It’s easy to use the internet, right? Well, yes: if you look hard enough, there’s virtually nothing you can’t find. But sometimes you need a little extra help.
What you can find online
There are some areas in which the internet can be particularly helpful for businesses:
- Finding people. Web recruitment is a good way to find staff. You can also locate contacts in your industry, or experts in other fields.
- Making purchasing decisions. You can search out online reviews and opinions of items you want to buy – then hunt down the best prices online.
- Spotting opportunities. Many organisations put tender opportunities on their websites – and you can research potential customers.
- Viewing news and opinion. There is bound to be a wealth of blogs and news sites relevant to your business.
- Market research and intelligence. Investigate competitors, check statistics – with online market research you don’t have to leave your desk.
Search engine techniques to find information
Search engines like Google, Bing (formerly MSN) and Yahoo! are probably your first port of call when trying to locate information online. They usually find what you need.
However, sometimes you might need to try different search engine techniques:
- Use a different search engine. Every search engine ranks pages differently. If you can’t locate what you need using one, try another.
- Set extra criteria. For instance, change the search settings to look for precise matches, or find pages which don’t contain a certain word.
- Think laterally. Very often, swapping one word for another with the same meaning or narrowing results by country will help to get what you need.
Use the internet without search engines
Search engines aren’t always the best way to find information online. Depending on what you’re looking for, you may want to go straight to an alternative source:
- You can find people by searching for their name on social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn. Use clues like location and photo to find the person you want. You can also search the phone book.
- If you need someone with a particular skill (eg a freelancer or potential new employee) contact professional organisations and ask on social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter for recommendations.
- Consumer review sites like Review Centre can help you when making a purchase. Once you’ve decided what to buy, price checking sites like Kelkoo, Ciao and PriceRunner can steer you towards the best deal.
- Looking for market intelligence? Sites like SurveyMonkey let you run your own online surveys for free. Check business associations and UK National Statistics for facts and figures to back up your business strategy.
Monitoring the internet
Instead of having to frequently search the internet for relevant information, you can monitor websites and check for information you’re likely to be interested in.
Many sites operate newsfeeds (also called RSS feeds). These deliver new articles and content to a piece of software on your computer called an RSS reader, as they’re published. They allow you to see when new information appears on your favourite websites without having to check each individually.
You can also use a service like Google Alerts to monitor for mentions of a particular phrase, like your company name, industry sector or competitors’ names. You’ll automatically be notified by email each time the phrases you specify appear on a website or in a news story. This can give you early warning if someone is complaining about your company, and help you fix the problem quickly.
If you would like further information on using the internet, see: