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Tips on Getting Better Search Results from Google | ploked.com

“Google” Google for Help

May 31st, 2010 |


Jeff Louis is a strategic media planner, brand project manager, blogger, and aspiring writer. He's intrigued by innovation overcoming adversity, survival of the fittest brand, history, reading, and similar fun stuff. He writes for sites and is the Public Relations and Advertising writer for the Chicago Examiner.

PhotobucketDespite both reading and writing innumerable words about Google, the company, it dawned on me that I didn’t have a ton of insight on the search capabilities offered on the site. This revelation came as I searched for a specific print ad created at a former agency. Perhaps more frustrating than not being able to find it was the fact that I it was to help someone else. Which is why I had to keep going long after I should have stopped. I can quit on my own stuff, but feel compelled to deliver for someone else.

Ridiculous considering that the ad had not, to my knowledge, been displayed online. Google can’t find something that doesn’t exist. In the end, I didn’t find it, leading me to search Google about conducting better Google searches. I felt a little better due to the number of returns (206,000,000) but I wasn’t going to look through all that crap. At this point, I decided to see what Google said about searching on Google.

I knew a couple of cool things before this all began.  Certain search terms can be excluded from a query by adding a minus sign before the word you don’t want included. If searching for marketing, but not advertising, enter “marketing -advertising.” This instructs Google to show marketing results, but not advertising. The wild card (*), once used to find file types on a computer (*.jpg = all jpegs) works on Google. Users can also search specific domains for results; to find content about advertising on the Wall Street Journal, enter “advertising site:www.wsj.com. To find a specific company, add the company name to the query; “advertising Kraft site:www.wsj.com. Google will also perform calculations and conversions. To add, enter “4084593 + 283450″ in the search bar. Google returns 4368043 as an answer.  The other operators are “-” for subtraction, “*” to multiply, and “/” to divide. The conversion function is great because you don’t have to search for a conversion table; to find the number of yards in a mile, enter “yards=.” The search bar will show  a couple of options; yards to meters, yards to miles, or yards to feet.

Google also has some tips for searching Google. On the “Basic Search Help” page, there’s information about making search easy. Google outlines the basics:

  • Every word matters. Generally, all the words you put in the query will be used.
  • Search is always case insensitive. A search for “new york times”  is the same as a search for “New York Times.”
  • Generally, punctuation is ignored, including @#$%^&*()=+[]\ and other special characters. [see note]

Note: Although “ignored,” the @-sign will search for Twitter users; @jl0312 brings up my Twitter page.

There are also some general tips, like keeping queries simple, but descriptive. The weather forecast in Cancun is best as “cancun weather, and not, “Weather Outlook in Cancun Mexico.” Zip codes narrow down searches in and around your house; “Bank 66207″ lists banks in Overland Park, KS.

A link called, “More Search Help” goes a bit deeper, explaining, for instance, that Google automatically uses synonyms. A search on health care (with space) will also return healthcare (no space).  If you need to find specific terms without the extra results, add a “+” in front of the word, or “+health care. This pages lists several methods to define the results, but also informs that Google team members use these features “less than 5% of the time.”

  • Phrase search (“”) The use of double quotes instructs Google to find the exact words. “Wheat germ” won’t show results for wheat germ oil.
  • The OR operator Allows for comparative data searches, or searches to separate similar data over two periods. For example,

But wait, there’s more! There are “cheat sheets” available on Google so you don’t have to remember everything; one is located  in the Librarian Center (clear explanations, .pdf format), the other in the help area under Cheat Sheet (not easily downloaded, fuzzy on explanation).  Google covers other nuances for search, beginning with exception. Search is a fluid process, updated frequently to provide more features, increase speed, and update plug-ins.


Although Google states that every word matters, some aren’t included during search; Words like, ‘a,’ and ‘for,’ are a waste of time. A final link for tools on search, this one on “Explore Google Search,” adding a few more tools to your search efforts.

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Jeff Louis
  • D2r4s26

    Good referece, thanks