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13 tips to search Google effectively

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Google may be the go-to search engine of the internet but many users fail to recognise its complexity – essentially, Google is a living organism that learns and grows with every search, meaning that your search today might not return the same results tomorrow.

If you’re struggling to find exactly what you are looking for on Google, to be blunt, the problem is usually with the search request, rather than the search engine. However, there are different codes and methods which can be incorporated into search requests to filter out the bad and return only the good.

When searching in Google, remember the following to find exactly what you are looking for:

1. Every word you put into the search engine field is generally used, so the more words you use, the fewer the results (this can be a good or bad thing, so keep reading). For example, if you are looking for the Australian Government’s website, ‘Australia’ and ‘government’ would be a better search request than simply ‘government’.

2. Searches aren’t case sensitive and usually ignore punctuation. For example, typing ‘Switzer’ or ‘switzer’ will gain the same results, as would a question-marked search request versus a request with no question mark.

3. Keep it simple for more results. If you are looking for something incredibly specific, the more words, the better. But for general queries, a few words should generate the right responses. Stick to a few words for the first search and then add or take away until you get the search results you are looking for.

4. Phrase keywords correctly. Search requests shouldn’t be phrased as if you were asking a question. Rather, pick keywords and search for them. So, for example, if you were looking for good restaurants in Melbourne, instead of searching ‘What are good restaurants in Melbourne?’, type ‘good’, ‘restaurants’ and ‘Melbourne’.

Basic search is usually enough to get the results you’re looking for. But for more specific information, you may need some of the following code written into your search request.  

5. Use double quotes for exact search. Place quotation marks around a set of words to find those exact words and phrasing within the article. This will omit any results with those words in a different order or with words in between.

6. If you wish to Google search within a specific website, include ‘site:’ followed by its URL (with no space in between) to your search request. So, if you were searching for budget information on, ‘ budget’ would give back results relating to budgets strictly from our website.

7. You can also search for results on sites with a specific domain, such as .org or .au using the above code. So, if you wanted to find government sites with content on the NBN, you would search for ‘ NBN’.

8. Google will often provide results according to how commonly searched for they are, which means commonly associated words and themes will crop up even when they are not searched for. If you want to omit any words, include a hyphen before the search word you want to omit. For example, Sydney Harbour Bridge would often crop up if you searched for ‘Sydney’ and ‘bridge’. To omit ‘harbour’, your search request should look like this: ‘Sydney bridge –harbour’.

9. Similar to the in-site search listed in point six and seven, omitting specific websites from your search results is possible. For example, if you wanted to search for budgets, but didn’t want results showing up, your search would look like this: ‘budget –’.

10. Sometimes you’ll want to include two searches within the one – for this, use the word OR (in caps) between those words. For example, say you wanted to search for State of Origin results for 2009 or 2010, your search result would be ‘State of Origin 2009 OR 2010’. Too easy. 

11. Want to search for a specific filetype, such as PDF or PowerPoint? Include the term ‘filetype:pdf’, ‘filetype:xls’ or ‘filetype:ppt’ before the search result to have only these types of files returned.

12. If you want your results to have the search term specifically within the header, include the term ‘intitle:’ before the search keywords. Remember, if you want a specific phrase within the title, use the quotation marks. For example, ‘intitle:”peter switzer”’ will return only those webpages with the title featuring Peter Switzer’s name, not Switzer Peter, or Peter J. Switzer.

13. Remember, there are a few exceptions to the rule in Google. Words such as ‘the’ and ‘a’ will usually be ignored in the search results. And, going against the punctuation rule, some punctuation will be recognised such as dollar symbols and hyphens connecting words.

Published on: Thursday, October 20, 2011

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