When the World Wide Web is at your fingertips, search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing and others are imperative for finding and organizing all that information. Each search engine works a little bit differently depending on how it indexes web pages, which is why the exact same search on different engines may yield slightly different results.
As a fast growing company, Google has become a lot of things to a lot of people-actually, more than 128 million people-but it still excels at its original mission to provide users with quick and effective Internet search results. The intuitiveness of Google searches often seems almost human-like, but it is merely a software program. As a mortal, you can maximize its power by understanding a few basic rules.
The first rule of Google searches is that for every rule there is an exception. There are even exceptions to the exceptions. So, to avoid getting too mired in details, this article will focus on the most common search goals and guidelines. If you like details, try out these search tips on Google to learn even more!
1. Make every word count. Google looks for pages that include all the words you put in the search field. Think about how something would be phrased on a page, not how you would ask a question. For example, you’ll likely get more, and better, results from “chewy chocolate chip cookie recipe” than “what’s the best way to make chocolate chip cookies?”
2. Force-add or exclude words from searches. Searching for “cardinals” may bring up a variety of results-mostly sports related. But, if you want to learn more about the beautiful red bird, narrow your results by excluding “football” from your search with a minus sign in front of it. Your new search would look like this: “cardinals -football.” The space before the minus sign is important as it distinguishes an excluded word from a hyphenated word.
Excluding “football” gives you a lot more bird-related results, but now you may see lots of baseball-related results. So, exclude baseball for an event better search: “+cardinals -football -baseball.” Don’t forget the spaces.
Using a plus sign in front of a word tells Google to find the term exactly as you typed it. This basically deactivates Google from making its usual assumptions about your intent. So, usually Google would assume a search for “solor energy” was supposed to be for “solar energy.” Change the search to “+solor energy” and that’s exactly what you’ll get (a volcanic island, in case you’re wondering).
3. Get exact matches with quotation marks. If you’ve ever searched for a first and last name, you’ve likely seen results where both names are mentioned on a web page, but not necessarily next to each other. If you want to find John Smith and ignore results for John Doe and Jane Smith, then surround John Smith with quotation marks. You might want to try “Smith, John” as well.
4. Be insensitive to capitalization and ignore punctuation. Google searches are not case sensitive, so don’t bother correcting the lower-case “c” in front of “chicago.” Google won’t care. And since Google searches ignore most punctuation, so can you.
5. Search whole words. Google searches exactly what you tell it to search. So, if you type “bana,” you’ll get pages that mention “bana” (apparently it is an acronym for Braille Authority of North America.) Chances are good that you were more interested in results for “banana.”
6. Find a missing word. If you want to look up a news story you heard on the radio because you missed a key detail, the Google “wildcard” may come to your rescue. Including an * in a query is like putting in a placeholder for an unknown term. Google searches for the best possible ways to fill in your blank (or *) based on the other search terms you provided. For example, a query for “Obama voted * on the * bill” will give you stories about different votes on different bills.
7. Perform calculations and conversions. If you want to know if a temperature of 35 Celsius in London equates to coat weather when converted to Fahrenheit, ask Google. It can automatically perform all sorts of mathematical calculations and conversions for you. For this example, enter “35C in F” to find out you need to bring a swimsuit!
8. Go beyond web page searches. Using keywords in your search query will reveal instant answers to all sorts of everyday questions. Want to know the weather in Las Vegas? Enter “weather: las vegas.” For the definition of existential, enter “define: existential.” You can even get stock quotes by entering “stock:goog” or any other stock symbol. And, if you want to share a movie with your kids about summer camp, search “movie:summer camp” for results like “Meatballs” and “Daddy Day Camp.”
For more fun and useful ways to perform Google searches, go to www.google.com and search “google search tips.” You should find exactly what you’re looking for.