About AOL Search

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AOL Search FAQs

AOL Search delivers comprehensive listings and one-click access to relevant videos, pictures, local maps and more. You get the complete search experience: a wide variety of results in one try, without the need to perform additional searches.

Select a heading below to expand the FAQs

General FAQs

How does a search engine work?

When you look for information online, where do you turn first? For many people, the answer is a search engine such as Google, Yahoo or AOL Search.

Essentially, a search engine is a digital index. Like an index in a book, the search index takes available content and arranges it by topic and sub-topic. Each search engine compiles its index using its own frequently refined methods. Most indexes start with an automated program known as a spider or crawler that visits sites in a network (such as the internet) and uses keywords or phrases on each page to classify the information it finds. Once it has completed indexing, the spider uses links to other sites to find more new content to index.

The index for a printed book is alphabetically searchable. The reader turns to the back of the book, selects the appropriate topic from the list and uses the provided page numbers to find the reference. Search engines' indexes contain millions of pages, so alphabetical searching is impractical; instead, they rely on a different standard -- query language -- to help users find what they're looking for.

A search engine’s unique strength lies in its ability to "learn" based on how searchers interact with the data it presents them, thereby allowing it to provide an additional element of context when a user searches for an ambiguous term. For example, is someone who searches for "eagles" looking for information about the birds, the football team or the band? The answer might depend on factors such as the season or the searcher's geographic area -- to which the search engine can adjust accordingly.

What are the features of AOL Search?

Have you ever looked at a search results page and wondered what all the features mean? This lesson will explain what each element is and how it can help get you to the results you want, quickly and efficiently. Understanding these features will allow you to get the most out of your search experience.

Also Try

Also Try links appear on both the top and the bottom of the search results page. This feature lists terms that are similar to the ones you entered. Also Try is designed to help you tweak your search by providing alternatives that will help you expand or narrow your search with a single click.

Sponsored Links (Ads related to..)

Sponsored links are advertisements that appear at the top of the search results page. It is easy to recognize sponsored links because they have a slightly colored background behind them.

Unlike magazine or television ads that target a broad audience, search ads are tailored to what you are looking for.

Search advertisers participate in a keyword auction to purchase ads on the search results page. Later, when a user enters that keyword into the search box, the winning ads are displayed on the page. The order in which the ads appear for a given keyword depends on a number of factors, the most important of which are highest bid and keyword relevance. This combination helps ensure you are seeing ads that are most meaningful to you, and that advertisers are reaching the people who are most likely to be interested in their products.

For example, a national restaurant chain, a frozen foods company and a local pizza parlor may all bid in the ad auction for the search keyword “pizza.” The frozen foods company may place the highest bid, but if the search provider knows that most people who search for “pizza” are looking for places where they can order take-out, this ad is less relevant than the other two. In this case, the frozen pizza ad may appear third behind the national chain and the local pizza parlor.

More Offers

For some searches, you may notice an extra line of text below the sponsored links results. These are additional web offers, and they give you the opportunity to see ads for search terms similar to the one you entered into the box.

For example, if your search for “pizza” returned ads that were more general than what you were hoping to find, you can view targeted ads by selecting one of the More Offers links for items such as “frozen pizza,” “pizza recipes” or “pizza delivery.” It is important to note that if you select one of these options, all of the results on the More Offers page are advertisements.

Organic Links

Organic links form the bulk of the results for most search terms. Organic links appear below the sponsored links and are ordered based on a ranking of their relevance to the query entered in the box. Organic search results are determined by a formula used by the search engine.

For some queries, the top organic results may be the same (or very similar to) the sponsored links. For example, if you search for “pizza,” you may notice that the top organic result is for the same national pizza chain that appeared in the top sponsored link spot.

AOL One Clicks

Because AOL has a vast content network covering news, entertainment, music, sports and other topics in addition to maps and local information, we sometimes display a result that shows some of this information above the top organic result. These “One Clicks” are designed to help you get to the information you want more quickly by offering results tailored the content that other users look for when using AOL Search.

The type of information included in the One Click will vary based on the query entered. For the keyword “pizza,” for example, you may see a map with a list of pizza parlors near you. Similarly, if you enter a news-related query such as “Barack Obama,” you may see a list of the most recent news stories containing this term. For product related queries, such as “digital cameras,” you may see photos of products available in AOL Shopping. AOL Hot Searches is a list of the 10 most-searched terms from the previous day. A special One Click appears when users search for one of our daily Hot Searches terms. This One Click displays the term, a description and a link to a story where users can learn more about why this search is hot.

Search Suggestions

When you begin entering your query into AOL Search, you may notice that a drop-down menu containing search terms opens below the search box. This is the search suggestions feature that is designed to help save you time and eliminate typographical errors by offering you suggestions based on what you type. For example, if you type “piz” into the search box as you begin your search for pizza, you may see suggestions for pizza coupons, pizza recipes, pizza ovens, etc. Clicking on one of these terms will execute a search for that term.

Related Searches

Related searches are links that appear at the bottom of the AOL Search results page. These are terms similar to the one you entered that may be helpful in either expanding or narrowing your search results. If you select one of these options, you will see a new results page with both sponsored and organic links for the new term. For example, if you search for “pizza” you may see related searches for styles of pizza or for places where you can order pizza online.

Related Sites

Related Sites is another feature that can help you to narrow the set of results you get after your initial query. These appear in the form of small "Similar" links which appear at the end of the descriptions for organic results. Clicking on the Similar link will return a page of all organic results from the same category.

In our example, the query “pizza” is very broad and returns a range of results including national restaurant chains, encyclopedia entries detailing the history of pizza, pizza recipes and even information on ongoing court cases involving the term "pizza." Let's assume that you were looking for national pizza chains so that you could compare menus. Clicking on the Similar link for one of the national chains will narrow your results by showing only sites for pizza restaurants.

Search History

The search history feature is available only to users who have logged into the system. It is accessible via the Search History link in the search page header and is intended to help you find and use recent searches. Your searches can be sorted further by type -- web results, images and news. This can be very handy for comparison shopping, online research and other activities where you may wish to revisit the same searches several times over.

By default, your search history is saved for 30 days and then removed. You can also manually remove any individual searches that you do not wish to retain for the full 30-day period by selecting the trash can icon next to the individual search.

Advanced Search

The Advanced Search feature is accessible via the Search Tools button on the page header. Advanced search allows you to make a series of selections to narrow the scope of the results you receive. This can be particularly helpful when you are looking for a very specific piece of a wide topic.

When using advanced search, keep in mind that the more criteria you add, the fewer results you will receive. You may need to experiment a bit in order to figure out how much narrowing is required in order to get the ideal results.

Authenticated Browsing

Authenticated browsing gives you the opportunity to take advantage of some of AOL Search's more advanced features. You may login with any AIM or AOL Username via the text link in the header. This helps us to show you results for your specific geographic area as well as to give you access to your search history.

What are some tips for a better local search?

We frequently receive questions from users who are looking for ways to find local information more efficiently. This isn't surprising given that the percentage of local search queries grows every year. Knowing how to conduct effective local searches can help you more easily find resources in your community. In this post, we'll look at several different types of local searches and some of the resources that AOL Search builds in to make your local search experience even better.

Implicit vs. explicit local search

At their core, local search queries are no different than queries without a geographical component. You can build them using the same keyword structure as any other queries. Check out this post for more information on how to build a great query.

Local queries can be broken down into roughly two categories. In most cases, you probably wouldn't make a conscious choice between these two types of queries; however, there are times when you probably have already made a choice about which type to use.

Implicit queries are those where the user does not enter a specific location but that are assumed to be local because of their subject matter. Results for this type of query will typically include a local component. If you are signed in to AOL, AOL Search will use the location information you specified in your profile to return tailored results; otherwise, AOL Search will attempt to use your computer's IP location or, if that is unavailable, prompt you to enter a location. Try these examples while signed in and then again after you have signed out:

Explicit local queries, on the other hand, include a specific location in the search. For example:

Specialized local queries

AOL Search offers one click modules that can help you get detailed information for several types of common local search queries. For example, try the following:

These are available for most large and mid-sized cities in the United States, as well as some large cities and vacation destinations internationally. Try out a few examples on your own to see how the results differ for these international locations.

