Technician’s Blog

How to use google to search more effectively

More effective Google searches

Google’s a convenient way to find information but it doesn’t always provide the results we’re looking for. Either the information appears on page 2 or more or our search query returns too many results or gives preference to results that don’t provide the information we wanted.
By adding a simple operator to the search term, we can tell Google’s search engine to restrict the search to certain areas of the web and thus, get more relevent results.

If our search query, the words typed into the search form, contains several words, then Google’s engine may also return results that contain partial matches on the individual words in the query string and not neccessarily the specific information required. This can be frustrating, but armed with a little know-how, those “good results” are just an operator away.

So, how do we get the results we’re after in the minimum number of searches? Well, here’s a few tips which will allow Google’s search engine to find just the information we’re after. It’s worth pointing out that these operators will work with other search engines too; like the beautiful, clean-interfaced and privacy friendly DuckDuckGo.

TIP 1: Search within a website or domain

Let’s say we’re trying to buy a new keyboard online.

We could simply type keyboard into Google and take our chances scrolling through the results, but this kind of general search will include pretty much the We can search within a single website by appending the {site:} operator to the search term followed by the domain we wish to search.entire web including US based companies and non-sales sites. So our results will include blogs, reviews, foreign websites and anywhere else that contains the word keyboard in the page. There’s got to be a better way, right? Fortunately, the solution is as simple as adding one of several operators after the search query.

For example, we can search within a single website, such as amazon.co.uk by adding the site:domain operator to our search query.

Notice that the query takes the form {search-term} {operator}:{domain} as in the example below.

Using the site operator

Click the image to view the search results

TIP 2: Search for exact phrases within quote marks

What if we want to search for two or more words?

Using the keyboard example again, suppose we’re actually looking for a wireless keyboard. We could just type that in, but, and this depends upon the search phrase being used, the results may not necessarily reflect our intentions and could return hits on either the word wireless or keyboard but not neccessarily both terms of the search together.

However, we can tell the search engine to search for both words and importantly, search for them in the order that we’ve typed them by surrounding the query with quotation marks. This returns results for the entire phrase instead of matches for individual words within it.

Searching for phrases

Click the image to view the search results

We are also free to combine our quoted phrase search with the above site: operator to further restrict the results to a particular website.

Searching for phrases within a site

Click the image to view the search results

TIP 3: Wildcard – Search for unknown terms

Ever wanted to find something but don’t have enough information?

For example, let’s say we hear a song on the radio but we miss the artist’s name and the song title, assuming that they even give this information. However, we remember a part of one line from the song which goes ...home for incurable tyrants

Even though our information is incomplete, we can still find what we’re looking for if we make use of the wildcard operator to represent the bits we don’t know. The wildcard symbol is the * or asterisk, and is used to represents an unknown word or phrase within a search query.

If we use the * wildcard to symbol in place of the unknown lyrics and add in the bit that we remember, we should, God willing, get results that provide us with the lyrics, the song title and the artist.

Using the wildcard symbol

Click the image to view the search results

As can be seen from the search results, click the image above to view them, the band is Pink Floyd, the song is called The Fletcher Memorial Home and the third result provides the name of the album that the song appeared on; The Final Cut. These are excellent results and all from adding a single charchter to to the search.

Had the above query not found the answer, then the next step would be to wrap the entire search string in quote marks.

Surround the wildcard symbol with quote marks

Click the image to view the search results

That the top four results in both searches are identical, with or without the quote marks, is a testament to how well Google has tuned their search algorithms. This same search performed a few year ago would have provided better results with the latter, quotation wrapped query. As Google continues to improve and fine-tune the intelligence of its search engine, the need to use these additional operators diminishes. Nevertheless, they are useful to keep in mind when the answers prove illusive.

TIP 5: Excluding words

Search for a phrase but exclude a word from it.

Let’s suppose we’re trying to find replacement windows of the glass variety and not Microsoft’s Operating System. Simply searching for the obvious and typing windows into the search field brings up a whole host of entries which are completely unrelated to our intended search.

The obvious search query is stuffed with results we don't want

Click the image to view the search results

What to do? Fortunately, we can tell the search engine to discard specific keywords by using the exclude operator, which is designated as the - or minus character.

Excluding certain words gets better results

Click the image to view the search results

Notice that the results from the search query with the appended exclusions now omits any references to the excluded terms. Job done!