How Strong Is Your Google Fu?

Category: Search-Engines

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.

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.

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 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...

Ask Your Computer or Internet Question

  (Enter your question in the box above.)

It's Guaranteed to Make You Smarter...

AskBob Updates: Boost your Internet IQ & solve computer problems.
Get your FREE Subscription!


Check out other articles in this category:

Link to this article from your site or blog. Just copy and paste from this box:

This article was posted by on 21 Feb 2014

For Fun: Buy Bob a Snickers.

Prev Article:
Lies, Damned Lies, and Olympic Journalism

The Top Twenty
Next Article:
More Confusing Phone Plans

Most recent comments on "How Strong Is Your Google Fu?"

Posted by:

Bruce Drukker
21 Feb 2014

Hi Bob,

Great article as usual! I stumbled on [this]( a while back and found it very helpful. Keep up the great work!


Posted by:

21 Feb 2014

another answer prayer.
thanks be to our Creator God for your info.

Posted by:

21 Feb 2014

Wasn't Google a bit disappointing for you a while back? Did things change?

Posted by:

21 Feb 2014

Great info Bob. What would I type if I wanted to see humorous videos about monkeys on a daily basis?

Posted by:

21 Feb 2014

Compelled to agree with Bruce and Salim but not necessarily the latter's non-secular comment.

Yet another useful and interesting article which I and probably many others will adopt forthwith

Posted by:

21 Feb 2014

Is that an 'operator' (my hat is off to Pete Shelley of the Buzzcocks fame) or an "operand"?
I am intrigued by 5/9+47
How does Google know if the user means (5/9)+47 or 5/(9+47)? Just kidding! I am an RPN type!

Earlier this morning, I wanted to quickly know the percent difference (delta%) between 1300 and 1250; so I just Googled 1300/1250% but typing in 1250/1300% will yield a different result.

There are different Fu belts/levels!

Posted by:

BallyIrish Bob
21 Feb 2014

What a useful article! Thanks Bob.

Posted by:

Stuart Berg
21 Feb 2014

Often I come across a particular website I want to search, but it either has no search capability or it has a lousy search engine that doesn't have the added capabilities of Google search. In such cases, just use Google search with the "site:" capability. For example,
will search this website for the word "pizza".

P.S. Bob, I'm not saying you have a lousy search capability. I notice that you already use Google for searches of your website. It's for the "other guys" websites I'm saying this. :-)

Posted by:

21 Feb 2014

I also often use "site:" parameter that focuses search at included site only. Also basic parameters could be learned at Google's help pages, like those:

There are much more tricks that could be found in special books about Google search. But Google isn't the first who created that option. I remember I used parameters at, bought by Yahoo in 2003.

Also Google isn't perfect, for example, you are unable to find wines or other alcohol beverages. It was pretty useful recently, but now it's banned. Aussies, in contrary, can enjoy even special services for that, like leaving us bloody envy. It's funny, since you don't need to be a rocket scientist to type pretty obvious "". But you'll be stuck at a site with not likely lowest price for a particular beverage you'd like to enjoy. But you still can easily find step-by-step instruction how to build some weapons of mass destruction. Look like a good wine is much more dangerous, than a-bomb... I'm sure, after a glass of a good wine even a hard core terrorist would relax. At least for some time. That could be pretty useful for good guys to find him/her in time.

Posted by:

21 Feb 2014

I am finding Google and other search engines like Bing less and less valuable every day. It seems that these search engines are less and less likely to give actually good results. Apparently, webpage owners have found ways to get their webpages to show at the top of the results, even when they have absolutely no relevance to the terms requested. Ask for a brick and mortar Jewelry shop in Big Spring, Wyoming, and you get website marketers 2000 miles away. Search engine results are inaccurate at best. Sometimes I have to check out 10 or more pages of results to get what I want and sometimes never find the information ... and I do actually use the operators you mentioned. I tried last week to get some Winter Olympics news ... the boxscore of a Hockey game, and I checked 22 pages of results before I gave up. Sadly, this is getting worse. Soon, search engines will be useless.

Posted by:

Bill Davis
22 Feb 2014

Hello Bob ;

You should tell people about "UPS My Choice"
When you join that UPS FREE Email service you will get an Email telling you exactly when your Package will arrive at your home and the Approximate time .

And AFTER your package has been delivered to your home you will then get another Email telling you that a package was Delivered to your home .

I LOVE this FREE Email service from UPS .

I wish ALL delivery companies and the Post Office had the same type of Email service .

Bill Davis

Posted by:

John Carpenter
22 Feb 2014

Hi Bob

If I want to restrict a search to websites from a certain country then the search term such as is very useful when placed ahead of the words I use in the search. Thus jaguar
restricts the results to French sites. Important to use it exactly as shown, with no extra spaces.


Posted by:

Bill Vose
22 Feb 2014

Very helpful! Tks.

Posted by:

Lisa Bishop
25 Feb 2014

I love the define: command in Google. For example: "Define: trapezoid" in the search box will give me a list of definitions.

Posted by:

15 Mar 2014

Thanks Bob, I'm noticing that every time I peruse PC Pitstop for interesting articles I always end up reading yours. This article is another great example of why. I think you have a keen understanding of what many people are interested in reading. Thanks for some great info.

Post your Comments, Questions or Suggestions

*     *     (* = Required field)

    (Your email address will not be published)
(you may use HTML tags for style)

YES... spelling, punctuation, grammar and proper use of UPPER/lower case are important! Comments of a political nature are discouraged. Please limit your remarks to 3-4 paragraphs. If you want to see your comment posted, pay attention to these items.

All comments are reviewed, and may be edited or removed at the discretion of the moderator.

NOTE: Please, post comments on this article ONLY.
If you want to ask a question click here.

Free Tech Support -- Ask Bob Rankin
RSS   Add to My Yahoo!   Feedburner Feed
Subscribe to AskBobRankin Updates: Free Newsletter
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved
Privacy Policy

Article information: AskBobRankin -- How Strong Is Your Google Fu? (Posted: 21 Feb 2014)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved