[TIPS] Advanced Searching With Google and Bing

Category: Search-Engines

Does it seems like finding what you want with a search engine 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 unwanted 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 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 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 proverbial 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. site:askbobrankin.com faxing will return only articles on my website 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 The Other Search Engines and Wolfram Alpha: The Answer Calculator.

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.

Conversions and Calculations: 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. 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.)

Mind Reading: Google and Bing try to spare you keystrokes, guessing what you mean whenever possible. Entering a USPS or Fedex tracking number yields the tracking number lookup page, with your tracking number already plugged in. Airline flight numbers, phone numbers, and street addresses can also produce helpful results.

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 "[TIPS] Advanced Searching With Google and Bing"

Posted by:

07 Nov 2017

there are serious privacy issues with google/bing searches.

I use duck duck go and have found another search page (there are many it seems) named ECOSIA
(It claims to plant a tree when you click on an advertiser link).

Posted by:

07 Nov 2017

site specific searches are supported by using site:url

for example:
cell phones site:askbobrankin.com

this is a feature that I have grown to love, beats poking around on a web page for it"s search box

Posted by:

Kenneth Heikkila
07 Nov 2017

There is no Search Tools in my Chrome (up to date) browser in Win 10 (also up to date.) Doing a Google search I find many people with the same problem and no proposed solution (such as clear browser cache) seems to help.

Posted by:

Art F
07 Nov 2017

Kenneth: I also use Chrome under Win 10. At the top of any search results page, I see a Tools option, which seems to be the "Search Tools" that Bob was referring to. (You have to first search for something to see this.)

Posted by:

07 Nov 2017

If doing research (or any basic google search) and believe in the power of multiple browser tabs; then, it may be worth to get intimate with adding "&num=100" at the end of the google search results url (displayed in the address bar). Even absent of google (log-in and/or advanced settings') cookies.
Life is just too short for only 10 search results per page.
TL&DR >> *The allowed values are 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, and 100. Any other values for this field are ignored.
*For Bing, the parameter is count=## where ## can be anything from 1-100.
*For Yahoo, the parameter is n=## where ## can be anything from 1-100.
*In most cases, the URL parameter will only work if the users hasn't specified the number of search results to show in the search engine's search settings. Otherwise, that cookie will take precedence.

Posted by:

07 Nov 2017

"values" statement in my post above appear to be not limited the stated numbers.
Some gems I had recently discovered:
[phonebook:] >> This seems to only work in the US, but if you search:
phonebook:john smith
You’ll be given a worrying list of phone numbers for people called John Smith.
[In] >> Google can be used as a calculator. As part of this functionality, “In” is a superb function that can be used (among many other Google calculation operators) to work out the number of units of something in something else. For example:
mph in speed of light
[map:] >> Adding the word map after a locational search forces Google to produce map-based results.
[weather:] >> This is a great and simple one:
Will bring back results both for Brighton pages on weather websites, as well as a little weather widget at the top of the results page.
[stocks:] >> Use this query to track the stock price of an investment portfolio. Just use the operator followed by the company ticker symbol that you wish to receive information on, for example:

Posted by:

Lady Fitzgerald
07 Nov 2017

I trust Google and Bing as far as I can spit upwind in a stiff breeze due to their privacy issues. I use Start Page for my search engine.

Posted by:

07 Nov 2017

Lady Fitzgerald: using the "Start Page for my search engine" just means you're using the default search engine in the browser. Unless you have changed it, that would be Bing in Edge and IE, Yahoo in Firefox, and Google Search in Chrome.

All browsers allow users to change the default search engine. Including Edge, which does not make it easy.

Posted by:

08 Nov 2017

Good stuff. While trying it out, I found that you can type "stopwatch" and click "start" to use a stopwatch function.

Posted by:

08 Nov 2017

Bob, please cover Duck Duck Go, a very good search engine that protects your privacy. Like others, I don't use Google or Bing because of their privacy issues.

Posted by:

Lady Fitzgerald
08 Nov 2017

@bb No, you are wrong. There is a search engine called Startpage. https://classic.startpage.com/eng/advanced-search.html#hmb?cat=web&query=

Posted by:

08 Nov 2017

Like several others I do not use Google or Bing because of privacy issues. I use Duck Duck Go which is the one on my browser (Seakmonkey)

Posted by:

08 Nov 2017

For Google search, I use "translate" with the word or phrase I want to translate - I don't even have to know what the language is.

I can also type in "*city* to *city*" and get a map, route and travel time estimate.

Posted by:

Stephan Borau
16 Nov 2017

Thanks @LadyFitzgerald for letting me know about StartPage. I have been using Ixquick for a long time, but it really is inferior to Google in terms of numbers of results that come back. Looks like StartPage is Google search results combined with the privacy protection of Ixquick.

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