Having worked with many databases as well as having extensive experience in searching the Internet, I thought I’d share some thoughts on the differences between the two.

When I observe people searching the Internet, there is a common mistake I see them making.  Most people search the Internet like they are searching a database. Don’t get me wrong,  the Internet does include databases. Thomas Register, Spoke and Zoominfo are examples of different types of databases. Via different methods, information is added to these data sources and some sort of query mechanism is provided the subscribers. Can you use the Zoom query on Thomas Register and visa versa? No, these are proprietary systems that have search methods specialized to the content inside them. Each of these databases is limited, incomplete, but stored in a homogonous fashion.

The Internet, in its entirety, is not homogonous.

Once data is exported into a CRM or Applicant Tracking System, it becomes homogonous.

The Internet, in its entirety, is not homogonous.

I hope I am getting this point across. The reason to reiterate this concept is to educate as to the 2 modes that you may have to operate in. Don’t treat the Internet like a database, and, conversely, don’t treat a database like the Internet. Some concepts are similar and some are very different.

Tips for searching a database:

-Learn the rules. You may not be able to use certain Boolean operators (AND,NOT, OR). Each database has different methods and capabilities.
-Know the limitations. You may only be able to export 10,000 records per year. You may only get back the first 100 matching records even though you thousands that match your search.
-Have a general idea as to the size and content within the database. This will allow you to properly set expectations for structuring your queries.
-Understand the normalization of that database and use it to your advantage. For example if all titles in the database are normalized to the short form (i.e. VP vs. Vice President), then your queries should all be in the short form.

Tips for searching the Internet

-Learn the rules. Just like searching a database, each search engine has different capabilities. (AltaVista allows a much longer search string than Google does).
-Know the limitations. (i.e. Google returns 1000 max results ).
-Don’t try to label what you are searching for with your terminology. Learn how the Internet is describing what you are looking for and then structure your search query.
-Understand that you will reach a point of diminishing returns. The Internet does not have an end. If you keep searching, you will probably continue to find more information.
-Understand that the Internet is not normalized.