5 quick tips for navigating the internet like a pro

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When was the last time you read an actual paper newspaper to check the weather and other news? Sure, some watch TV or listen to the radio, but if you want information quickly, you search for it on the net. With more information moving online, navigating the internet has become an essential skill.

Whether you are a newbie or an expert netizen, the following tips will help you surf the net safely and more efficiently:

  1. Know the lingo

    Do you know the following terms – browser, website, webpage, search engine, or URL? Learning basic terms and tools will help you follow instructions and navigate the internet better. To start off, read Lost in cyberspeak? Basic terms that you should know.

  2. Search efficiently

    The most used search engine today is Google and it is for good reason. Google has the largest single catalogue of webpages plus, it is fast, reliable, and user-friendly. It also has Google Scholar search which is a great tool for looking up scientific and hard-research materials. Of course, you may use other search engines such as Bing, Dogpile, or Yahoo, and others if you need an option. If you have issues about online privacy, you can consider using DuckDuckGo since it doesn’t track your searches.

    Another part of searching efficiently is knowing how to search in the first place. You save time significantly (and have more accurate results) when you key in exact key words or phrases. If your first attempt does not yield significant results, re-word or rephrase your search using synonyms. Try and think of the most common way people might look for the same thing or topic.

    Other search tips:

    • If you want to find the exact words on the webpage you are searching for, place the word or phrase in between quotation marks.
    • Forgot the exact words? Use an asterisk within quotes. For example, if you’re trying to find a book and you forgot the exact title. You can search “How to win * and * people.”
    • Looking for more than one item on a related topic? Use OR. Ex: Internet marketing OR advertising.
    • If you want your searches not to be seen by others who will use the computer, search using the Private or Incognito mode. Your browsing history will not be stored in the computer (but it can still be traced via a search engine server log if need be). On Google Chrome, click on the three dots on the upper right hand corner of the browser (usually in line with the address bar). Click on New incognito window (or Ctrl + Shift + N). In Internet Explorer, this option can be found in tools. You can also click on Ctrl + Shift + P (also works for Microsoft Edge and Firefox).
    • Use “DEFINE:” to streamline the dictionary process. A box will appear at the top of your search that has the definition of the word, pronunciation (you can hear it too when you click on audio icon below the word), usage/tenses, word origin, translation to another language, and frequency of usage. Example search string: “DEFINE: mortgage”

    For more advanced Google search tips, read How to search on Google: 31 Advanced Google Search tips, Dharmesh Shah, Hubspot.

  3. Stay away from fake or fraudulent sites

    Fraudulent sites are dangerous because they contain false information that can endanger or scam you. Many of these are phishing sites. Phishing is when an entity gets you to disclose personal information which they can use to harm or steal money from you. But how do you know which sites are real, good, reliable, or credible? There are several ways:

    • Check the URL – look at the address bar. If you are required to provide personal or financial information on a site, the address should show that it is a secure site. It should start with https not http. You will also see a padlock symbol on the right hand side of the address bar. If you’re clicking on a link to get to a webpage, make sure that the web address does not change when you reach the site. Be wary when the domain register changes, for example to .com, .net or .biz, when it was .edu or .ca in the original.
    • Train your eyes – Does the page look well designed? Is it too crowded? Does it have a lot of ads, download buttons, or clickbait advertising? How about spelling, grammatical or typographical errors? Haphazard design and no editing/proofreading are sure signs that a website is unreliable or fake.
    • Fake news? Stay away from websites that publish fake or simply bad articles. You can usually tell if an article is fake or inaccurate (or simply just a waste of time) just by reading the headline. If it has an outrageous claim or if it employs clickbait tactics, beware. Some examples: Woman visits zoo. You won’t believe what happens next! or Girls won’t be able to resist you if you do this simple trick!.
      However, some articles or websites can be more sophisticated. If you’re not sure if what you’re reading is credible, dig deeper. Get information about the author or check the references at end of the article. Find out if the writer is an authority. Also, see they have written articles in past that were credible. Another way to check credibility is the presence of a contact page where you can see the publisher’s information. Most legitimate news sites would have an About Us page that states its commitment to delivering facts and upholding journalistic integrity. If an item they publish is not factual, people can contact the publisher and hold them accountable. Still not sure? Check the poster below from the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions to help you weed out fake news.

  4. Bookmark

    Found a site that you like and would probably go back to again and again? Bookmark it. This will help you go back to the site without having to search for it again. You will find this function on most browsers. Click on the star on the address bar or click on the three dots on the upper left side. “Bookmark” is the sixth choice on the drop-down menu.

  5. Don’t share if you’re not sure

    Did you come upon a fantastic offer? Read through an amazing claim? Or read late-breaking news that is hard to believe? If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. If you’re not sure if something you read on the internet is factual, investigate and give it time before clicking share. Don’t be among those who spread lies and fake news among their peers. Some, especially those using social media, think that they are doing others a favour when they share such information. Being a discerning reader is the mark of a genuinely tech-savvy netizen. Remember, false information is dangerous and can cause real harm, so don’t spread it.

Sources: The best search engines of 2017, Paul Gil, Lifewire; and Google tricks that will change the way you search, Jack Linshi, Motto. Both accessed November 27, 2017.

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