Believe it or not, there are people whose entire job revolves around doing searches for other people. These heroes of the hunt, champions of the chase; these legends of looking around all have been forced to learn how they can leverage the immense power of the internet in a way that is hidden from us mere mortals – who sometimes still go to AskJeeves by accident. The reason there’s a market for doing nothing but typing into a computer is even though search engines are incredibly simple on the surface, behind the scenes are endless grammatical and syntactical tricks that anyone can leverage to get Google – or really any search site you want – to spit out more accurate results.
A Note On Other Search Engines
Not everyone loves the Google juggernaut, and that’s to be expected. If you like to go through Bing or Yahoo, or Duck Duck Go (for anyone who wants a search engine that isn’t tracking their every move), most of these same strategies will work. You’ll have to experiment to find out.
Use Exact Phrasing
By putting quotes around something, you tell Google to look for that exact phrase. This is good for lyrics or quotes, but also works when you want a precise piece of your search to be sought out. You don’t need to use it on the whole phrase, just the phrase or words that must be included.
Use the Tabs
There’s tabs under the search bar, and you should be employing those. If you want pictures, search Images. For video, check video. Looking in the wrong spot will slow you down, but know what you want and Google shall abide.
Learn The Tools of The Trade
Each search tab also has tools that go along with it. Change the date of the news you’re seeking, look for larger or smaller images, or search magazines in the Book tab. The more you customize how you search, the more likely that Google will find what you need, rather than just show you a lot of porn.
Take The Wrong Words Out
The hyphen acts as a minus sign and will remove words from a search. So if you want to know all about Dolph Lundgren, but don’t want to know about Rocky, make sure you add in the -Rocky to get what you need.
Search a Single Site
Instead of searching all of the internet, Google can comb through a single site for you. Put in “site:” and it will only look on that website domain. This is often much better than using a search built into the site itself, so don’t even bother going somewhere if you know what you want.
Find Similar Pages
“Related:” is another tag that will help you. It will show you sites that are similar to the site you’re searching for. Say you love Benchmade knives and want to find other amazing knife manufacturers. Slap in “related:Benchmade.com” and see the wonders unfold.
Search Similar Words
The tilde that no one ever touches unless they are talking about El Niño has another function in Google: it will add in all synonyms to a search. If you’re looking for shampoo, but also considering cleansing conditioners or other hair care products, put in “~shampoo best” and it will use any similar words to help you out.
Add a Blank
Sometimes you don’t know all of the words you need. By putting in an asterisk, you tell Google that something goes in the spot, but you don’t know what. For example “when there is no more room in * the * shall walk the earth” provides you with:
Search a Range
If you’re looking for something in a particular price, or maybe trying to find something from a range of calendar dates, a couple of periods will help you out. “Cats $200..$900” will show you cats that cost between two-hundred and nine-hundred dollars. Then you should search for “~therapists” since you’re buying overpriced cats.
OR and VS
Add an OR in big caps onto your search, and it will give you either the first word or the second. AND has a similar function, but is largely unnecessary. With VS you can get side by side comparisons. This is good if you’re looking at food for nutrition facts, since Google has a sexy database of that.
Find Your File Type
If you know you’re hunting for a particular kind of file, then you use “filetype:”. Say you know you want a .jpg image of Demi Lovato, you type this out:
There’s a series of these “In” markers. If you want a word or phrase to appear in the text of a website, use “InText:” along with your words or phrases.
Instead of getting the words you want in the text, you may want them in the title of the page. In that case, you use “InTitle:” which will comb through only the titles of pages for what you want.
This is the last of the “In” markers and it exists so you can find a phrase in the actual link of the page. Good if you’re looking only in the actual links of the page, though that’s rarely the case.
The web is a massive network of sites that all link to one another, and sometimes you want to find where these roads lead. If you’re curious as to who is linking to your page, or where different sites get their traffic, add in the “link:” command and you’ll be shown which sites link to the target site most commonly.
Get Into The Archives
Really, this is just awesome for wasting time. Google has news archives that go back to the 1800’s on any number of topics. Give those a look if you’re seeking historical information because your time machine is busted.
Show Google Numbers
Google works as a calculator, a weights and measures converter, and a helpful assistant for all those little numerics you can’t always keep in your head. Go ahead and convert Watt hours to Kilocalories. We won’t even tell your mother that’s what you’re doing. Though if you’re trying to figure out pints in a firkin, you’ll have to do the math yourself.
Put It All Together
None of these search tricks exists in a vacuum. Mix and match, experiment with grammar, and use the different modifiers like “OR,” quotation marks, tildes, and asterisks all together. This is how you make your Google Fu strong and become commander of the search engine.
Play a little Pacman while you search. Or Tilt Google on its side. The programmers are a little wacky, and they stick playful things into Google all the time. There’s even a mirror version, or you can make it look like Bing!