Avoid common local query errors

Search engine technology does a pretty good job of determining which common queries are local, but for less common queries it's important to make sure you're providing enough detail. Many times users fail to find the local results they're looking for because they haven't provided sufficient information. Compare the examples below:

It's also possible to include too much information in your local query. We see this most often with address searches where users include apartment or suite numbers. If you have a lot of detail in your query and you're still not getting the results you expect, try a slightly more general term. Compare the examples below:

Other local resources

Sometimes web search isn't the best source for local information. If you live in a smaller town than what is covered by our one-clicks (or if you just aren't finding what you're looking for), there are a few other resources you may wish to try.

Patch: If you're looking for news stories that affect your local community, Patch.com is a great resource. Patch is a community-specific news and information platform dedicated to providing comprehensive and trusted local coverage for individual towns and communities. Check the list to see if your neighborhood is covered. If it isn't covered yet, keep checking back – new patches will be popping up soon!

What are some tips for a better product search?

People are being much more frugal these days, so doing your homework before you make a purchase is especially important now.

Whether you're just beginning to research a purchase, comparing prices or buying a specific item, AOL Search can help you make your shopping decisions. In this lesson, we'll look at some techniques you can use to incorporate web search more effectively during the purchase process.

Research your purchase

When you're beginning to research a purchase, you may want to start by comparing several makes or models. There are numerous sites online that can help you find ratings and reviews, and the best way to start is often with a simple keyword search.

For example, try:

If you already have an idea of which cameras you'll be considering, you can also try a keyword search for a brand or a specific product line. For example, try:

Compare prices

Once you've done a little research and have narrowed down your options, you can begin to compare prices. There are a couple of different ways that you can use AOL Search to do this.

A simple way to start is to conduct a keyword search on the model number (or the name of the product line). AOL Search has a shopping feature that will provide a very high-level side-by-side look at popular products. To try this out, go to AOL Search and try the following queries:

Note that searching on a product line tends to give you side-by-side comparisons, and searching for a model number lets you compare pricing from different merchants.

Clicking on one of the results will take you to AOL Shopping, where you can review additional details about that product and the merchants who are selling it.

Shopping search

If you'd like, you can also use AOL Search to go directly to the results for a specific product in AOL Shopping. To do that, go to AOL Search, enter the model number or product name into the search box and click Search. In the results page, click More menu just below the search box and then on Shopping. For example, compare the results above with these:

How do I build a great search query?

We rely on web search to help us find all kinds of information, from consumer reports to local news to book reviews (and even long-lost friends from high school).

But finding the information you're looking for depends on your ability to effectively ask the search engine for information; in other words, your web search results can only be as good as the query you build to produce them.

In this lesson, we'll look at building queries from the ground up. We'll start with simple keyword queries before looking at the effect of expanding and narrowing language, and finally, we'll explore the Advanced Search capabilities offered by AOL Search. By the end, you'll be able to take a simple query and add layers of complexity to target the results you want.

Keyword queries

Keywords are the building blocks of web queries. These are simple words such as the following:

When you type a simple keyword into a search box, the search engine will look through its index to find sites where your keyword appears and then return the best results based on relevance and popularity.

A single keyword will usually return results that are much too broad for your needs. In these cases, you can begin to combine words into keyword phrases. Try out the following and compare them to the simple keywords above:

Now, rather than getting results that contain only one word, you'll get a list of sites that contain all of the words in your query.

Keyword searches can contain any number of words, but keep in mind that the more words you use, the fewer results you're likely to see. In order to help you decide what level of detail you need, take a moment to consider what results you'd like to get back. Let's look at Chicago pizza, one of the examples from above. What kind of information are you looking for? Are you looking for information about Chicago-style pizza? Restaurants in the city of Chicago? Pizza recipes? Click the links below to see examples of results for each type of query:

If you are still not finding the information you need, you can try refining your search some more by adding to or changing parts of your keyword phrase.

One important note: If you're an AOL user, you may be familiar with AOL Keywords -- the words or phrases that act as shortcuts to specific sites or content when they are entered into the URL bar or Keyword window (Ctrl+K) within the AOL software. AOL Keywords are entirely separate from the keywords we're talking about here. On the open web, search keywords will not take you to one specific destination and, unlike AOL Keywords, they are not specific to any one browser or search engine.

Expand or narrow your search

Expanding and narrowing your query allows you to add or subtract from the result set by setting additional parameters for your search. A few of the most common and useful examples include:

Search for exact matches using quotation marks
When you conduct a keyword search, the results will contain all of your keywords but not necessarily as one phrase. If you only want to see results with the words in the exact order you specify, you can enclose the phrase in quotation marks to limit the results to pages that contain all of the words in order. This can be helpful if your phrase contains several common words.

Compare these results for a common name:

You can also use quotation marks to get an exact match for part of your query only.

Compare these results with the ones above. Notice that the name is an exact match, but biography may appear anywhere within the results:

Use the minus sign to subtract keywords from the results

If you only want to see some search results and not others, you can specify keywords to exclude from the results. Note that the minus sign has to be immediately in front of the excluded word (no spaces). For example:

Results about Michael Jackson albums other than "Thriller":

Results for all puppy supplies except crates:

Use OR to find either of two terms
When you use the word OR in your search you can specify that you want two separate types of results. This can be handy for comparing prices, statistics, product reviews, etc.

Trying to decide where to spend your vacation? Use OR to compare packages in two places:

Interested in seeing trends over time? Use OR to compare statistics:

Advanced search
Our advanced search feature allows you to apply additional filters to your search results by language, usage rights or specific website. You can also use a form instead of the methods mentioned above to expand or narrow your search. The advanced search page is accessible via a link at the top of the search results page.

Using AOL Search

How do I use AOL Search?

The easiest way to search on AOL Search is to simply type a word or a phrase that describes what you're looking for in the search box on search.aol.com, then click Search or press the Enter key. If you are looking for images, video, news or shopping information, try one of our specialized search features. Just select the appropriate link below the search box.

Tips to help your search:

  • Select your search terms carefully. Use specific, descriptive words instead of general ones. For example, searching for blueberry pancake recipes instead of recipes increases your chances of finding blueberry pancake recipes.
  • To find an exact phrase, put quote marks around your search terms. For example, use "Charlie and the Chocolate factory" to find content for the movie. You can also use hyphens to connect a phrase such as brother-in-law.
  • To exclude specific words in your search, type a minus sign (-) in front of the search term. For example, to find content about vegetables with no mention of zucchini, search for vegetables -zucchini. Make sure to include a space before the minus sign (-), but not after.
  • To find content for two or more topics of equal interest, use OR in between your search words. For example, to find information on either poodles or schnoodles, search for poodles OR schnoodles.
  • If you don't get any results with search words, try using different words with the same meaning.
  • You don’t have to worry about capitalization when entering search terms. AOL Search doesn’t differentiate between uppercase and lowercase letters.
  • You don't need to use "and" between words in your search. AOL Search automatically inserts and between words separated by a space.

Use Search Tools to control your search results

You can use the time and location filters to filter your results. You also have the Advanced Search feature to get more precise results or control over the results.

Using Advanced Search, you can:

  • Include or exclude specific words in your search results.
  • Include or exclude specific websites or domains in your search results.
  • Include or exclude specific file formats in your search results.
  • Specify language of websites that you would like to see in your search results.
  • Specify how long ago the information has been updated in your search results.

To access this feature, click the Advanced Search link in the menu that is displayed after you click the Search Tools button on the AOL Search page.

How do I use the 'Set My Location' option?

Use the Set My Location option in AOL Search to help us find the best local results for your city or town. AOL Search will use your location to give you customized results including movie time, weather conditions and local business listings.

AOL Search will attempt to set your location for you based on your computer’s IP address. If we’ve gotten it wrong, you can follow these simple steps to update it:

To set or change your location in AOL Search:

  1. Go to AOL Search.
  2. Type in a keyword in the search box and click Search.
  3. Click Settings.
  4. In the Location Management section, type your Zip Code or your City, State (e.g., 10017 or New York, NY).
  5. Click Save Setting.
  6. Click OK.

You’re all set! AOL Search will now display results that are relevant to your location.

What is the 'Select a Date Range' filter?

The date range filter allows you to see search results that have been updated within a specific time period. This is helpful for finding the latest news, for example, or for limiting the number of results that are returned for your query. The default time period is set to Anytime, so there are no time restrictions on results. If you’d like to see results limited to the last day, click on Search Tools and in the Anytime menu click Past 24 hours.

How do I set websites to open in a new tab or new browser window in AOL Search?

You can set AOL Search to open websites in the same browser window, a new browser window or a new tab. Please follow the steps below to learn how.

To set websites to open in a new tab, a new window or the same browser window:

  1. Go to search.aol.com.
  2. Type a keyword and click Search.
  3. Click Settings.
  4. In the Result Links section, choose the option that you prefer. The options available are listed below:
    • Open individual search results in a new browser window
    • Open individual search results in the same browser window or tab

  5. Click SAVE SETTING.
  6. Click OK to confirm the change.

Good work! Search will open websites according to the preference you set.

How do I turn on/off Search Suggestons in AOL Search?

AOL Search can offer suggestions and related searches to the terms you type into the Search box. This helps when you aren’t sure, but have a vague idea, of what you’re looking for.

To turn on or turn off Search Suggestions:

  1. Go to AOL Search.
  2. Type a keyword in the search box and click Search.
  3. Click Settings.
  4. Scroll down to the Search Suggestions section. In the Search Suggestions section, choose the option you prefer. The options available are listed below:
    • Show search suggestions
    • Don't show search suggestions

  5. Click Save Setting.
  6. Click OK to confirm.
  7. AOL Search will implement your preference immediately.

Categories

How does the 'AOL Search -Search Categories' feature work?

AOL Search offers a number of search categories to help you find the information you want quickly and easily. These are located just below the search box at the top of the search results page. The default option is always web search, but you can select another by typing your search term in the box and clicking the name of the category.

AOL Search currently offers the following search category options:

Web

Web results are websites listed with the highest relevance appearing first. These results may contain objectionable material not endorsed by AOL.

Images

Image search results are images sorted by relevance, with images of the highest relevance appearing first. A number of factors are considered when determining whether an image is relevant to your search request. Because these methods are not entirely foolproof, it's possible some inappropriate pictures may be included among the images you see.

Videos

Video search results are videos that are sorted by relevance of the video in the descending order. A number of factors are considered when determining whether a video is relevant to your search request. Since these methods are not entirely foolproof, it is possible some inappropriate videos may be included in the list that you see.

Note: The following categories (Maps, News, Shopping, and AOL)can be found in the More menu.

Maps

Use the Maps search to find locations and directions at Mapquest.

News

News search results include news articles from an extensive database of news and multimedia content from news providers such as Associated Press, Reuters, CNN, People Magazine and Fortune. The articles presented in the Top News category come from all the providers and sources offered on AOL News and are updated regularly. The other categories -- Entertainment, Sports, Business and World -- contain articles that are relevant to their individual areas.

You can also use the web search option to find news articles by adding the word “news” to your query. For example, try “football news” instead of “football.”

AOL

The AOL search category searches for content across all of AOL’s websites to find results for your query. For example, a search for a term such as “iPhone” may return results about technical specs from Engadget, accessories from AOL Shopping and the latest popular games from AOL Games.

How do Shopping searches work on AOL Search?

Shopping search results include product information, prices, product ratings and links to various merchant websites.

To search for shopping sites:

  1. Go to AOL Search.
  2. Type a word or a phrase in the search box and then click Search.
  3. Click More and then Shopping just below the search box to view your shopping search results.
  4. Select the desired shopping search results link to view details.

Results appear at multiple stores

Shopping search results are powered by Nextag and are drawn from across the web. Nextag returns both paid and algorithmic results, including product information, prices, product ratings and links to the various merchant sites. Paid results are administered, sorted and maintained by Nextag. For more information about PriceGrabber or to sign up, or go to www.nextag.com.

Buy something you see in the shopping results list

To buy a product, click on the search result link to go to the product’s website. Because every store is unique, each may have slightly different purchasing processes.

AOL Search Settings

Search History

The Search History feature keeps track of your searches for the last 30 days, making it easy to return to your previous search results. The Search History feature is available only when you are signed in, and AOL Search will display Search History only for searches done while signed in.


View Search History

You can view your Search History by clicking on the Search History link at the upper-right corner of the page. This feature is available only when you are signed in.

