Advanced Search Techniques To Help You Google Like a Pro
By now, I'd say almost everyone knows how to search the Web using Google. If you'd ask most people how proficient they are in finding things with Google, I'm sure most people would rate themselves pretty highly. It seems like a relatively simple skill.
However, the reality is that most people are barely scratching the surface when it comes to online search. Sure, they find what they are looking for eventually, but they are often doing it the hard way. By using specific search "operators" in Google, you'll gain ninja-like searching skills that are sure to put your friends to shame.
|Operator||How to Use It|
|"Quoted Phrase"||When you add quotes around a phrase, Google will only show results with the entire phrase. For example, the search "villing and company" would not find a page that said "villing is the best advertising company". This is great for finding specific quotes or phrases.|
|The + sign||Adding a plus sign before any word will make sure that that word is included. This is especially useful when it is a word that Google would typically ignore (such as "the", "I" or "a") or when you don't want Google to search for plural variants or different spellings. For instance a search for +favorite +movie would tell Google to ignore lists of favorite movies and also ignore pages that had favorite spelled "favourite".|
|The - sign||Adding a minus sign before any word will return search results that include the other words in your search but DON'T include the word with the minus sign. This is useful for searching for things that might have alternate meanings. For instance, if you searched for bulls -chicago -sports you would eliminate most of the sports-related results.|
|The ~ symbol||If there are multiple synonyms for the thing you are trying to search for, you can include them all in your search by using the tilde, which is usually found at the top left of your keyboard. For instance, if you're looking for a cheap flight, you could search for ~cheap flights, which would include synonyms like "inexpensive", "affordable" and "low cost" in the same search.|
|Using ..||If you are searching for something that uses a range of numbers, you can enter that range using two periods without any spaces. For example, a search for laptop $300..$500 will return results for laptops priced between $300 and $500. You could also do this to find a specific date. For example, a search for brad pitt 1950..1980 quickly brings back that he was born in 1963.|
|The * character||Let's say that you're searching for lyrics, but you forget a couple words in the phrase, for example "I'm ___ on sunshine." You can use the asterisk to represent one or more missing words and combine that with the quotes like this: "I'm * on sunshine". This will quickly return anything with that phrase, in this case "I'm walking on sunshine".|
|Using "site:"||Sometimes, you want to find something on a specific Web site, but the site doesn't have a search engine (or the one it has sucks). In that case, you can use Google to search the site by using the "site:" operator. For example, you could search the Villing site by including "site:villing.com" in your query. For instance, site:villing.com nathan would find every page on the Villing site that included my first name.|
|Using "phonebook:"||This one is especially for all you stalkers out there. It may be a little creepy, but you can find many residential phone numbers by using the "phonebook:" operator. This only works for residential phone numbers, but it works both ways: phonebook:nathan will find phone numbers for everyone with "nathan" in their name; phonebook:574-277-0215 would find the name and address for the person with that phone number (if it were residential). By the way, if this freaks you out, you can remove yourself from this listing using this form.|
|Using "filetype:"||Have you ever wanted to find something online that was in a PDF or Word document? If so, you can narrow your search significantly by using the "filetype:" operator. filetype:pdf statistics would search for the word "statistics" in online PDF files.|
There are many more search operators to help narrow your search, but these are the ones that seem the most useful. I personally use the "site:" operator quite a bit to find things on Web sites that have horrible built-in search functionality. It may take a little effort to re-train yourself to use some of these, but often it can make the difference between finding something in one minute and not finding it at all.
To get our latest articles when they are posted, please subscribe by e-mail or RSS.