Power User Search Tips and Tricks

Category: Search-Engines

The Web is a window to a world of wonder and wisdom. But as the amount of online information grows, finding what you want in search engines is getting harder. A casual search for a keyword or phrase can produce millions of hits, but they are not always ordered by relevance. On the other hand, search engines can quickly tell you things that you wouldn’t expect a search engine to know. Here are some tips 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, Bing, Yahoo or DuckDuckGo? 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 autonomous vehicle crash or digital camera photography 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 or Yahoo, but on Google and DuckDuckGo the shortcut for NOT is the minus sign. For example, bob rankin -colorado will return results for pages about bob rankin but only if they don’t include the word colorado. (There are a few other well-known people who share my name.) You can exclude 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 word to fill in a blank in your memory. For instance, the rain in * stays mainly in the plain will return all the countries in which rain stays in the plain. Adding extra asterisks ("**" or "***") tells the search engine to return results with more than one additional word represented by the wildcards. For example,
email *** example.com might find pages containing "My email address is [email protected]". You can get some pretty oddball results this way, but some will probably contain what you’re really seeking.

Time/Date: Most search engines 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. Similarly, DuckDuckGo has the Any time dropdown with options to restrict results to the past Day, Week, Month or Year. On Google, click the Tools button (after performing your search) 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. This is 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. site:askbobrankin.com 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 Beyond Google: The Other Search Engines and Wolfram Alpha: Search Engine or Answer Calculator?. Or take a class! Google's Power Searching course consists of two self-paced video lessons.

File type: Search engines don’t just index text in HTML files (Web pages). Google, Bing and DDG 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.

Social media: If you want to limit your results to a specific social media platform, use the "@" modifier. Some examples: hurricane @twitter or puppies @instagram

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.

Fun with words: 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. In many cases, you'll also see synonyms and antonyms listed along with the definition. Translate words or phrases into another language like this: translate happy birthday in spanish. Feliz Cumpleaños to famous people born on this date.

Conversions: 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 24.71 acres also works surprisingly well, as does What is $36 in British pounds.

Track a Package: Enter the tracking number of your UPS, Fedex, or USPS delivery into the search box, and you’ll get a link that takes you right to the tracking status page. Too bad it doesn’t work for Amazon-delivered items. (Amazon delivers about 70% of orders with its own vehicles.)

Set a timer: If you want to be reminded of an appointment or when it’s time to quit watching cat videos, just type set timer for into the search box and it will pop up a timer console that you can set. Your browser will 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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This article was posted by on 4 Oct 2022


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Most recent comments on "Power User Search Tips and Tricks"

Posted by:

Russell Coover
04 Oct 2022

How about an article about lesser-known search engines which frequently give better results than google such as Neeva?


Posted by:

Jonathan
05 Oct 2022

How would I search for goods available on a specific country website. We are in the UK and our kids and grandkids are in the US.
Google seems to default to paying sellers wherever their location.
It used to be just a matter of putting USA or UK on the end of a search but that no longer seems to work.


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