So you Google everything. That’s ok, I do too. Virtually anything you could ever want to know about or learn to do is somewhere on the internet, if you can just find it. That’s the rub, though, because there’s a lot of other stuff out there that isn’t what you’re looking for, and Google doesn’t know the difference. It’s up to you to be as specific as possible with your search terms. And did you know that there are specific shortcuts to help Google understand exactly what you want? Unfortunately, the majority of people don’t know these shortcuts, or even half of what Google can do for them. So either you can Google “How to Google” (maybe that’s how you found this article), or you can sit down and get ready because I’m about to explain the most useful tips for finding exactly what you are looking for with Google.
Basic Google searching
Let’s say you’ve been Googling how to make chocolate pie and the search results go on forever, and contain every recipe for chocolate pie known to woman or man. You have every recipe, ranging from Martha Stewart’s to some one with a blog who made a pie one time. Maybe you want a specific recipe though, like the one on the popular blog Pioneer Woman. What do you do?
- Start by narrowing your search down to the core concept. You need to get rid of the “how to make” part of your search. You’re telling Google what results you need, and most of the results likely don’t have how to in them, or even recipe. All you need are the keywords: chocolate pie
- Surround your search phrase with quotations: “chocolate pie”. The quotations specify that you only want results that have that exact phrase in them; otherwise, you will inevitably see results that have the word chocolate, but no pie, or vice versa.
- To search for results from a specific website, you should include the word site followed by a colon, and then the URL of the site. Make sure only your initial search terms are inside the quotation marks. So: “chocolate pie” site:pioneerwoman.com This method works to efficiently narrow down exactly what you want, and can also be used on sites that don’t have their own search feature.
- Maybe you aren’t able to put your finger on exactly what you want to search, and don’t want to exclude searches for similar items. You can put an ~ in front of the search term to include synonyms and similar terms: ~chocolate pie will also search for French silk, Hershey’s pie, and chocolate cream pie.
- You can also search two terms separately, but at the same time, by putting a capital OR between the terms you want to search for: chocolate OR French silk pie
- Maybe you’re looking for a specific kind of file format, like a pdf you can print out, or an image. To specify the file type, type filetype:(file extension): “chocolate pie” filetype:jpg
- Maybe you want to Google chocolate pie, but you aren’t looking for a recipe. In that case, insert a minus symbol before the term you want to exclude: “chocolate pie” -recipe
- Looking for a definition? Type define:(search term) with no spaces: define:chocolate
- Trying to remember a popular phrase or saying, but don’t quite have all the words? Type as much of the phrase as you can, and insert asterisks for the words you can’t remember. This also works for song lyrics (such as nobody knows the *** or weebles * but they ***).
- Cache let’s you access an older, stored version of a website if it is down for maintenance (it also lets you get around some restrictions set by organizations if the site you are accessing has been blocked, because the information is coming from Google, not that site. But none of you would do that, right? Riiiight?) Just type cache:(website URL): cache:easyinternetnow.com
- Search photos, contacts, and calendar events through Google on your phone (only you will see this personalized results). You can see the pictures you took on a specific date (make sure your date is day/month/year: my photos from 23 June 2017), find a contact stored in your phone or email (what is (name)’s number, what is (name)’s email address, and call (name) will initiate a call), or check your plans for a specific date (what is my plan for (date)). Additionally, set reminder for (event) at (time and date) will add a reminder to your calendar.
A few more uses
There are tools available by typing certain searches:
- Equations: 300/17 or 13*24. Typing calculator will also open a calculator in your browser, and tip for (amount) will open a tip calculator.
- Conversions: 3 kilometers to miles or 12 inches to centimeters
- Weather and time: weather st. louis or time Orlando
- Translations: translate chocolate pie to spanish or translate pomplamoose to English
- Tracking packages: just copy and paste your tracking number into the search box.
- Movies: Type movies (zip code): movies 65775
- Timer or set timer opens a timer in your browser.
Apps and special search engines
Google Goggles is an app that allows you to search by taking a picture. This works well for art, landmarks, bar codes, and products.
Search Google images using an image. It’s sort of like Google Goggles, but not quite; it is called a “reverse image search,” and is useful for finding the source of an image. In Google Images, click the camera icon and then paste the image URL, upload an image from your computer, or just drag and drop and image into the search field. Google will search for that image online, as well as ones like it.
Google Books let’s you search millions of books for the exact information you are looking for, like if you need to find the source of a quote. You can also preview some parts of some books, which is highly useful for writing a research paper if you only need to read a portion of the book, like a chapter or a single page. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that people have been writing books faaaaar longer than the Internet has been around, and some things just can’t be found on a website or blog. Fancy that. (Google Books works best for older works—the older the publication date, the more likely they have it).
And just for fun
And because we’re not all business, all the time, here are a few neat things you can do just for kicks.
Google in 1998 typed into the search bar will show you how Google looked back when they first went online.
Atari breakout in Google image search will open up an arcade game right in your browser.