The internet doesn’t contain just a few dozen or hundred relevant sources, no, it contains millions or billions or even more. To make things worse, there is no friendly and intelligent librarian to help you sort through all this information. It’s only you and a stupid search engine. You better act smart.
The challenge when searching online is to find only relevant information or – in other words – avoid irrelevant results on Google search. In this article I will show you 6 ways to reduce these false hits, so that you get better overall search results.
Surprisingly, the most effective way to reduce irrelevant results on Google search, may be not to use Google’s search engine in the first place. Read on to understand why.
1. Use Multiple Keywords
Use multiple keywords to receive more specific results on your first search engine results page (SERP).
2. Use Google Suggest
When you enter the first letters of a keyword into the search bar, