We all know that the answer to pretty much anything you want to know is somewhere to be found on the Internet, but finding it isn’t always as easy as it should be.
This is somewhat ironic really, Webmasters are finding it harder and harder to get their content to the top of Google’s listings, and those doing the searching are finding it harder and harder to get relevant results.
Of course, being only an index of what is on the Web, Google is only a tool to finding the content you are searching for and like any other tool its effectiveness depends largely on how it is used.
With the tips we are going to outline below, you can make your Google searches a lot more effective, and drill down to the data you want with ease.
1. Exact phrase match – We’ve all done it, typed in our search string and gotten back a set of answers with only a vague connection to what you were searching for. This is because Google will match content that matches all the words you search on, but not the exact phrase. To search on the exact phrase you want, simply enclose your search string in double quotes ( ” ” ) to get an exact phrase match.
2. Search for related words – You may want to search for something that has more than one way of being described e.g. Alternative Medicine. by inserting a tilde ( ~ ) before the word you want alternatives of, so in our example using ~Alternative Medicine will replace ‘Alternative’ with things such as ‘Homeopathic’, ‘Complimentary’, etc.
3. Exclude certain words – Normally you want to find all pages that relate as closely to your search string as possible, but there are times when you want to exclude certain results. By inserting a minus symbol ( – ) before the word you want excluded. e.g. If you are looking for pages about Dogs, then putting ‘-cats’ at the end of your string will exclude all pages that also mention cats.
4. Use Google as a dictionary – Not many people know that Google can be used a dictionary. If you want to know the meaning of a word and don’t have a paper dictionary to hand then simply type Define: before the word you want to look up, and Google will provide you with a dictionary definition. This can be very useful if you are out and have a smartphone capable of accessing the Internet.
5. Search within a date range – Imagine you are looking for a web page that you know exists, but are struggling to find it. If you know an approximate date for when it pass published you can specify that in your search string. Simply put the start and end dates you want to search for between two full stops (..) and your results will only show pages published between those dates.
6. Search within a Website – Similarly to the date range search, imagine you know that you have seen some information that you want again on a specific site, but can’t find it by using the sites navigation. By starting your search with ‘site:’ and the name of the site you want to search your results will be limited to that site. e.g. ‘site:nameofwebsite Excel’ will return all pages from the named site that have the word Excel in them.
7. Fill in the blanks – The best use we can think of for this tip is finding music lyrics. If you know only part of a phrase that you are searching for, you can replace the missing words with asterisks (*) and the search will still run. Trying ‘I got my * * Six String’ will return the lyrics for Brian Adams song Summer of 69 (I got my first real six string) as the first result.
8. Use Google as a calculator – In a similar manner to tip no. 4 Google can also be pressed into service if you need to do some maths and don’t have a calculator handy. Simply type your equation into the search box and let Google work out the answer for you.
9. Convert currency – A bit like the calculator, Google can be used to convert currency at the current exchange rate. Simply type the amount of currency you have, and its denomination, then ‘to’ and the denomination you want to convert to and Google will give you the current conversion. e.g. ‘1000 euros to sterling‘ will convert 1000 Euros to British pounds.
10. Search by file type – If you are looking for a particular type of file, say a spreadsheet for your chosen search term, simply type ‘filetype:XLS‘ and the end of the query and you will get back all Excel spreadsheets that match your search.
Finally, remember that many of the tips above can be combined, so with a bit effort, it’s possible to construct some very complex searches. E.g. You can combine tips 1, 3 and 10 to search for all PowerPoint presentations that have the phrase ‘dog kennel’ but do not contain the word ‘cat’ by using the search string “dog kennel” -cat filetype:PPT
And now for a bonus tip for a bit of fun, and maybe even freak out anyone looking over your shoulder – type ‘Do a barrel roll’ in to the search box and sit back to see some screen shenanigans.