I've used Google shortcuts for a long time - you know, like "links:www.webpronews.com" to find out how many links to my site Google recognizes, and "define:guttural" to find definitions. They also recently launched a travel information shortcut, and a number range operator.

I learned today that Yahoo has search sortcuts too, and there are some striking differences between what Google and Yahoo offer.

For example, I'd choose Google's define:guttural over Yahoo's define guttural because Google sources several online sources, including Princeton and BBC websites, while Yahoo sticks solely to The American Heritage Dictionary.

Also, Yahoo's first definition page returns search results for the short cut itself, while Google shows you a page that only has definitions. And not that I'm an ad-hater or anything, but on Google's page there's only one link at the top to their Google Answers service, while Yahoo's full definition page, which you have to click over to, is plastered with advertising and links to Yahoo's other offerings.

If you leave the colon out of your guttural search in Google you get a page similar to Yahoo's, showing Google's slightly more sophisticated use of search indicators.

One less click and more sources keeps me searching Google for dictionary definitions.

Gary Price, who finds Google's define function useful but not always accurate, pointed out that Google does offer proper dictionary definitions. Simply type your term into the search box and then click, in the right of the blue bar that runs above the search results, the "definition" link. It takes you directly to a Dictionary.com page.

Now, Yahoo does offer a built-in encyclopedia search. If you type in "caterpillar facts" then your top result links to an encyclopedia entry. Now, does this beat wikipedia's caterpillar entry? No, but it does beat Google's encyclopedia entry.

Some other Yahoo-only shortcuts include traffic reports and synonym finders.

Yahoo, like Google, offers search operators that are helpful to webmasters. You can restrict your search by file type, as well as by meta keywords (which I've always found useful).

You can search within a given site (site:webpronews.com seo), see who's linking to you (link:webpronews.com), search for specific terms in urls (inurl:seo), and more.

So what does all this mean to the webmaster? Well, search is young. You need to stay abreast of how people are searching for information, and the changing tools they use for digging out the information they're looking for.

For the record - AltaVista was the first search engine to offer search shortcuts, and Ask Jeeves currently has the most.

Thanks to ResourceShelf for the tip.