I don't know if your have the Family Tree Maker program, but the 'searching' that I do starts with the Online Family Finder Report that is created within that program. So, I don't do a lot of searching from any of the generic search pages.
I do, however, do searching on my subscriptions. But, I'll be looking at a specific subscription. Example: I know that the specific family is in a certain state about a certain time. So, I'll just go to that State and Year, and search for the Surname. I don't try to reduce that further, just work at the Surname level. They I will browse thru the pages of that surname.
The reason that I do that, is that I have found that I was looking for Elizabeth but was listed as E. (just as an example)