If you couldn’t Google something, what would you do? The most popular search engine hasn’t been around for that long, but it’s hard to imagine the world before it.
But even the mighty Google can sometimes fail when you’re trying to find some specific information. And to make sure you get the search results you want, it’s good to know a few tips and tricks on how to optimize your Google searches.
Knowing which shortcut to use can turn a potentially tedious search into just a few clicks. So, what are some of the most practical Google search tricks?
This is one of the most useful tricks when you’re looking for something particular. But if you’re not sure what you’re looking for, vagueness would usually work better.
In contrast, if you know exactly what you need to find, quotations will narrow the search. You can also use this trick to check if certain content is plagiarism.
Or, when you need to locate the original source for information or statistics. Quotations can also help you shop online.
Searching for “blue high-waisted jeans” will show you only the results with that exact string of text. Otherwise, you might end up with many results for high-waisted jeans that aren’t blue or blue jeans that aren’t high-waisted.
Use the Hyphen
Google searches for something that has a very broad meaning, or two very different meanings, can sometimes be quite complicated.
For example, “Bears” refers to a species of large mammals that are found in many countries in the world. But it could also refer to the NFL’s Chicago Bears.
Now, if you want to search for the pro football team, you can use the hyphen to eliminate any search results pertaining to the animal. All you have to do is type in “Bears -animals” and that’s it.
Apply the Asterisk
When you hear a song that you like and wonder who’s the artist, Google can help you out. Even if you know just a few sporadic words, you might be lucky enough to find the song with the help of the asterisk.
Just like computer programming and some other technical fields, Google recognizes the asterisk as a gap that’s meant to be filled with any string of text (one or more words).
So, just type in all of the words that you remember separated by an asterisk. It’s also a great way to find an exact quote when you only have bits and pieces.
Search for Similar Sites
Google’s algorithm is designed to rank the most popular websites or pages, i.e. they’ll show in the order of decreasing popularity.
So, if you have a favorite website that you visit often, you might want to look a little further and find something similar, for another point of view or otherwise.
You can do this by typing “related:” followed by the website’s name. If you’re looking for a website that’s similar to BestBuy, for example, you’d enter “related: bestbuy.com”.
Search for a Page with a Link to Another Page
This trick can be very useful to have in your arsenal.
If you want to find all web pages that have a link out to a specific page, you’d type in “link:” and then the exact URL.
If your link is a URL to the home page of a well-known newspaper like Washingtonpost.com, you’ll probably get many Google hits. But if it’s a specific Washington Post URL, you’re likely to get fewer.
Add Search Words Gradually
One of the first rules of Google search is to keep things as simple as possible. If you overwhelm the search box with too many words, you’ll have a harder time hunting down the information.
Sometimes though, keeping it vague and sticking with a broad search can lead to nowhere. That’s when you start gradually adding words to the search box.
You might have started with just “apartments nearby.” But you might want to add “cheap apartments nearby” if Google keeps returning results that are out of your price range.
Mastering the Search Engine Vocabulary
Normally when you’re typing your search words in Google, you don’t think about the phrasing too much. We all assume that Google’s sophisticated algorithm can figure out anything.
On the other hand, knowing how to phrase things a little better can lead to better search results. For example, instead of writing “my stomach hurts” try “stomachache relief.”
Compare Items Using “vs.”
There are a lot of websites that compare or review similar products. The items could be similar in quality and price, but you might also want to find out other features that might help you make up your mind or something.
If you can’t decide between two items, you can type them both in the Google search box and put “vs.” between them. You’re likely to receive many Google hits on the comparison.
This is also a great tool to use when you can’t decide what to eat and maybe want to find out the nutritional facts for pasta vs. rice.
Search by the Publish Date
Google doesn’t always list searches by the publishing date. In many cases, you might click on a search result only to realize that the information on the page is ten years old. For certain evergreen topics, that might be just fine.
But if you need fresher and more updated info, you can make sure that the search results are more recent. Select “Tools” and then you can use the first drop-down menu (time) to customize the recency range.
Search for the Correct Meaning
It’s no secret that Google is the place to go when you need to find the meaning of a word or slang. To make sure you only get the most accurate search results, type “Define:” in the search box prior to the text.
You’ll probably get a list of websites specializing in word etymology or acronyms. Apart from the definition, you’ll perhaps learn a few synonyms as well.
Becoming a Google Search Pro
It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been using Google in your research, or how savvy you are at it, there’s always something new to learn. And even if you know all the tricks, it’s in human nature to forget some of them if not used for a long time.
Google searches can be short and straightforward, or they can be a bit frustrating and fruitless. But if you have a few tricks up your sleeve, you’re likely to find what you’re looking for quickly.