3 Google Tricks When You Don’t Know What to Search For

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Google search tricksSometimes you are totally sure which terms to use to search Google to find the information you need.

However more often than not, you have to try dozens of various search phrases to accidentally come across a good result.

Today’s short search tutorial will show some Google search tricks you can use to search when you actually don’t know what you are going to find.

The tips will turn useful in a number of cases:

  • When you are looking for random inspiration and thus have no idea which words to use to search (actually what you really need to get inspired is to know those words);
  • When your topic is broad and you are unsure which one of related words and synonyms best describes your question;
  • When you have found a page, can’t define it properly but need more of the kind (especially, if you have landed on some wicked tool and want to know if there are more tools like this).

Now, let me share the Google search operators that will help you in any of the above cases:

1. Wildcard Search Operator

Search engines may treat a wildcard (*) differently. Google substitutes it for one or more words that would normally occur in the phrase. Thus, if you, for example, search [“reliable * provider”], search results will include: “reliable television provider”, “reliable webhosting provider”, “reliable VoiP provider”, etc.

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Possible Usage

Thus two of the most obvious ways to take advantage of the search operator are:

  1. Use it when you remember the phrase but can’t remember the word;
  2. Use it to research various word combination with one or more base words (for keyword research or language learning);

Practical Example

Now, a more creative way to use it is to get some (content) inspiration. I described the method in my earlier post on finding linkbait inspiration: use a wildcard in between classic Digg headings to find which articles are being created to target social media sites. Examples include:

Google search tricks

2. ~ Synonym Search Operator

The Google ~ operator allows you to broaden the scope of your search to related terms and synonyms.

Possible Usage

The operator may turn particularly handy when:

  • Your search term is very broad and you are unsure which of the related words is used to describe the phenomenon.
  • You want to research related terms excluding the one you use (e.g. [~search -search])

Practical Example

When searching for guest post opportunities, the synonym ~ operator lets you include all possible blog topics in one search:

Google search tricks

3. Related: URL Search Operator

The Related: search operator allows to find more similar pages to the provided one. It used to be strictly based on co-citation: it looked for pages with the same set of backlinks to the above one. But since then it has been noticed that it also applied some thematic relevance.

Possible Usage

It is thus clear that the search operator should be used when you need to find more similar pages (especially when you can’t formulate the contents or define the concept of the current page).

Practical Example

The operator may turn very useful for bloggers who often create tool lists and overviews (for a website like MUO). As an example, here are the related results for a popular broken link checker: Xenu’s Link Sleuth.

google tricks

Also, be sure to check out Tina’s overview of all Google search operators to get more creative search ideas.

Which advanced Google search tricks do you use on a daily basis?

Image credit: 21cif.com

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Comments (9)
  • Oron Joffe

    Excellent article! I’m familiar with these operators, but have never thought to use the ~ to exclude a search term. Brilliant idea!

  • fruitgeek

    You can also use a minus sign in front of words you don’t want in order to omit any results that contain that word. For example if I wanted to search for a freeware app that doesn’t have a trial and is completely free, i might search: freeware -trial

    You can find more useful web app and Mac tips at fruitgeek.wordpress.com

  • fruitgeek

    You can also use a minus sign in front of words you don’t want in order to omit any results that contain that word. For example if I wanted to search for a freeware app that doesn’t have a trial and is completely free, i might search: freeware -trial

    You can find more useful web app and Mac tips at fruitgeek.wordpress.com

  • Blog SEO – Vincent

    Nice ! More at : http://tinyurl.com/263yqnb

  • Nat Jay

    Apart from operators, you can also used Google Suggest to find what others have been searching for, and match it to your own search keywords.

    Google also had a “wonder wheel” feature a while ago though I can’t seem to find it these days.

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Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.