We all know how useful Google is as a search engine. It’s the best and smartest on the planet and is constantly developing to provide more useful search results and to better understand user behaviour. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make it work even better for you!
There are a number of tips and tricks you can use to get more specific results and to save yourself time shifting through irrelevant websites. Here are some of my favourites.
1. Advanced Google Search
You’ve probably used Google plenty of times to search for a particular word or phrase. But did you know that you can narrow it down even further than that? If you go to Google’s advanced search then you’ll find a whole range of other options to fine tune your search such as language, region, when the page was last updated, and whereabouts the terms appear on the page.
If you’re looking for some very specific information, then advanced search can help you find it without typing in long, winding phrases that may or may not get you the answer you need.
2. Advanced Image Search
Much like Advanced Search, Advanced Image Search helps you narrow down your search results specifically for images.
You can type in your regular search phrase and then choose from a number of options including image size, aspect ratio, usage rights, file type, or colours in the image.
As you can imagine, this opens up all sorts of possibilities. You can find images that include your brand colours, images that you can use freely, or images that are the exact format required for printing.
3. Search Any Website
We all know how successful Google is in searching the web, but did you know that you can use it to search absolutely any site that you want?
Many sites nowadays have their own search box, but they often aren’t nearly as useful as Google itself. So, if you’re looking for something on a specific website, and their search engine just isn’t up to scratch, head over to Google and search for site:[your-site-name.com] [your keyword].
The results will all be relevant to your keyword, and all from the one specific site.
4. Search an Exact Phrase
When you perform a search on Google, it will pick out results it thinks are relevant to you because the words from your search phrase appear on the page.
While this is usually very successful, sometimes you’re looking for a specific phrase, rather than the individual words, and Google’s results aren’t quite what you need.
To give you a very simplified example (because Google is smart and, to a large extent, does this already): if you’re looking for a yellow dress, you don’t want Google to show you a page that mentions a dress and a yellow hat, with no mention of an actual yellow dress.
To look for the exact phrase, surround it in quotation marks: “yellow dress”. This way, Google will look for that phrase altogether, not the words separately.
5. Exclude Words
Like searching for an exact phrase, you may want to ensure Google excludes certain words from your search. You can do this by adding a dash before any words you’d like to exclude form your search.
Imagine you’re looking for a takeaway. You know you want a takeaway, but you don’t know what type exactly. However, you just had Chinese last night, so you don’t fancy that again. You can search for takeaway near me -chinese to eradicate all Chinese takeaways.
Not only that, but the dash lets you remove certain sites from your search results, too. If you want to search for a laptop but don’t want to buy from Amazon, you can search laptops -site:amazon.co.uk.
6. Find Related Sites
You can use the search operator related: to search for similar sites. This is particularly useful if you’re researching a certain topic and have found a website that you like, but want to find others that may have information on similar topics. Or it could be useful, if you search your own site, to find other pages and companies that are like your own. You can then get inspiration, discover your competitors, and so on.
7. Search a File Type
When searching, you might be looking for a specific type of file. For example, if you’re looking for instructions, you might find it easier to have a PDF download rather than a webpage. Or you might be looking for a certain type of image file.
By using the filetype: search operator alongside the keyword and type of file, you can narrow your search. For example: victoria sponge filetype:pdf gives you several options for downloading a Victoria sponge recipe.
8. Reverse Image Search
Do you ever come across an image online and you’d love to know what it shows? Maybe it’s a beautiful landscape that you want to add to your travel bucket list, or perhaps it’s a pair of shoes that you want to buy.
Right click on the image, then select Search the web for image. Google will then show you other sites that can help you identify what the picture is of, where it’s originally from, or images that look similar.
9. Combine Search Shortcuts
All these search shortcuts are useful on their own, but you can up your game even further by combining them to really zone in on your desired search results.
Perhaps your planning a holiday to the Lake District. You’re staying close to Windermere and want to find out a bit about the area, but you’ve already booked your accommodation so you don’t need to see results about that. You might search site:lakedistrict.gov.uk windermere -accommodation. You get a range of results from the national park’s official website, but don’t see anything about accommodation, because that’s irrelevant to you.
There are various search operators and symbols you can use in your Google search to help you find more specific results. Not only can this help you wade through the billions of search results Google often comes up with, it will help you find your answer more quickly, and help you find more relevant information.