We’ve all seen it.
“320,000,000 results in 0.043 seconds”
We’ve all wondered how it’s possible, it must be magic. Google is amazing. With hundreds of millions of results, we have to trust that Google is giving us the best results. That must be one of the reasons why they are one of the biggest companies in the world, right?
But if that’s entirely true, why is that we can’t always find what we’re looking for? Or why are so many of the search results irrelevant to us?
Google is a powerful tool, yet we have to keep in mind that they are also a business. Their incentives are not always clearly defined, and a simple search is a way to enter into their world. They want to overwhelm you with results so that you trust that the top results are the best, and of course, that their advertisers could also feasibly provide the information that you are searching for too.
You might have a lot of luck using a basic Google search, but there are much better ways to use Google to its full potential. If you like Google now, once you master these tools, you will absolutely love it, and you will be able to complete searches that give you only one result, exactly what you’re looking for.
Google Advanced Search
Google searches across the entire web and across entire sites, but did you that you can use Google to search specific sites too? All you have to do is add site: to your search query followed by the domain name of the site you want to search. For example, if you’re looking for articles about Hillary Clinton written for CNN you can search site:cnn.com Hillary Clinton. The search results will show only articles about Hillary Clinton on CNN’s website.
Think about the possibilities! You can search Linkedin.com for Project Manager jobs. You can search Epicurious for cake recipes. You can even combine multiple site: searches together by using OR. OR provides the result from one site or another. The OR has to be written in capital letters so a search for Hillary Clinton on CNN or BBC would look like this:
site:cnn.com OR site:bbc.co.uk Hillary Clinton
You might be thinking that you can just go and do a search on any of those sites, and you’d be right about that, but Google Advanced Search techniques are only getting started. Using the same style we can apply the intitle: search command which will limit results to your search terms that appear in the title of the web page.
This is useful when you want to find more specific content. Google’s indexing algorithms favor higher quality sources, so their search results might turn up a page that includes the term “best songs of 2001” in the body, which may or may not be helpful if you are looking for an article entirely dedicated to the best songs of 2001.
When you have just one word that you’re looking for in the title you don’t need to use quotation marks but if you want to use a phrase like “best songs of 2001” you need to use quotation marks in the following format:
intitle:”best songs of 2001″
Following the exact same idea, you can get even more specific with the inurl: filter which will limit search results to links that have the words or phrase in their URL. This is super helpful when looking for FAQ sections, about us, or other information that you want grouped together. For example, if you want to learn about different publishing houses you can do a search inurl:/about/ Major Publishing House, which will give you a list of the about pages of publishing houses.
We’ve already seen that we can broaden our search by adding the OR in all caps to find results that satisfy one of our requirements. To narrow a search down we can do the same thing with AND which links together requirements to find more specific information. For example, site:monster.com AND intitle:”Software Engineer” gives you only the software engineer job posts on the site monster.com.
How many times have you been looking for information, and when you come across a great resource you realize that it dates from 2008? If it’s an article about SEO, it might as well have been written by Pliny the Elder. Luckily on the search results page Google has a Search Tools button which displays two options, “Any time” and “All results.”
When you click on the Any Time drop-down menu you can filter the results based on when they were written. For searching for job posts this is extremely helpful, idem for best practices and for news. You can even make a custom range!
The internet is also a wealth of documents and information, spreadsheets, databases, PDFs, MP3s, pretty much anything you could possibly want. And with the filetype: filter you can limit your search results to the files that you’re looking for. Amazing. Remember to use .pdf, .ppt extensions and not “powerpoint.”
An example: filetype:xls intitle:”list of technology companies” will give you a list of tech companies that you can download and import into your own contact base.
There are also tons of other tricks by using symbols to limit keywords, add spacings, get suggested search terms and more. Check out this great resource from Supple.