How Strong Is Your Google Fu?
Are you getting the most out of Google Search? Sometimes the standard search strategy – “just type in a few words” – doesn’t yield the optimal results. You may get too many results, or marginally relevant ones. The true disciples of Google Fu know the following secret ways to get exactly what they want from the world’s largest search engine...
Operator, Can You Help Me WIth This Search?
Operators (hat tip to the late, great Jim Croce) are symbols that tell Google to perform certain operations on a word or words. Inserting a minus sign immediately before a word, for instance, tells Google to delete all search results that contain that word. Enclosing multiple words in quotes means “treat these words as one word.” A plus sign immediately before a word or quoted phrase tells Google to present all search results that contain the word or phrase, regardless of other considerations that might cause a result to be omitted.
At the top of every results page, you’ll find “Search tools.” Click that to refine your search by date, type of page, or location. I find the "Any time" dropdown useful in the Search Tools menu. You can change that to Past hour, Past week, Past month, Past year, or a custom date range, if you're looking for something that happened within a specific time period. The Search Tools "All results" menu also lets you choose the reading level of search results, so you can avoid Ph. D. dissertations on folklore when seeking bedtime stories.
Google Images offers search options like “find other gems like this photo of an opal.” Just click the camera icon to the right side of the search box. Upload an image of what you want, or paste in a link to a picture of it, and there you go. Just as with Web searches, the “Search tools” option appears near the top of each results page. Click that to refine your image search by image size, colors, date, and Usage Rights, or copyright license. Note that license info is not added to a significant number of photos; the other parameters are inserted automatically when a photo is taken.
Less Searching, More Answers
Why search for a site that does currency, measurement, and other conversions when Google does them right in its search input box? Try $199 in yen or 57 liters in firkin. The same trick works for calculations; try searching for 5 / 9 + 47 and you'll get the answer displayed in a calculator that appears at the top of the search results. (Just in case that wasn't what you were after, you'll also see related items such as John 5:9-47 and West Virginia Legislature Code 47-9-5.)
Google tries very hard to spare you keystrokes, guessing what you mean whenever possible. That’s why entering a USPS tracking number yields just one result: the USPS.com tracking number lookup page, with your tracking number already plugged in. Airline flight numbers, phone numbers, and street addresses also produce helpful results.
Even when you don’t remember what you want, Google can help. What were the words in that song? Just substitute an asterisk for them: revved up like a * another * in the night.
While researching this article, I re-discovered price range searches, e. g., nikon camera $150…$250 will show you (mostly) search results for cameras in that price range.
Staying On Top of News and Content
Google's email alerts send newly indexed content to your email address, so you can keep tabs on mentions of your name, a celebrity, a specific company, or any search term of interest to you. And yes, you can use search operators such as plus, minus, and quotes to refine these automated searches too. Google Alerts let you scan Everything, News, Blogs, Video, Discussions or Books. You can choose to be alerted as it happens, once a day, or once a week.
I have a Google alert that looks like this: rankin -"rankin county" -"rankin inlet" -"ian rankin". That shows me everything appearing on the Web with my last name, excluding things that don't interest me, such as news about Rankin County, Rankin Inlet and fiction writer Ian Rankin. I also use alerts to keep tabs on local issues. So when stories of interest appear in local newspapers or websites, I find out right away, without having to remember to search for them.
Are there other little-known Google search features you find useful? Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 21 Feb 2014
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- How Strong Is Your Google Fu? (Posted: 21 Feb 2014)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved