As amazing as Google is for search, by no means is it perfect. If it were, you would be able to head over to Google and be presented with exactly what you’re looking for without ever needing to type anything in. Though Google is trying to get to that point with Google Now, we are definitely ways away from this truly being a reality.
Until then, you’re going to need to perfect the way you perform searches in order to find exactly what you’re looking for. So, if you’re ready to start Googling like the Googliest Googler to ever Google a Google (too much?) then here are some easy tips to make your searches better:
Use Web-Friendly Words & Phrases
When you do a search, try to break it down into its most basic elements. Remember that you are speaking to a computer, not a person. They don’t think like we do (yet…). Google has gotten very good at interpreting non-essential elements of search strings and delivering accurate results, but it is much more efficient to compose your searches properly in the first place.
For this example, let’s pretend we’re looking up how to roast potatoes. To start, we’ve entered the following term into Google:
“What is the best amount of time to roast potatoes in my apartment’s oven for the chicken parmesan dinner that I’m making tonight.”
As you’ve probably guessed already, there is a ton of information that’s completely irrelevant to what you’re looking for. All you really need to know is how long to roast potatoes for. It doesn’t matter that you’re in an apartment, what you’re making with it or when you’re making it. By including these terms, you’re confusing Google and making it think that these are important to your search as well.
Now let’s eliminate the whole second half of the search:
“What is the best amount of time to roast potatoes”
Better…but still not great. There’s still a lot of unnecessary words here that can limit your results. In particular, “what is the best amount of time” could prevent results that don’t use that phrase but are presenting similar information.
Let’s revise once more and this time move beyond using complete and grammatically correct sentences:
“how long roast potatoes”
Much better! By simultaneously using the smallest number and most commonly occurring words as possible, we are able to reach more websites that pertain to our criteria.
Search the Right Places
Google.com is deceptively simple. For all intents and purposes, it appears that the only way to search is by entering your search string into the one search box on the page. As it turns out, there are many different services that Google offers that are based on various content types. If you head over to Google’s Products page, you’ll find a number of different search types including:
If you know you’re looking for the latest developments in a news story, opinions from bloggers or excerpts from a book, it will save you a lot of time to restrict your search to just the content types that you’re looking for. Each one of these services also has additional options that are relevant for the content you’re searching for. For example, a Scholar search will let you select whether you would like to include patents in your results, something that would not be relevant for a regular Google search.
Get More Advanced
After you’ve performed a regular Google search, you can get more targeted results by using Advanced Search. Don’t worry if you haven’t seen this before, Google has tucked away this option in a not-so-obvious spot.
After your initial results have loaded, select the gear icon in the top right of the page. From there, you’ll be able to select Advanced Search:
You’ll now see a screen full of advanced options to apply to your search. The first set of options allows you to “find pages with” certain criteria that you set:
- All these words: The results must contain all of these words within the page.
- This exact word or phrase: The words entered must appear in that exact order within the page. If the criteria is “Hover rocks” (you know, just a regular everyday search) then a page containing “Hover is a service that rocks” would not be included in results, but “The service provided by Hover rocks” would match.
- Any of these words: This is particularly useful for synonyms. Searching for “rocks” might limit you to sites that only used that word, but others may have expressed the same sentiment with “rules,” “awesome,” “best,” or other terms.
- None of these words: Use this field to enter any words that will be irrelevant to your search or you know that you want to avoid. If we only wanted to know how great we were, we’d put “sucks” or “worst” in here to try to avoid negative websites. Not that those exist or anything.
- Numbers ranging from: This is ideal if you’re searching for a certain price range, units of measurement, etc.
PRO TIP: Beside these fields are instructions on how to use these filters within the normal Google search bar (e.g. using quotations to find exact words or phrases).
Next, narrow your results even more options:
These are fairly self-explanatory so we won’t go over all of them, but here are the ones that you might find the most useful:
- Language: Don’t bother cluttering your results with pages in languages that you won’t understand.
- Region: Use this if you’re looking for information pertaining to a certain location.
- Site or domain: If you’re trying to recall an article you found on a certain website, this option will let you only search that website.
- Terms appearing: Depending on your search, you might want to only search the URL, the title, article text, or any of the other options available.