How to Utilize AOL Search

How to Search with AOL Search

AOL Search has evolved from a feature that only full-fledged AOL subscribers could use, to an all-access search engine. AOL's main web search results are powered by Google

AOL Search Home Page

AOL's home search page is bare and uncluttered, with the search bar parked squarely in the middle of the page. You've got a few options available to you right from the beginning, with text linked tabs on top of the search bar (web, pictures, video, audio, news, local, and shopping).

There's a nifty "did you know" widget below the search bar that shows up with a new snippet of AOL Search information every time you refresh your browser ("did you know saved searches keeps your history for 30 days so you don't have to remember?").

Plus, there's the green Saved Searches button that - guess what - saves your searches for up to 30 days, kind of a nice feature. Your most recent searches will show up in a drop-down menu (click on the rewind button) from the main search query box.

Searching With AOL Search

As stated earlier, AOL Search results are powered, or "enhanced", by Google. 

What I most appreciate about AOL Search is the ease-of-use features that they've bundled into their search application.

To the right of my search results were clustered web results (another way to put this would be clustered suggestions) for more candle-related searches, such as pillar candles, highly scented candles, soy candles, aromatherapy candles, etc.

Sponsored results (these are paid ads) were front and center, with my web results right below that. Sponsored links also have a little dollar sign right next to them, so that there's absolutely no mistaking that these are indeed paid ads. Web results, on the other hand, had little magnifying glasses next to them; a nice way to differentiate the two for people who might have any doubt in their mind what they are looking at.

AOL Search Preview

Every time you wave your mouse over a link, you get a little scissors picture inviting you to "clip this link and save", which pops it into both your recent searches highlighted on the far left column of the search results page and your saved searches. When you go into your saved searches, you have the option of sorting through them by date or "what you typed" (what keywords you used in your search query). All searches are saved for thirty days.

AOL Search Tabs

In addition to the clustered search "suggestions" for more web searching to the far left, you can also search in AOL Search's various categories. I clicked on "pictures" for scented candles and was transported to the image results.

AOL Video Search

Video search for scented candles got zero results, but it was interesting to see that you can choose between clips labeled "AOL Membership Required" or "Launches in AOL Video Player for Web-optimized viewing." Audio results are clearly marked in regards to author, play quality, duration, etc., but it would have been nice to see some file types here as well.

AOL Shopping Search

AOL Shopping is simply laid out, with categories ranging from Apparel to Tools.

You can also search through BrandsDeals and Coupons, and a wide variety of shopping blogs.

Advanced Searching with AOL Search

You have a few advanced search options with AOL Search, including the choice to include all words, exact phrases, just one word or more included, kick out certain words, language, file format, etc.

I noticed that AOL Search did not respond when I used the "site:search query" string, but it worked just fine when I did the "link:search query" string.

Most of what you'll need to do advanced-wise with AOL Search can be accomplished with the Advanced Search page.

Special AOL Search Features - Smartbox

As you're typing in your query, sometimes you'll see a Smartbox Suggestion right underneath the search bar. From the Smartbox information page:

"AOL is continually inventing new ways to take the challenge out of finding what you're looking for online. AOL created Smartbox to simplify the search and navigation process and shorten the time needed to get where you want to go. Through our Patent Pending technology, we are able to provide search suggestions as you're typing your search query."

Basically, these "smart searches" are shortcuts to what AOL Search thinks that you might actually be looking for

AOL Search Snapshots

Another feature I appreciated was AOL Snapshots, which are instant answers for more than four million common queries.

Why Should I Use AOL Search?

Here are a few reasons that I think you should use AOL Search:

  • Ease of use. AOL's got this one down to a science.
  • Relevant results organized in an accessible way. Sponsored results and web results clearly marked, clustered search suggestions - it all adds up to a nicely organized search results page.
  • Cool features. AOL's clip and save widget, the Snapshots addition, and SmartBox Answers are all reasons why I can recommend AOL Search.

However, probably the number one reason would be that AOL Search makes searching the Web extremely user-friendly. This is a great tool for anyone who's just getting their feet wet with Web search.