I spend a lot of time doing Google searches but always have to wade through junk to find a good match. Are there advanced search techniques I can use to make my searches more efficient?
Turns out that Google has an entire search language! There are lots of ways to improve your search results but one of the very easiest is to use more words. Searching for a Ford Mustang decal? Use all three words ford mustang decal and you’ll have better results than mustang decal or even mustang sticker. Savvy searchers use seven or more words at a time.
Google also uses semantic analysis so if you search for harry potter audiobook it’ll be smart enough to match “audio book” (two words) and even “book” to get a richer set of results. Certainly singular and plural can be ignored in 99% of searches. Trust the spelling engine too: A search for boyabase recipe will miraculously find you a bouillabaisse recipe!
There’s an advanced search page on Google, though it’s not easy to find. Just bookmark this:
It’s super handy, a template letting you enter words to match, words to avoid, phrases, the age of the resultant page, target language, and much more. The real benefit of this page, however, is that it can also teach you the language of rich search in Google too.
Which leads to the observations: quoting multiple words means that have to show up adjacent and in the specified order (a massive win when you’re searching names on the site), using a “-” prefix omits pages that also match that word or phrase, and if you want an “or” search (as in cat OR dog bed — matching cat bed or dog bed) just use the all-caps “OR” between words, just as shown.
You can also search number ranges. So you can do a quick search for dog beds $100..$300 if you’re looking for a top notch sleeping spot for your pup.
Just a few more: Search by type of file with the filetype: prefix (common values: pdf, doc, xls and ppt for PDF files, MS Word documents, Excel spreadsheets and Powerpoint presentations, respectively). Similarly, constrain results to a specific top level domain like .EDU with site:edu or a specific Web domain with site:dailycamera.com.
Let’s put them together so you can see how it all fits. Here’s a search for expensive dog or cat beds mentioned in a PDF from any .COM site:
Not sure there’ll be any matches, but I’ll let you practice by typing that in to see what you get!