Effective Use of Google

by Greg Knollenberg

Google logo 2018


This is an addendum to my article, Effective Use of Search Engines, that was written before Google was created. The general search techniques described in the article can be used in Google. There are more ways to search with Google than to just enter keywords and hit enter. You can have Google search the words exactly. You can tell Google to ignore words you don't want in your results. You can search within websites. You can search for recently updated pages only. This article will list a few search techniques that can be used on Google.

  • Get Specific With Quotes: As we mentioned in the article quotes will help you narrow the focus of a search. For example, if you use banana bread as your keywords Google shows you over 20 million results. If you enter "banana bread" using quotes you will get about 15 million results.

  • Use the Minus Sign to Remove Words: If you put a minus sign in front of a word Google will not return pages with content that matches this word in its results. Let's say you want results for "Michael Jordan" but you don't want results for the basketball player. Michael Jordan is a very popular celebrity so it is hard to remove him from your results completely but if you use the minus sign it will help. If you search "Michael Jordan -bulls -basketball" you can see that the basketball player shows up much less in your results.

  • Use the Asterisk as a Wildcare: The asterisk acts like a wildcard in a search. This is useful if do not know part of a phrase or you forget exactly how a word or name is spelled. For example, onomatopoeia is a word that resembles the sound it describes. If you use onomato* as your search you will get results that are very similar to actually searching for the correct full word, onomatopoeia. This also works with phrases, such as "An * keeps the doctor away."

  • Search Within a Site: To search within a site just put site: in front of the domain followed by your keywords. For example, "site:writerswrite.com harry potter" will return to the Harry Potter coverage on our site. If you wanted to search weather.com for tornado information you would use "site:weather.com tornadoes". Note: If you use this search and then click the tab for videos, you will see tornado videos from weather.com. Be sure not to put a space between the colon and the domain name when using this type of search.

  • Calculations: Google also has a built-in calculator. You can enter a math equation like 15+25 or 18*2343 or 553/17 and Google will return the answer within a calculator that appears in your results. It will also convert units and even graph equations. You can find more about the Google calculator here.

  • Definitions: Google also returns definitions. Use define: followed by the word you want defined. For example, "define:perquisition" will provide the definition for perquisition. You can also include wildcards. For example: define:onomato* will return the definition for onomatopoeia.

  • Related Sites: Google will also provide you with sites that are related to other sites. If you use "related:google.com" it returns Yahoo, Bing, DuckDuckGo and other search tools.

  • Search Recently Updated Webpages: If you want to narrow your search results to recent information you can use the news search tab or you can click the tools tab. You will see that the default search in tools is "any time." This can be narrowed to past hour, past 24 hours, past week, past month, past year or a custom range. Let's say you want articles about a recent Chicago Cubs victory so you enter "Cubs win." The first article results are about the Cubs finally winning the World Series in 2016. However, if you change the recency from "any time" to "past week" you will get results of more recent Chicago Cubs victories.

  • Google Alerts: Use Google Alerts to stay up-to-date on your research topics. You can configure keyword searches that you want to get updates on when there is new content available. You can get updates by email or as RSS feeds.

  • I'm Feeling Curious: Google will return a trivia question and answer if you use this keyword.

    This article shares just a few of the many search functions that can be performed with Google. Google also has its own Search Help section with more information. This section includes information about search operators. Google also provides an Advanced Search page.