The internet, a network spanning the globe. Today around 20% of the world’s population is connected. That’s over 1.4 billion people, a number with ten digits and it’s growing. Imagine each of these individuals would contribute only one sentence per day and one file per week.
And now think again. How realistic is that? How many sentences and files do you put online on an average day? Does that put Google’s name choice into perspective? Google is said to be named after the number googol, i.e. 10100, a one followed by 100 zeros. It’s funny how back then they obviously didn’t care about the correct spelling, and today the verb google is found in many contemporary dictionaries.
Either way, it’s hard to imagine how much information is out there, yet a lot of it is at your fingertips. You just have to search right. Here are some tips to optimize and streamline your Google searches, and furthermore a handful of tricks that will save you time.
(1) Fine Tune
Operators are functional words or signs that tell the search engine how to connect or separate the given search terms. The most important ones are…
- AND or +
With “AND” or “+” you can link words, so all linked terms are included in the search results. I’m adding this to give a complete collection. Google automatically searches for all given terms.
Example: sun AND moon or sun +moon
Note the “AND” must be in caps and there is no space after the “+”.
- ” “
Putting terms in a quote indicates a sentence and will be searched for exactly in this composition.
Example: “the sun lights up the moon”
This is the so called wildcard. The asterisk represents a missing word, use it to let Google fill in any potential word.
Example: “the * lights up the moon”
To search for all synonyms of a word, put a tilde directly infront of it.
This search will bring back results containing the terms sun, solaris, solar, and a couple less obvious ones.
The double dot put directly between two numbers denotes a range to narrow the results down.
Example: “solar eclipse 1990..2005″
Note that there are no spaces between the numbers or the dots.
- Advanced Search
If you have a hard time remembering all of these operators, use Google’s Advanced Search .
(2) Narrow Down
Let Google do a search for more specific content. Google will exclude vast parts of information and dig deeper, if you tell it where to look or what to look for. And these are the operators you will need to know for that purpose:
Search a specific site only. Very useful if that page doesn’t provide an in-site search.
Example: site:makeuseof.com “Master the Google”
A clever operator to use if you suppose a page has changed or if it’s not currently available. Search for cached site versions within the Google Cache.
- inurl: _ intitle: _ intext: _ inanchor:
Those will search terms within any URL, title, text or anchor text, respectively. You can define several terms and combine with any other operator. If you add an “all” infront of either of these operators, all given terms have to appear in the respective query.
Example: intext:makeuseof.com google -maps OR allintext:makeuseof google maps
Note that these are not the same as the site: operator. The in… operators will search all sites containing the given terms.
This one will find pages that link to a given URL.
The smart way to search for definitions across the web.
Let’s say you love MUO and would like to find related pages, try this operator!
Get all the information Google has on a specific website in one search. That is links to Google Cache, similar pages, and more.
Quite obviously a way to search only for one type of file. Works with pdf, ppt and doc.
Example: filetype:pdf “Sun and Moon”
A search with this operator will bring back artist, album and song information. The results are not always complete, so be careful.
Example: music:tina turner
The search for movie reviews.
Example: movie:indiana jones
(3) Do the Math
Google can calculate.
- + _ – _ * _ /
For simple equations use the symbols for plus, minus, multiply, and divert respectively. Use (brackets) to define which calculations shall be done first, else the simple rule multiplication and division before addition and subtraction applies.
Example: (10 + 4) /2 *7 = 49 OR 10 + 4 /2 *7 = 24
- % of
Example: 51% of 900 = 459
- ^ OR **
These operators will raise a number to the power of another.
Example: 5^3 will raise 5 to the 3rd power.
- And more…
Without further ado, here’s an in-depth selection for the math junkie in you:
sqrt() or square root of
sin() cos() tan()
ln logarithm base e
log logarithm base 10
lg logarithm base 2
(4) Convert & Conquer
Google can do painful conversion for you, for example from degrees Fahrenheit to degrees Celsius. It can also answer really mundane questions such as what is the time in Sydney. Just type your question in plain English and Numbers, and Google will most likely give you a smart answer.
Example: 100 Euro in USD
- weight, length, volume, etc.
Example: 100kg in lb
Example: time sydney
Example: weather berlin
And finally, I know you’ve been waiting for that one for all of your life…..
(5) the answer to life, the universe, and everything
Google can give THE answer and a lot more.
There are a few things to remember. For one, Google can do a lot more than what is listed above, these are just the most important, interesting and simple tips & tricks to remember. Then keep in mind that Google isn’t the same everywhere. Depending on where you live, Google might send you to country specific Google sub-sites, which may return varying results. The most prominent example is censorship in countries like China.
If you’re logged into Google, it can keep a record of your searches, which can come in handy at times. If you wish to enable your Google History, go to your account, click on Web History and follow the indicated steps. This requires the Google Toolbar to be installed. However, I generally recommend to keep this feature turned off.
Which other Google tips & tricks do you find important? The comments are open for suggestions!