Here's How: Strengthen Your Google Fu

Category: Search-Engines

Do you know how to get 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. Read on to learn the secrets of the masters...

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 a “Tools” link below the search input box. Click that to refine your search by date. 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.

Improve Your Google Fu

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.

"Give Me The Number If You Can Find It"

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 gallons. 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 may 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 UPS, Fedex or USPS tracking number yields just one result: the 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. has a custom search engine, which you can access at the top of every page. But here's a tip when searching for text on websites that don't have a built-in search function. In such cases, just use Google search with the "site:" operator. For example, robots will search this website for the word "robots".

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...

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Most recent comments on "Here's How: Strengthen Your Google Fu"

Posted by:

15 Oct 2019

You can similarly use such operators within Ebay to include or exclude according to your search requirements.

Posted by:

15 Oct 2019

Just Off The Top of My Head (re: Google 'Rankin' alert; but w/o using gSearch):
-ranking, -roger, -pranking, -rebus, -aka-103, -PhD, -Snohomish

Posted by:

16 Oct 2019

Thank you Bob, I had no idea of how many different ways you can refine a search. I don't use Google as I don't trust them, instead I use Duckduckgo who profess to honouring my privacy.
The same minus and date operators are available on the duck, as well as a "safe search" item which will filter out, or not, adult content and images.
The search results also offer to find you images,videos, news, or maps related to your search, e.g. "VW" microbus" will show pictures, news and photos of the iconic camper.
Once again I have learned some really useful stuff, thank you.

Posted by:

16 Oct 2019

The major problem with Google is that the search algorithm is based on the assumption that the user is an IDIOT that does not know what he wants.

Here are some of the numerous consequences of that assumption.

1. You search for ABSDE.

Result: Google’s algorithm assumes that you cannot spell and displays “Showing results for ABCDE”.

2. You search for A, B, C, D.

Result: Google’s algorithm assumes that you entered too many search words and presents results for A, B, C only.

3. Your search includes search-words in a foreign language.

Result: Google’s algorithm “helps” you by attempting to translate some of those search-words and thus provides a huge number of useless results.

Posted by:

Patrick Siler
18 Oct 2019

Google has a free online class that goes into a lot a detail on how to use their search. You can find it by (of course) googling "Google search class". I went through it (it's videos and text) and did learn a lot. Not sure if I'm 146% smarter but I can now almost program my refrigerator to order more ice-cream.

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