Advanced Search Tips for Google and Bing

Category: Search-Engines

In some respects, finding what you want in search engines is getting harder all the time. A casual search for a keyword or phrase can produce millions of hits, and they are not ordered by relevance exclusively. On the other hand, search engines can quickly tell you things that you wouldn’t expect a search engine to know. Here are some easy ways to get more out of search engines, or less if that’s what you need...

Search Engine Tips and Tricks

Are you getting too many hits when you search on Google or Bing? Restricting the scope of a search helps to reduce irrelevant results. Here are some helpful tips you can use on most search engines to limit the number of results, and zero in on what you want to find.

Exact phrase: By putting quotation marks around a set of keywords, you create a phrase that becomes a single keyword. Search engines will show you only results that contain ALL of the phrase’s words in the EXACT ORDER you specify them.

Without quotes, results will include pages that contain any (but usually most) of the specified keywords. Try searching for the phrase Laptops Are Still Exploding with and without the quotes to see the difference in the results.

Google and Bing search tips

Keyword exclusion: You can omit from your results all pages that include specific keywords or phrases. The Boolean operator NOT (which must be capitalized) may be used on Bing, but on Google the shortcut for NOT is the minus sign. For example, -lithium batteries will return results that contain the keyword batteries but not the word lithium. You can excluded quoted phrases by putting the minus sign immediately before the first quotation mark, e. g., -"made in China" will exclude results that contain that phrase.

Wildcards: If you’re not entirely sure how a keyword is spelled or what words should be in a keyword phrase, try using the asterisk (*) to allow any number of any characters to fill in a blank in your memory. For instance, the rain in * falls mainly on the plain will return all the countries in which rain falls on the plain. You can get some pretty oddball results this way, but some will probably contain what you’re really seeking.

Time/Date: Both Bing and Google allow you to narrow down your search results by time and date. On Bing, click the Any time dropdown just above the first search result, and then select All, Past 24 hours, Past week, or Past month. On Google, click the Search Tools button, then you'll see the Any time dropdown. In addition to day, week and month, Google adds Past Year, or Custom range to the list of options. Handy especially if you know something appeared online very recently, or at some specific date in the past.

Location, Location, Location (and other handy search tips)

Location: By default, search engines search the contents of all the Web sites they’ve indexed. If you are pretty sure the article you want appeared on a specific site, you can search just that one site by specifying its name immediately after the operator site: – i. e. faxing will return only articles on my site that mention faxing. This is especially useful on sites that don't have an integrated search feature.

Want more search tips? See the Help files of the major search engines: Google and Bing. Looking for other ways to search? See Google Search Alternatives and More Google Search Alternatives.

File type: Search engines don’t just index text in HTML files (Web pages). Google and Bing also index words inside PDF, PowerPoint, Word and other types of files. You can limit your search to a specific type of file, e. g., batteries filetype:ppt if you remember seeing what you seek in such a presentation. This trick is also useful for finding inspirational JPGs or GIFs with which to annoy your Facebook friends.

People are seldom looking for keywords; they’re usually looking for answers to questions. Here are some natural-language ways to get just answers instead of Web pages with lots of irrelevant data.

Definitions: if you’re playing Scrabble and need to prove that a word has a definition, a quick search using the define: operator should do the job. Often, simply typing what is will do the trick.

Conversion: the syntax X to Y will convert X into Y where both are currencies, temperature scales, systems of weight or measurement or area, and more. How many hectares in 24.76 acres also works surprisingly well, as does What is $36 in British pounds.

Set a timer: if you want to be reminded of an appointment or when to quit surfing the Web, just type set timer for into the Google search box and it will pop up a timer console that you can set. Google will then start beeping at you when the time runs out. Set timer for X minutes is a shortcut.

Do you have any search tips to share? Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Advanced Search Tips for Google and Bing"

Posted by:

Louis Toscano
15 Sep 2014

I did not even read this article in detail because I decided within the last two weeks to delete my Google account in order to avoid using Google altogether. For trying to obtain my mobile device number, which I don't care to own, Google is acting like "Big Brother." They wouldn't even allow me to download mp3 files without the cell number. Why should it matter to them as long as I am paying for them?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Sounds like you've confused Google with some other vendor. I've never heard of 1) Google selling MP3 files, or 2) requiring a mobile number for a download.

