Employees at all the major online genealogy database providers spend a lot of time and effort watching how users perform searches on the site and analyzing the results. The purpose is to learn and to make future adjustments to the site to improve search capabilities. Those who monitor and analyze users say they have noticed that genealogy newcomers typically perform searches in a very different manner than do the "old pros." I suspect the experienced users typically end up with more productive results, although no statistics are available to prove that assumption.
Genealogy newcomers typically search everything at once. For instance, when looking for records on a particular ancestor, newbies typically enter the person's name into the search field and then search through everything at once. If the person has a rather unusual name, that might work. However, most of the time, the newcomer receives hundreds or even thousands of "hits," can't filter out the ones of interest, loses interest, and then goes elsewhere.
In contrast, the experienced genealogists usually FIRST search for the smallest piece of the many databases as possible.
For instance, the more experienced user will generally enter the name of interest, then perhaps specify only one database (such as the census records for one year), specify only one county, and any other parameters available to narrow the search as much as possible. If the search is unsuccessful and doesn't produce the information needed, the experienced user then expands the search just a little bit and tries again. For instance, he or she might add in the previous census or the following census, then search a second time. If unsuccessful this time, the experienced genealogist might start a third search by adding in the adjacent counties. And so on and so on.
Bit by bit, the experienced genealogist typically expands the search by a small amount each time. All of the search parameters are based upon what the genealogist already knows about the person of interest. Did he likely live in Monroe County? If so, there is no need to search the entire USA at once. Did he serve in the Civil War? If so, there is no need to search for records prior to 1820 and probably not prior to 1830 (on the first search) as he probably wasn't born yet. (Most Civil War soldiers were under the age of 30 although there were numerous exceptions. Very few were 40 years old or older.)
By focusing the first searches on as narrow a geographic area as possible and as narrow a time range as possible, you greatly increase the odds of finding the one person you seek. If unsuccessful in your search, broaden the search area a bit and the years of interest and try again.
I suspect the experienced genealogists have far better results with their online searches than do the newcomers who jump in and search everything, everywhere, at once. Which would you prefer: finding one or two people with your ancestor's name, located in the area where he or she lived, in the years he or she lived there? Or will you find 100 men or women across the country with the same name?