The irony of this age of information technology is that the more there is for us to utilise, the more difficult it becomes to do so. There is so much information out there in the digital world that accessing what’s appropriate and reliable becomes a huge task. We end up wasting a lot of our time and energy only to find half-baked information. But the boon of technology is that it comes with the hacks to break it and utilise it. Google, the God of all search engines, provides numerous such ‘tricks’ to access its database better. Here are some relevant tips for the everyday user.
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Google hosts over a million websites, so help it help you by using more keywords – ideally no less than five. More keywords result in a more specific search, and therefore more appropriate results. Google uses your keywords to prioritise pages. This means that the pages containing most of your keywords will appear first. So the more, the merrier.
When you’re not sure of the keywords to use for your search, or you have forgotten phrases and their order of words, use the asterisk (*) in place of the missing words. Google will not only fill in the gaps but will also give you a specific result. For instance, typing lazy fox*fence when you can’t remember the entire phrase (the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog) will give you the result in the right order of words. This technique, called truncation, can be used even when you’re blindly looking for ideas.
Google normally shows results for all the words in your search. For instance, brown girl in the rain would give you results for brown, girl, and rain. But when you fit your words in double quotation marks – brown girl in the rain – Google will only show results that have the words in that order.
When you want a more specific search, you can exclude results that Google would typically show for your keywords, by using the minus (-) symbol. For instance ‘red flower’ will give results of all red flowers but specifying “red flower” -rose will exclude roses from your search result. Keep in mind that this is not a ‘hyphen’. The symbol is placed next to the word that you want excluded and not in between the keywords.
If you can’t remember the name of a website but are sure of certain words within it, you can use the command, inurl:keyword. For instance, typing inurl:yum will show you results for all the URLs that contain the word ‘yum’.
When websites don’t have a search engine of their own, you can use Google search to find results from that website alone. For instance, site:yourstory.com “social media” will show all results related to the keyword ’social media’ and only from YourStory. In contrast, if you type “social media” yourstory.com, (without the ‘site:’ command), only the first few results of the Google result page will correspond to the website.
You can find websites that have content similar to a website that you already know, by using the ‘related’ modifier. For instance, when you type related:wikipedia.com, you will find a list of websites that contain information similar to Wikipedia.
You can use the ‘link’ command to find all the pages that cite or link to a website. For instance, link:wikipedia.com will fetch you result of all the pages that have linked to this site.
If you want your results to be of a particular file type such as pdf, powepoint etc., you can use the filetype modifier with your keyword. For instance, “self-help” filetype:pdf will produce results that are pdf files.
These tips are more effective when you use the right keywords, and to use the right keywords you need to have a clear idea of what you want to search for. Making your Google search more effective takes some trial and error but with the right tricks up your sleeve, you can take full advantage of it. Happy searching!