How To Search Online Like a Pro: 10 Tricks For Google and Beyond
Search engines are pretty good at finding what you’re looking for these days, but sometimes they still come up short. For those occasions, there are a few little-known tricks which come in handy.
So here are some tips for better googling (as it’s the most popular search engine) but many will work on other search engines too.
1. Exact phrase
The simplest and most effective way to search for something specific is to use quotation marks around a phrase or name to search for those exact words in that exact order.
For instance, searching for Tommy Hilfiger will show results with both Tommy and Hilfiger but not necessarily placed sequentially. Searching for “Tommy Hilfiger” will surface only those that specifically have the name Tommy Hilfiger somewhere on the page.
The exact or explicit phrase search is very useful for excluding more common but less relevant results.
2. Exclude terms
If an exact phrase doesn’t get you what you need, you can specifically exclude certain words using the minus symbol.
A search for “Tommy Hilfiger” -shoes will find results for Tommy Hilfiger, but it will exclude those results for the Tommy Hilfiger brand of shoes.
3. Use AND, NOT, OR
Default text searches find results with all the words of the query. By using the AND, NOT, OR term you can search for one or another term, not just all the terms. OR searches can be useful for finding things that you’re not sure which term will be used from a known list. You can use the word “AND” (or the & symbol) to ensure that two different words or phrases both appear in the same result. For example, coronavirus AND “swine flu”. You can also use “NOT” to make sure results don’t include a certain word (e.g., coronavirus NOT “swine flu”).
4. Synonym search
Sometimes it’s useful to search for a less specific term. If you’re not sure which term will be used you can use a synonym search.
Searching for coding ~university will bring up results for coding from colleges as well as universities, for example.
5. Search within a site
The search engines of most websites are poor. You can search using Google instead by using the site or domain limiter.
Searching with site:howtointech.com followed by a search term will find results from only howtointech.com. Combining with explicit search terms makes it even more powerful.
6. The power of the asterisk
Like the blank tile in Scrabble, the asterisk works as a wild card within searches. It can be used in place of a missing word or part of a word, which is useful for completing phrases, but also when you’re trying to search for a less definite article.
A search for architect* will search for an architect, but also architectural, architecture, architected, architecting and any other word which starts with “architect”.
7. Searching between two values
Searching for something with a qualifier between two ranges is a good way of answering questions. For instance, if you’re looking for who were men’s soccer world cup between 1930 and 1970 a search using men’s soccer world cup1930.. 1970 will bring up results with dates ranging between 1930 and 1970.
That’s your search term followed by two full stops and a space.
8. Search for a word in the body, title or URL of a page
Sometimes you only want to find text either within the URL, body or title of a page. Using the qualifier inurl: will search just within the URL. The qualifier intext: will search within the body, while intitle: will search only within a page title.
For example, intitle:review will bring up all the articles with “review” in the page title.
9. Search for related sites
The related qualifier is useful for finding similar sites. Searching for related:howtointech.com for instance will bring up the websites of other news organisations that Google deems the most similar to How To In Tech.
10. Combine them
All these search tools can be combined to narrow down or expand searches. While some of them may be used only rarely, some such as explicit phrase searches are useful in almost all cases.
Can’t find what you’re looking for?
So what happens if you still can’t find what you’re looking for? Well, for one thing, you can always try the Advanced Search form. These forms let you enter your search criteria in an extremely specific way, which is great for research that requires only certain types of sources.
As Google and other search engines improve their understanding of the way people naturally type or say search queries, these power tools will likely become less and less useful – at least that’s the goal that search engines are working towards – but that’s certainly not the case at the moment.