[ Written in 2004 ]Google is, without a doubt, the Internet’s “killer app”. Its superior technology combined with the culture of the company make it more than a search engine — it is, in my opinion, and by many accounts, the single coolest thing on the web. In fact, this is so true today that it’s cliche to even state it.
My goal is simply to provide some insight as to how Google can be used more efficiently. Although a standard single or multi-word search will yield outstanding results, the true power of Google isn’t really seen until you begin to tap into its seldom-used features that bring out its full potential.
Word Order Matters. Put the most pertinent search terms first.
Repetition Matters. Entering a particular search term multiple times will, at the very least, change the order of your results. In general, the term with multiple instances (and therefore more “weight”) will be more represented in the search results.
Case does NOT matter. Don’t spend extra effort capitalizing; it’s ignored by Google completely.
Make use of quotes when searching for phrases. To Google, there is a significant difference between using them and not — especially when the phrase is not a very common one. You can also use an asterisk “*” as a wildcard wihin a quoted phrase search. This is great for remembering famous quotes and finding song lyrics.
“to be or not to *”
“a * for sore eyes*”
“* doesn’t grow on *”
” * dictate our course of action”
Don’t bother including words like “a”, “to”, “or”, “are”, “the”, etc. in your searches. These words are too common to be used by Google in a standard query and they’ll be disregarded if you enter them. Directly under the search box at the top of your results page you’ll find information on any terms that were omitted.
If you want to make these common words a part of your search, put them inside of quotes when they are used in a phrase, or add a “+” sign in front of it if it’s a standalone word.
“cat and the cradle”
music +is nice
You can use the tilda “~” character before terms to include results related to the terms synonyms as well as the term itself.
Combining Search Terms
By default, Google uses the boolean AND operator on all non-quoted, multi-termed queries. In other words, if you enter “cat dog” (without the quotes) into Google, it’ll return results that have both terms in them, not just one or the other.
You can search for one term or the other by joining the two terms with OR (capitals). You can also use the pipe character ” | ” as a replacement for OR.
cat OR dog cat | dog
Grouping special features is extremely powerful, and it’s done with the parenthesis. Consider a search where you are trying to find out about ilnesses related to cats or dogs and pregnant women. You could get good results with just entering those terms haphazzardly, but you get incredible results with something like this:
“pregnant women” (sick | illness) (cats | dogs)
This query will find anything with “pregnant women”, AND the word sick or illness, AND the word cats or dogs. That is utterly powerful. If you actually try that query you’ll find that hot dogs are evidently
dangerous to pregnant women too. 🙂 That can be trimmed nicely by appending the following to the search:
That cleans it up nicely and gives us a set of results that are likely to give us precisely what we are looking for. Try applying this the next time you need to do some hardcore research; it’s nothing short of godlike.
You can further tweak your searches by using the following prefixes. They can be combined with regular search terms to form queries that return eerily precise results.
intitle: Google will return results only from the title portion of sites in its database.
inurl: Google will return results only from the urls of sites in its database.
intext: Google will return results only from the body portion of sites in its database.
inanchor: Google will return results only from the anchors within sites in its database. An anchor is text that gives information and/or identifies a hyperlink within a page.
site: Google will return information on the site or domain given.
link: Google will return results that link to the site given.
cache: Google will return its cached version of the site given.
filetype: Google will return results that have certain extensions. You can use this to find powerpoints, word documents, or pdfs. It’s utterly powerful.
related: Google will return sites that are related to the site you give it.
info: Get all Google related information (cache, stocks, links, related, etc) about a given site.
One lesser-known feature of Google is its ability to find people and businesses. There are other ways to do this online, but as you are probably getting used to – they don’t compare to Google. Not only does Google have uncanny abilities when it comes to finding people, but it’ll also give you a link to a map of their city as well.
phonebook: This is the generic lookup for a person or business, and it’s a good starting point when searching for either. You can give just the last name and state abbreviation, the last name and first name with state, or you can add the city to it.
phonebook:john smith, ca
Using “phonebook:” gives you both residential and business results. If you want to only search for one or the other, use “rphonebook:” or “bphonebook:”.
Local – This new feature allows you to search for things in your local area. If your results have a location associated with them, Google will put them on a map and label them for you!
Images – The single largest image archive in the world.
News – The news aggregator of doom. An absolute must for the avid news junkie.
Directory – A different way to search the web, the Directory version of Google focuses on categories of information.
Catalogs – This feature allows you to peruse thousands of regularly updated catalogs as if they were right in front of you.
Google Maps – This is what Yahoo Maps and MapQuest wish they were. Try it out next time you need to go somewhere; it’s excellent.
Froogle – Froogle lets you do price comparisons between millions of products in a blink of an eye. This is a must-use tool for die-hard Internet shoppers.
Google also has specific sites set up for pre-focused results pertaining to the following areas:
It’ll come as no suprise that you can search Google using dozens of languages, but what few people know is that they have a few languages that you probably wouldn’t expect.. 🙂
The Basics of Google Search, Google
Google Hacks, O’Reilly