Most Internet users just enter the phrases they are looking for. This leads to thousands or millions of search result pages that are impossible to review. But the most interesting website may hide somewhere on a page we do not even look at. Google search can be more effective if we fine-tune our search. Here are some search tricks that help to best find the information we seek.
By using special characters and operators, we can structure our searches, so we can find more quickly and accurately the information we want.
1. What we get if we do not use any operators?
We get an extensive list of websites where the words we entered to Google's search field can be found. For example, if we enter Naomi Campbell, we receive more than 48 millions of websites. This does not mean that all of these deal with the famous model. Certainly a lot of them do, but we would find pages that contain the words Naomi and Campbell, but as parts of other names. If there is a web page that mentions Naomi Watts and Campbell Scott, Google will show it as a search result for Naomi Campbell, although the page does not say anything about her.
2. How to look for the phrase we are really interested in?
We can use quotation marks around a phrase in order to increase the accuracy of the search results.
This way,if we enter “Naomi Campbell”, Google shows only the websites where exactly this name is mentioned, and not any other containing Naomi or Campbell. If we repeat our search using this method, the number of search result decreases to 19 millions, less than half of the original number of results.
It is certainly no problem to find information on a celebrity, but if you are looking for a more specific phrase, you will have better chances to find what you want.
3. Another operator to decrease the number of search results: the “–” sign.
You will get even less disturbing search results if you exclude some terms from search. You can mark the words you do not want to appear with a “–” sign. The sign has to precede the term you are not interested in. Do not put a space between the “–” sign and the word that needs to be excluded.
So, if you want to find information about Naomi, but do not want to see the offers of webshops selling her perfumes, you just enter -perfume after her name. This lowers to search results from 48 millions to 42 millions, as pages containing the word perfume will be excluded.
4. How to extend the query with similar words?
The tilde or synonym operator is the “~” sign. It searches both for the specific word you entered and for the word’s synonyms and for the term with alternative endings.
Let's say you want to buy Naomi Campbell perfume. If you enter the Naomi Campbell perfume phrase, you get 3,2 millions of results. In case you search for Naomi Campbell perfumes, you get 3,6 millions of results. In case you want to see the result of both searches and any other synonyms of perfume, you enter Naomi Campbell ~perfume (again: without a space) and you get 8,2 million pages.
5. Another way of extending the query for synonyms
If you don’t like the synonyms that Google proposes when you use the “~” sign, you can set your own synonyms with the OR operator or the “ | “ sign (vertical bar). These pecify synonyms or alternative words. Note: you always have to use an uppercase OR, otherwise Google considers it as a search term instead of an operator.
In case you are looking for perfumes, you can use perfumes OR fragrances, then you will get the pages that contain either perfumes or fragrances. No pages will be listed that contain neither of them. Google returns the same search results if you enter perfumes|fragrances. The operator OR needs to be surrounded by spaces, the | vertical bar sign does not.
The operator can be used for 3 terms as well: perfumes OR fragrances OR colognes
You can use quotes to group compound words and phrases together: “Naomi Campbell” perfumes OR “Naomi Campbell” fragrances.
6. Specify the site
You can specify the site you want to get search results from. Sometimes you want to search a specific website for certain content. If the site doesn’t have an own search feature, you can use Google to search the site for your term. In order to do that, use the "site:sitename.com" modifier.
Let's say, you want to find news about Naomi Campbell on huffingtonpost.com. You can fine-tune your search if you enter: "Naomi Campbell" site:www.huffingtonpost.com.
7. Select the time frame you are interested in
Sometimes you search for something and get old, outdated web pages. This may be misleading, especially if you are looking for a technical term as the solution might have changed in the meantime. If you specify the years you are interested in, Google will show all results from within the designated time frame. You can do this using the “..” operators between the years.
An example: you want to import music to iTunes. As the technical world changes quickly, you might find outdated information on a page written in 2009. Google will show you the latest solutions if you search for importing music to itunes 2012..2013.