Posted by:

15 Sep 2014

ALso bookmark this advanced search page

Posted by:

Jim Scofield
15 Sep 2014

Great tips! I learn something from you every week, if not every day. However, if you're playing Scrabble, you should go to the official Scrabble dictionary:

Note that other countries (UK included) may have different official dictionaries.

Posted by:

15 Sep 2014

Search engines just aren't as good as they used to be.

Try searching for something you want to buy. I did today £190 on Amazon and a computer place I use OVER £240 the cheapest price on google.

We used to be able to change location by changing from to .com now they seem to default to UK when we want to buy for grandkids in the States or provide numerous prices converted into GBP, from US sites that don't supply the UK when it's something for us.

It may be good for sellers but it's just a waste of time for us.

And people wonder why amazon and ebay make a fortune?

Thanks for the info, yet again,


Posted by:

Ken Mitchell
15 Sep 2014

In Google, you can also use the command "site:" to restrict your search to a particular web site. Put in the keywords you want to find, and then "site:" and the website to search only within that site.

For example, if you search for "Canon scanner drivers", you're going to find THOUSANDS of misleading or bogus links to other pages that include the word "canon". Phrase your search as "Canon scanner drivers" to find things only on the Canon website.

Posted by:

15 Sep 2014

You mention AND searches by using quotes but you can also do OR searches by using parens with commas separating your search terms. What I would like to know is how to do targeted searches on Amazon. They have the WORST search engine on the planet! I have complained but they insist that they need to "broaden" your searches so you will see "related" items. It's the most frustrating thing in the world. I mean I still like Amazon, but their search engine SUCKS eggs! Any tips for searching Amazon?

Posted by:

15 Sep 2014

Loiuis Toscano and Bob -- Google does indeed ask you for your cell #, as does Yahoo now. There's a tiny "not now" or "skip" or something similar on that page to opt out. Not sure what you're seeing with MP3 D/L.

I haven't used Google search in many years. Try, the simplified page for Yahoo without the portal, and you can still use the tips in Bob's article. I also use Ixquick and DuuckDuckGo, which absolutely DO NOT save searches or ask for your cell #.

EDITOR'S NOTE: You say you haven't used Google "in many years" -- but you are certain that Google is demanding peoples' cell phone numbers? I've never seen any instance where Google asks for a mobile number, except when they give you the option to give a number that can be used for password recovery. But it's completely optional, and only applies if you have a Google account.

Posted by:

15 Sep 2014

David: I don't use Google, but try with the phrase the same as in Google: "keyword"

Posted by:

Bob K.
15 Sep 2014

I use duckduckgo

Posted by:

Frank Starr
16 Sep 2014

For some reason, when I try the quotation marks option, I always get back zero results. I've had to give up on this and just keep rephrasing my search terms until I find what I want.

Posted by:

Artr Frailey
16 Sep 2014

Wow, Bob!! One of your best articles. And I might add, I never before saw an article of this subject.
Very informative. Keep up the good work.

Posted by:

16 Sep 2014

Hello Bob
Thanks for yet another interesting and informative article. I refuse to use Google, not being convinced of their privacy policy, but instead use (2duck as we call it). It has the useful feature of endless scrolling rather than pages to be turned.
My wife uses google and it is interesting to compare the results when we both research the same topic - I always find more interesting and relevant sites far quicker than she does. Why? Dunno, but 2duck works for me.

Posted by:

Ron S
16 Sep 2014

Just like to add my 2 cents. "NOT -Google".

Thanks Bob for the tips.

Posted by:

17 Sep 2014

Great article Bob. I no longer use Google as the search results are horrible since they made all the changes. I use Bing and you even get reward points you cash in for gift cards and other stuff. I have already received a few. Like getting paid for searching.

Posted by:

19 Sep 2014

Another primitive search method although not an actual search engine trick is simply the FIND command.

Once you're on a page you feel has the information you're looking for find the drop down menu that contains the FIND command. On Chrome it's the three bars on the upper right. I search box will open for you to input your keyword or phrase. This will not only give you a count of how many instances your search can be found on that page, but it will highlight each one and show you it's general location in the right hand scroll bar.

Thanx for the great tips Bob.

Posted by:

23 Sep 2014

If you are watching a movie on tv and are called away and miss part of it, like the ending,do a search on Wikipedia using the film title followed by (film) . example: Hard Eight (film)
Unlike Internet Movie Database IMDb it will give you the full plot ,spoilers included.

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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Advanced Search Tips for Google and Bing (Posted: 15 Sep 2014)
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