Everybody finds everything every day with Google. Are you up to speed? Here are some intermediate level tips and tricks to make your Google searches more productive.
The faster you find what you really want on Google, the better. Google is just a tool, and like most tools, the better you understand it the better it will work for you. This column assumes that you already use Google and know the basics. You may already know most of these tips, but some of the others will still help you. If you know them all, you need to wait for our column on advanced tips. Here are a number of tips at the intermediate level to help you get better Google results.
Use Quotation Marks – Quotation marks force Google to look for the phrase or series of words you entered, exactly as you entered them. A search for [ windows build numbers ] will return every page that Google knows about containing any of those three words, currently about 17,100,000 of them. Using quotation marks and entering [ “windows build numbers” ] yields 223 pages, virtually all of which are about the subject you are interested in. This is also true of names. Search for [ Michael Wayne Jones ] and you will get abut 1,760,000 pages back. Enter [ “Michael Wayne Jones” ] with the quotes and you will get 419 returns. This may be the most important search tip in the world of Google.
Use the + and – signs – The “+” symbol means that the word is required The “-” symbol means that you don’t want pages with the following word. Generally, Google will treat the words entered on it’s basic search page as words that a page needs to have before it is returned to you, even without the plus. For example, [ keys ] returns 134,000,000 pages. Looking through the start of list, we find that a lot of the pages are about “Florida Keys” and “Alicia Keys.” Changing the search to [ +keys -florida -alicia ] reduces the return size by 15 million. Adding another required word [ +keys -florida -alicia +locks ] takes the number of returned pages down to just 447,000.
Use the OR Modifier – The OR modifier works like quotation marks in reverse. It returns pages that have any of the involved words. For example, let’s say that you are looking for articles about either the Apple iPhone or the Apple iPod. Searching for [ Apple iPhone iPod ] yields 91,100,000 results. Searching for [ Apple iPhone OR iPod ] yields significantly more (106,000,000) because now the articles do not have to contain both iPhone and iPod; all articles containing either, plus the word Apple, will be returned.
Use the Advanced Search Page – For any search any more complex that the ones discussed above, you may as well use the Google Advanced Search Page. As a matter of fact, I have the advanced search page set as my home page because I do a lot of searches. The advanced search page give you a handy way to do complex searches without worrying about using symbols or special search modifier words.
We have already covered the top four lines of this page. The first text box (all these words) is exactly like the text box on the regular Google search page. Your search will return pages that have all the words that you type into that text box. The other boxes produce more complex searches. The next line (this exact wording or phrase) automatically places quotes around the words that you type here, as discussed above.
The next line (one or more of these words:) allows you to enter terms just as if you were using the OR qualifier explained above. Finally, the fourth text box line (any of these unwanted words:) allows you to exclude words from your search, just like the “-” symbol explained above. The top box on the screen shows you what your search line would look like if you were typing it directly into the basic Google search page and can be a great learning tool for entering complex search terms directly.
There are more ways to customize and modify your search in the “Need More Tools?” section of the page.
You can change “Results per page” which is the number of pages shown on a single returns page by selecting either 10, 20, 30, 50, or 100 items per return page. The default number is 10.
You can select the “Language:” from which results pages are to be returned. The default is to return results from all languages.
You can select the type of file (File Type:) that you want the search to return, such as doc, pdf, ODF, etc. The default is to return all file types.
You can search within a single domain (Search within a site or domain:), such as CNN.com to return items from only a single Web site. The default is to return items from all domains.
You probably see some use for each of those options. And you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet. Click on the link that says “Date, usage rights, numeric range, and more” and you will discover even more ways to find what you want.
You can limit results by “Date: (how recent the page is)” by selecting from a list including the past 24 hours, the past week, the past month, and the past year. The default is that you get search returns from all dates.
You can limit your search by “Usage rights:” by selecting among free to use or share, free to use or share even commercially, free to use share or modify, or free to use share or modify even commercially. The default is to not filter for rights. This is a great way to search for things that you can freely incorporate into your own work.
You can return results by where “Where your keywords show up:” by selecting from in the title of the page, in the text of the page, in the URL of the page, or in the links to the page. The default for this qualifier is anywhere in the target page.
You can limit the search to pages from a large number of regions (Region:) by selecting one from a drop-down list. The default is not to filter by region.
You can also filter by the numbers (Numeric range:) which appear within the target page by typing in a lower limit and an upper limit, perhaps [ 1950 .. 1959 ] to limit the search to those years or [ $250 .. $750 ] to limit results to that price range.
Finally, you can do the search with “SafeSearch” turned on or off. The default for this qualifier is that which you have set for SafeSearch in your individual preferences.
Use Your Brain – Even with all of those options, the best way to do good searches on Google is to use your brain. Remember how Google works; it looks for your search terms, however entered, on Web pages. So you need to insure that the terms that you want are included. If you are looking for reviews of compact cars, you will get better results by entering the names of those cars (Civic, Insight, Mazda3, Matrix, Focus, etc.) plus the word “review” rather than searching for “compact car reviews.”
Keep in mind that you are not trying to describe the pages you want to see. Instead, you are trying to enter the words that you think will be on the pages that you want to see. This is not always immediately apparent, but it is what gets the best results. Happy Googling!
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