Interpreting Search Engine Results

While each search engine displays its results in a slightly different manner than the others, there are some similar components which you can look for.

a sample results display from a search engine

  1. Web Page Title: Search engines use the title of the Web page assigned by the creator of that page. If there is no title for a Web page, often search engines will display the URL in this space.
  2. Domain: Most search engines provide the URL of the retrieved sites. Check the domain of the URL to determine whether the Web page is hosted on an educational site (.edu), a government site (.gov), an association/organization (.org), a commercial site (.com), or some other other type of site.
  3. Cached: Search engines often "cache" or store the Web pages they have indexed in large databases. If a Web page has been removed from the Internet by its owner, sometimes you can find the information you are looking for by clicking on this link; it will provide you with a copy of the Web page from when it was last indexed by the search engine.
  4. Description: This description of a Web page's content is usually excerpted directly from the page and is often just the first few sentences. Some search engines show a few sentences on the page where your search terms appear and highlight these words for you.
Once you visit a retrieved site, check to see if any information is provided about the producer/creator of the Web page. Often this type of information is available through links such as, about this page, about us, about this site, or a link to the site's home page. sample "AboutUs" buttons

Sponsored Results

examples of sponsored results on a search results page

Be careful to make sure that you are looking at results for your search that do not include "sponsored results," which are a form of advertising. Companies pay search engines to have their Web pages appear in special "sponsored" sections which can be at the top, side, or bottom of the page of results.

These are not always clearly or boldly marked. They may be in a box that is a slightly shaded, or the words "sponsored links" or "sponsor results" may be displayed near the list. Sometimes the companies with sponsored links will try to entice you in by advertising "free" items, with the hope that you will make a purchase once you are on the site.

Chapter 6 — Page 12