Many people know about Google, but few know how to use that seemingly simple search box to find exactly what they want. Using Google effectively is a skill few business owners and corporate executives can afford to ignore. There is much more to searching the web using Google than just entering a few key words. Learning the correct way to structure searches will help you get the information you desire more quickly. Everyone agrees that the web has an amazing amount of information and a lot of it is free. You’d be surprised what you can find!
The Basic Search
Google’s interface is simple to use; just enter a keyword into the search box and click the Google Search button. What could be simpler?
However, if this is all you do, you are missing out on some powerful techniques to make your experience a successful one. Broad searches using just a few keywords are what most people do and stop there. The experienced searcher crafts search phrases using Google operators to dig deep into the net and find what they want.
Boolean Logic – The Heart of an Effective Internet Search
Search engines such as Google use something called Boolean Logic to extract information from its database. You can use this powerful tool when searching Google by combining Boolean operators with keywords. The Boolean Operators are: AND, OR, and NOT and are shown in the Google Operator chart below.
Conducting Effective Searches
To search Google effectively, you need to know the general rules:
- When entering more than one word into the search box, Google assumes you are looking for all of these words and returns results based on it finding relevant pages containing all of them. In short, the word “and” is assumed between all of the words you type into Google’s search box.
- Google ignores common words called Stop Words, such as: I, a, an, are, be, by, for, how, in, is, the, this, what, where, who, will, and with. For a more comprehensive list of Google Stop Words, just enter “Google stop words” into the Google search box. Then click on the relevant sites. Enter only the keywords you are looking for.
- Word order is important. Google considers the importance of the words in your search phrase according to the order they are listed and will show results accordingly.
- Google automatically includes variations of the words you are looking for including tenses, as well as singular and plural forms.
Advanced Search Techniques
What many Google users do not know is how to use special operators and Boolean Logic within their search phrases to limit results to the most relevant sites containing the information they’re looking for. For instance, if you were looking for attorneys in Rockland County, New York but not in Suffern, you can enter the following into Google’s search box:
“Attorney”+Rockland County, NY -Suffern
This search term tells Google that you want all attorneys only within Rockland County, NY excluding any attorneys with offices in Suffern.
You probably noticed that as you type your search terms into the search box, Google tries to predict what you’re searching for and suggests terms and phrases you can select. If one of them meets your needs, just click the term. Another way Google helps is by providing an Advanced Search page. To access it:
- After making a basic query, click the “gear” icon on the right side of the page
- Then click Advanced Search and you’ll be taken to Google’s Advanced Search page
- Complete the applicable fields and click the Advanced Search button at the bottom of the page.
Google Search Operators
TYPE OF SEARCH
AND or +
|United AND States; United + States||Boolean Operator: Google will return results where both words, United and States, appear. If you leave out this operator, Google assumes “+” between search terms.|
|Attorneys OR accountants||Boolean Operator: Google will show you results containing either attorneys, accountants or both.|
NOT or –
|Attorney –accountants||Boolean Operator: Google will return results that do not include the term after “NOT” or the minus sign (-)|
Quotation Marks (“”)
|“Microsoft Office 2007”||Google will return results based on all of the words within the quotations appearing in the results, including Stop Words.|
|Search Within a Specific Domain||
|IRA deduction site:irs.gov||Google will show only results within the IRS website|
|Search for terms Within URLs||
|intitle:free||Google will show web sites with the word free in their URLs|
|Find sites with expressions similar to your search term||
|~auto||Google will return sites for cars, autos, automobiles, etc.|
|Search for specific file types||
|auto filetype:pdf||Google will return sites that contain PDF versions of documents about automobiles|
|Search for words only within the body of web pages||
For single words – intext:
For multiple words – allintext
|intext:autoallintext:red auto||Google will show those pages that contain the search words in the body of the text|
|Find pages that link to a target site||
|Link:www.xsolutions.com||Google will show a list of sites that have links to the target site.|
|Find pages similar to a target site||
|related:www.excelapps.com||Google will find web pages that are similar to the target site|
|Search for local businesses||
Click “Maps” on the menu bar
|Enter a business type with a location reference. For example: “attorney”+Rockland County, NY||Google will conduct a local search showing a list of sites on the left with a map on the right. Click a link on the left or one of the red tags in the map for business information.|
|Search by date or number range||
.. (two periods)
|Hurricanes 2011 .. 2012; “cars” $15000 .. $30000||Google will search for the word “hurricanes” with dates from 2011 through 2012. In the second example, only cars costing between $15000 and $30,000 will show in the results.|
|Using the calculator feature||
Simply enter a mathematical expression into the search box
|(20000+40000)*2||Google will calculate the mathematical expression and yield the result. In this example, 120,000.|
|United * of Rockland||Google will fill in the blanks between terms and give you results, such as “United Way of Rockland”, “United Hospice of Rockland”, etc.|
More Google Search Options
Google provides powerful options to further filter your search results. These options are currently located on the left side of the search page. After conducting a search, you can further filter results showing images, maps, videos, news, patents, etc. Just click on any of the links and Google will filter the results accordingly.
Click the “More” link on the left and Google will further expand the list of options. You’ll also notice that further down the left side, Google allows you to also filter results by location.
Still, further down the left side is a link called “Show search tools”. Clicking it shows other filters such as time (i.e. past hour, past month, etc.), “Sites with Images”, “Related searches”, “Not yet visited”, “Dictionary”, “Reading Level”, etc.
Experiment with these tools and you’ll be amazed at how specific your search results can get.
Use Google Alerts
Google Alerts is an invaluable tool to keep abreast of current information. Set up Google Alerts to give you current data on competitors, industry news, etc. Once set up, Google will automatically send you emails containing links to the information you want. Click this link for instructions.
So, as you can see, Google’s deceptively simple search box can yield enormous amounts of detailed, relevant business information, if you know how to use it properly. Experiment! That is the only way to become a power searcher. Unfortunately, schools don’t teach this important skill, but good internet research abilities will serve any business person well.