Try These Advanced Search Engine Tips

Category: Search-Engines

The Web is a window to a world of information. 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, 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 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, 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 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. 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 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 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: 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 "Try These Advanced Search Engine Tips"

Posted by:

E. Gilles Lalancette
10 Sep 2019

Thank you for the above info (and a lot of other tips). Very useful.

Posted by:

10 Sep 2019

My most preferred "advanced search-engine tip" is to avoid relying on the big elephant in the room.
I am all giddy in anticipation of January 1, 2020 date, when the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA under AB-375) becomes effective. I hope CCPA will spread like a wildfire in all of US, now hopefully fueled by 50 states working up a anti-trust monopoly case.

Posted by:

10 Sep 2019

I wasn't aware of the 'time/date' option in Google search. I'd love to use it.
BUT.. I can't find any "Search Tool Button" on my Google search page, nor even via the Google search Help page.

Posted by:

10 Sep 2019

You can delete my previous.
It's NOT "Search Tools" Button,
it IS the word "Tools" under the new input box
which comes up AFTER you've entered the search phrase!

Posted by:

Mike Davies
11 Sep 2019

"It's NOT "Search Tools" Button, it IS the word "Tools" under the new input box which comes up AFTER you've entered the search phrase!" Took me a while to work that out. To make it work, you need to do the actual search before the "Tools" button appears. Clicking that reveals an "Any Time" button which gives choices of timeframe.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Sorry I was not clear, I've updated the text to indicate that.

Posted by:

11 Sep 2019

Helpful information. Unfortunately, I don't use Google or Bing as my search engine.

Posted by:

11 Sep 2019

Go here for more option (for Google):

Posted by:

Mike Herlihy
13 Sep 2019

This page has a link to how you can use Google to search for results from the most recent x hours, minutes, or even seconds:

Posted by:

19 Sep 2019

I think you forgot the "mind reading" mode of search engines (I use DuckDuckGO). If you enter a USPS or Fedex tracking number, it will return the tracking info. If you enter a flight number, it will give you the flight info. If you enter a phone number, it will give you much info about the phone number, including my name for my phone number; sometimes it just tells you what town the phone is in. I entered my address and got the current value of the property!

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