Manage Search History

To manage your Search History, click on the Search History link in the upper-right corner of the search results page. Websites you have visited from your searches on AOL Search are displayed below the search terms. You can view your search history by the type of search results, such as All, Web, Images, Videos, AOL or News. You can also sort your Search History by date or by search terms in alphabetical order.

In addition, you can search on the terms recorded in your Search History by clicking your search term link.

Clear Search History

AOL Search offers you a Search History feature that keeps track of your searches for 30 days. Search History helps you get back to your previous search results faster; however, if you wish to keep your search private, you can clear your history. To clear your Search History, click on Search History and then click the Clear link. Alternatively, you can view and clear your search history by following the steps listed below.

To clear Search History:

  1. Go to search.aol.com.
  2. Click Sign In.
  3. Type your AOL Username or Email and Password in the text boxes and then click Sign In.
  4. Type a keyword in the search box and click Search.
  5. Click Search History.
  6. Click Go to Search History.
  7. Click Clear History.
  8. Click Yes to confirm.

Note: If you're using the AOL Desktop Software and continue to see your Search History, please clear your footprints as well.

Suspend and stop Search History tracking

To suspend and stop tracking of your Search History, click on Search History and then click on the Suspend link. Or you can click on the Suspend History link on the Search History page. Suspending your Search History will not clear your existing history; you must use the Clear link to remove your Search History.

Turn Search History on or off

We offer AOL Member Search History as a feature on AOL Search providing you relevant search experience, such as saved searches and targeted special offers based on your earlier searches. When AOL Member Search History is enabled, personal information about the searches you perform on the AOL service and the actions you take with the results of those searches may be analyzed to help create a more relevant experience.

It is important to note that turning off AOL Member Search History doesn't clear previously saved search history.

To turn on or turn off AOL Member Search History:

  1. Go to AOL Search.
  2. If you're not already signed in, sign in to AOL Search using your Username or Email and Password.
  3. Type a keyword in the search box and click Search.
  4. Click Settings.
  5. Scroll down to the Search History section. In the Search History section, choose the option that you prefer. The options available are:
    • Search History Tracking ON
    • Search History Tracking OFF

  6. Click SAVE SETTING.
  7. Click OK to confirm.

SafeSearch

Many users prefer not to have adult sites included in their search results, especially if their kids use the computer. AOL search offers you the SafeSearch feature, which prevents sites containing explicit sexual content from appearing in your search results. No filter is 100 percent effective, but SafeSearch eliminates most inappropriate sites from your search results.

To turn the SafeSearch feature on/off:

  1. Go to AOL Search.
  2. Type a keyword in the search box and click Search.
  3. Click Settings.
  4. In the SafeSearch section, choose the option you prefer and then click the SAVE SETTING button. The options available are listed below:
    • Strict - Filter out adult images and videos from your search results and text links to explicit content. This option will not display adult content when your search contains adult query terms.

      For example: a query of "nude pictures" will not display adult results since the adult term "nude" will be removed due to your strict filter.

    • Moderate - This filter option is being phased out and its selection will function the same as setting your SafeSearch to “Off”.
    • Off - This option will display adult content when your search contains adult query terms. For example: a query of "nude pictures" will display adult results for “nude pictures".
  5. 5. Click OK.
  6. SafeSearch_setting_changed

    You’re done! AOL Search will begin to display results as per your SafeSearch preference.

What is the AOL Search Plugin?

The AOL Web Search plugin allows fast searching within your Mozilla Firefox search bar. And, it’s free!

Before you download and use the AOL Web Search plugin for Firefox, you’ll need to install Firefox on your computer. If you haven’t installed Firefox on your computer, please follow the instructions at www.mozilla.com/firefox. Once you’ve downloaded Firefox, follow the steps below to download the AOL Web Search plugin.

To download the AOL Web Search plugin for Mozilla Firefox browser:

  1. Open Firefox.
  2. Go to http://download.newaol.com/aolsearchfirefox/firefox.htm.
  3. Under How to install:, click Click to Download Now!
  4. Click OK when prompted to add the AOL Web Search plugin.

To use the AOL Web Search plugin:

  1. Open Firefox.
  2. Type your query or keyword in the AOL Search toolbar and press Enter. The search results will be displayed on a new page.

About this article:
Last updated: 07-18-2014
© 2013 AOL Inc.