Each of the search tools described thus far, and just about any other you might encounter on the Web, has a text box featured prominently near the top of its main page (see Figure 12.10). That text box is where you will type your search terms. Adjacent to the box, there's always a submit button, almost always labeled "Search."
Figure 12.10. The text box you see on all search tool pages is where you type a search term .
Typing a search term in a text box and then clicking the submit button to send the term to the search tool is known as submitting a search term . Such searches are sometimes also described as keyword searches , because the search term serves as a key to finding matching pages.
When you submit a search term, the search tool searches through its database of information about pages, locating any entries that contain the same combination of characters in your search term. Although the contents of the various search tool databases differ , the record for each page typically contains the page's URL, title, a brief description, and a group of keywords intended to describe the page's contents. If your search term matches anything in that record, the search tool considers the page a match.
After searching the whole database (which takes only a moment or two), the search tool displays a list of links to all the pages it determined were matches: a hit list .
Each hit in the list is a link (see Figure 12.11). You can scroll through the hit list, reading the page titles and descriptions, to determine which page might best serve your needs, and then click the link to that page to go there. If the page turns out to be a near miss , you can use your Back button to return to the hit list and try a different page, or start over with a new search.
Figure 12.11. Excite organizes the hit list from best matches to worst.
Some tools organize the hit list in smart ways, attempting to put the best matches at the top of the list so you see them first, and weaker matches lower in the list.
For example, suppose you use Godzilla as your search term. A particular search tool would tend to put at the top of the hit list all pages that use the word "Godzilla" in their titles or URLs because those are the pages most likely to be all about Godzilla. Matches to keywords or the page's description come lower in the list, because these might be pages that simply mention Godzilla, but aren't really about Godzilla. Even lower in the list, a tool might show links to "partial" matches, pages to which only part of the search term, such as those containing the word "God" or the partial word "zilla."