Too often I find myself unable to locate content from a specific website despite me knowing it's on there somewhere, and too often do I find myself having to search for those advanced phrases/tools that help pin the required material down. This post is a tutorial for helping people with their googling skills. If you want to search Google for a specific site scroll the page a little...
These are basic tips and tricks that I guess everyone knows about:
Searching by phrase (" ")
- When you place quotation marks around a word or phrase you are telling Google that the word or phase in-between those marks is exactly what you are looking for. Google will hunt for those words in that precise order only. A search for "John Kennedy" will omit any results for John Fitzgerald Kennedy (unless, of course, both search terms appear on the page!). This kind of search is very useful for finding direct citations of famous speeches.
Exclusion searches (-)
- If there is a word that you do not want to appear in your search results then simply stick a minus sign in front of the word. For instance you might want to find a review of the film Inception but not the Blu-ray version, then just stick the minus in front of Blu-ray (eg -Blu-ray) without leaving a space to omit the term. This is stackable too, so you can add multiple exclusions (eg Inception review -CD -Blu-ray)
Exact search (+)
- This is a little similar to the "phrase" search above but is generally applicable to single words. Google is good at locating similar words or phrases to the terms we type but sometime we don't want it to find synonyms. It will bring search results for "green house" if you type "greenhouse", for instance. Place a plus sign in front of your search term to get exact searches only.
Beyond the basics
These searches might be a little more advanced or refined for the typical googler but they can be very helpful
Number range search (..)
- Sometimes a search might need to include number data across a specified range. In order to do this you need to add two numbers at the beginning and end of the range separated by two full stops (eg 30..105 will search for data in the range from 30 to 105). It really comes into its own when combined with other search terms like dates "David Bowie 1969..1972" and weights "1..10 lb butter". If you include the measurement you can be very specific, even finding bargains, eg. "Blu-ray player £50..100"
Site specific search (site)
- This search feature is tres useful. You better believe it. If you know you've seen something important on a specific site but you can't remember which page you will want to run a search that only hunts for your terms on that site and excludes the rest of the web. If you employ the search query "Libya site:bbc.co.uk" the results will only include details about Libya from www.bbc.co.uk. There are variants on this search, such as "Libya bbc.co.uk" (excluding the term site:) but this might bring in searches from other (news) sites mentioning both Libya and the BBC site. You can also specify a whole set of domains, for example, "Libya site:.gov" will only search government sites while "Libya site:.ly" will only search Libyan sites for the search term.
Wildcard search (*)
- The * icon, AKA the wildcard is a very useful little tool. It acts like a Boolean function that stands in for a number of variants in a search, and tries to find what it thinks is relevant. Say for instance you run a search for "Apple *" will give you a list of Apple products and services - different to a search for just "Apple". You can even use it multiple times in a search to find stuff out, for example "* gb iphone 4 costs * " will bring you results based on the different hard drive sizes and their relevant prices.
The OR search (OR)
- Usually every word in a search is counted (except for common words like "and", "the", etc) but you can use the common term "OR" in capitals to distinguish between certain results. Say you wanted to find the year associated with a specific event like the FA Cup winners but you weren't sure of the date then you could enter a search like "FA Cup 1999 OR 2000" to find info about either one of these years. A search without OR in it, "FA Cup 1999 2000", will include pages that show both those years on that page
Synonym search (~)
- If you want to look for some term and all the synonyms for that term then place a tilde ~ immediately in front of the word. This is useful for finding related issues. A search for "~alcohol ~facts" will pull thought all sorts of information about health, nutrition and even support advice.
These are just a handful of the Google search operators that will improve your search kung-fu. You can also use them in conjunction with each other.