn and her friends are looking for the BEST soul food restaurants. So, adding a term like ''best'' or ''top 10'' may narrow the results and point her toward some lists of highly-rated, local soul food restaurants.

If we put these refinements all together, a strong keyword search might be ''top soul food restaurants near me.'' See? With a little care and some perfect keywords, the search engine will provide an ideal set of choices to choose from.

Scenario 2: Finding Top Headlines

Dennis has been sitting in the waiting room at ABC City Hospital for the past two hours. He hasn't been feeling well and thinks that he might have the flu. He can barely keep his eyes open, but he's also bored and looking to pass the time. After catching up on his smartphone games, he decides the next best option is to read the latest headlines and hottest news stories. What would you recommend for Dennis in this situation?

Ask Yourself:

  1. How can Dennis approach his search for top headlines?
  2. Are there other options available to him?
  3. Why would a web portal be better than a search engine in this example?

Possible Solution:

If Dennis is looking for a more personalized web experience, a web portal is probably his best bet. Sites like Yahoo and AOL typically feature quite a variety of information on their homepages, in addition to serving as topical search engines. Plus, these portals usually do a pretty good job of keeping track of your personal preferences (unlike a search engine). So, the choice of a web portal might give Dennis everything he's looking for without typing in any keywords. For example, just visiting the web page may provide him with the local weather, the scoreboard for his favorite sports teams, and a wide cross-section of top headlines and news, both locally and around the word. No keywords needed!

Of course, he could just go directly to his local newspaper's website, or even search for a headline using a search engine. But for things like the news or the weather, a web portal is really your best bet. It isn't just a set of results. A web portal not only performs searches for you, it aggregates a variety of things you frequently search for... and puts them on your home portal page (so you don't have to keep telling it what you prefer to search for). You can customize it, too, so that the topics you are most interested in are already there on the landing page when you visit the portal.

Besides, while he's there, Dennis might also check his Yahoo Mail while he's at it! Yes, a web portal can do that too.

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