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How to Find Information About People on the Web

The web has made it much easier to get information about people, including old friends and classmates, old boyfriends/girlfriends, ancestors, celebrities, politicians, public figures, criminals, and even your next-door neighbor. There are various opinions about this new flow of personal information. Most of us seem quite pleased to be able to get the information we need, but we're not necessarily happy if others can get the goods on us!

What follow are a few tips about finding people via the web. It can be harder than you think. Although many people access the internet on a daily basis now, they often use screen names that are known only to their friends. Other people, particularly women, tend to change their last name once or more often during the course of their lives.

Who is relatively easy to find on the web?

  • People who have become famous.
  • People who post on the internet under their real names.
  • Academics and other people who publish articles and speak at conferences. Professors also tend to have personal web pages.
  • Self-employed consultants and other people who own their own businesses.
  • Senior management of companies, especially public companies.
  • People active in community organizations.
  • Anybody with a career that causes them to get written about, cited in articles, or quoted in the press.
Step 1: Enter The Name
Although this will often be a waste of time, you might as well begin with the quick and easy type of search: type the full name of the person you're seeking into a search engine. When you do this, the most likely outcome is that you will get lots of hits on people who are NOT the person you're seeking. Many, many people have the same first and last names. If the names are unusual, though, you might get lucky. Ditto if the person you seek already has a notable web presence, with lots of webpages citing him or her for some achievement.

You have a slightly higher chance of getting good results if you enter the first and last name as a phrase, surrounded by quotation marks. The middle name usually isn't important, unless the person typically uses her middle name. If the person typically uses his initials instead of the first and middle name, make sure you search as a phrase when looking him up.

Warning: Entering names will frequently bring upon many hits on genealogical records. Instead of getting info on a living person, you'll find yourself staring at data about someone who lived and died a hundred years ago. Although it's great that so much genealogical data is available via the web, these webpages can hopelessly muddy your chances of finding a living person using only her name.

Step 2: Enter The Domain Name
Many search engines will list a name that also appears as a web domain name among its top results. So if you suspect your friend may be active on the web, you can also try a search using his first and last names run together as one word. Most people's domain names tend to use both first and last name: e.g., On rare occasions, you might find that your friend has registered a domain using only her last name. Example: if you do a Google search on "Monash" the top two hits on Google will be in Australia and, which the domain name of this website. This site is owned by Curt Monash, who registered his last name as a domain name many years ago.

Public figures, web geeks, and small business owners are more likely to have registered their names as web domains than the average person-on-the-street. Maintaining a domain costs money, and running a website requires knowledge of web design and programming.

Step 3 Refine Your Search:
Remember that search engines are simply software programs who cannot anticipate your needs. To a search engine, a name is just a collection of letters. All it cares about (usually) is matching those letters with all the other identical arrays of letters in its database. For example, if you enter the name "James Johnson" in Google, you will get 7,250,000 hits.

Therefore, in most cases, you will need to provide the search engine with more information. How can you narrow the search? It often helps to envision the result you're looking for. If you could find a page on the web that mentioned the person you're looking for, what would it say? If you think the person might be mentioned in a webpage that also refers to her hometown, add that, if you know it. If the person is interested in a particular career or activity, use that activity as one of your search terms. For me, a search on "Linda Barlow" and "novelist" bring up pages that rule out most of the zillion other "Linda Barlows" in the world.

If you happen to know where the person works, or even just what his profession is, try using the business or the profession as another keyword. Most businesses have websites, although not all employees are listed on such sites. But if your friend owns his or her own business, they probably have a website. If your friend is one of the executives of a public company, he or she may be listed in the company's tax filings or in press releases or corporate reports.

Did you and your friend attend the same school or college together? Try to get information through the website of the school or college. If your friend is not listed anywhere on these sites, try the various class reunion websites, like

Is your friend a member of a professional organization that has a web presence? Has he or she written a book, an articleHealth Fitness Articles, or been cited in one? More and more books and articles are published to the web every month.

Article Tags: Other People, Last Name, Person You're, Search Engine, Middle Name, Domain Name

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