The Art of Keyword Choice

Sometimes you have to try a couple of different queries to focus in on the information you want, trying different combinations of keywords. Keywords are the most important words in your idea or question—they tell the search engine what you are seeking. They can also be called search terms.

When you get ready to type in a query, think for a moment about what you really want to find. One way to do that is to consider what words you think will appear on the page that would have the perfect answer. Imagine that page for a moment. How would someone else write about it? That is actually an important skill: how you put yourself in the mindset of the author who wrote your perfect page?

For example, if you search Google for information about your kid who broke an arm, what kind of results would you get for a query like [busted arm]?

These results may not be what it is you really want if you are looking for medical information on broken arms. What you might want to do instead is replace that query with a more appropriate word choice. Like, say, even something as simple as [broken arm].

You could also use [bone fracture] or another medically appropriate term.

The big idea is that the words you choose will influence the kinds of results you get.

We once saw a sixth grade student who was trying to find information on Costa Rica jungle ecosystems using the query [sweaty clothes]. He identified [sweaty clothes] with the state he would be in if he was experiencing the jungle, but most pages that used that phrase were about other topics.

So, for example, if someone says to you, “I heard there was some old city in San Francisco Bay. What was it called?” it is best to consider what words will actually appear on the page with your answer.

Please try the activity for this lesson, and practice selecting effective search terms.




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