Google is no stranger to us, right? You may even think Google is a bit too familiar…
Google is probably a big part of your life, one way or another. But when it comes to that single box on the home page, waiting for your keyword input, what do you type in? A recent US study suggested that many Google searches don’t dig deep enough.
“Throughout the interviews, students mentioned Google 115 times — more than twice as many times as any other database. The prevalence of Google in student research is well-documented, but the Illinois researchers found something they did not expect: students were not very good at using Google. They were basically clueless about the logic underlying how the search engine organizes and displays its results. Consequently, the students did not know how to build a search that would return good sources.”
Rather than type a word or two in the search box and hope for the best, there’s a whole host of ways you can make Google find you far better results to suit exactly what you’re looking for. Here are 10 simple ideas to get Google working even harder for you:
1. Go beyond the first page of results
When Google returns about a billion results, you’re not even skimming the surface if you stay on Page One. Dig deeper. You may be surprised at what you find. Used with the tips below, it works especially well, because you’ll be getting more targeted results. What used to return a billion hits may now produce a million. Or a thousand. Or a hundred.
But even if you get a hundred results back, that’s still ten pages of Google goodness going on. If you ignore Page Two and beyond, who’s to say you weren’t amazingly close to finding exactly what you wanted?
2. Find similar words with a tilde (~)
With a WHAT!? The tilde looks like this:
Yes, a tilde looks a bit like a curly moustache.
But wait, its powers don’t stop at imitating facial hair. A tilde also tells Google to put a thesaurus to your word. For instance, if you search for “study tips”, you get one set of results. But search for “study ~tips” and you get results for study tips, study skills, study techniques, study guides, and so on.
3. “Use quotes”
When you’re looking for an exact set of words together, put them inside quotes so Google searches for the phrase in its entirety rather than as separate words. You can still add other words outside quotes.
4. Use ‘OR’ in your search
With a few interchangeable words in mind, the ‘OR’ operator lets you search for one or more of the words you choose. Sometimes you want to search a core topic, but with several separate sub-topics. By using OR between each of the sub-topics, you don’t need to bother with multiple searches. [Make sure OR is in capital letters, otherwise Google considers it as the word 'or'.]
5. Use Google Scholar, Books, and News
Google offers other services that give entirely different results, which can be especially useful when you do academic research.
Google Scholar searches for scholarly papers. You can search within a timeframe, limiting the search to just the recent academic papers if you wish.
Google Books looks at content inside, you guessed it, books. When you need a juicy quote or want to read more about a technical detail, this type of search is great. You can also study a book before you even have the physical copy in your hands.
Google News looks at current events, making it great for relevant links about what’s happening right now in your area of interest. You can even set up email alerts every time new articles are published.
6. Search over a particular time
On the left hand side of your search, click on the text that says ‘More search tools‘. New options will appear to let you search the past year, the past month, the past day, even the past hour. You can also search a specific date range if you like.
7. Filter more
Also on the left hand side of your search, you can select various filtering options on your results. One good (though not perfect) option is to search by reading level (basic, intermediate, expert). You can also look at a search timeline, which can be hit and miss, but arranged differently to the standard search results.
Want to search for words that are so important they have to be in the page title? Just add ‘allintitle:’ before your search.
If you want to search for a specific word in the title, but also drill down further with words that’ll only show up elsewhere on the page, add ‘intitle:’ before the word you require in the title of the page. Type the other words as usual. Google will do the rest of the magic.
What if you only want to search for Word documents or Adobe Acrobat files? No problem. For Word files, add your search terms and include ‘filetype:doc OR filetype:docx’. For Acrobat files, add your search terms and include ‘filetype:pdf’.
These search tips are quick and easy, especially after you’ve used them a couple of times. But Google search goes further than that. If these examples have got you hooked, check out Google Guide for a complete overview of everything available at your fingertips.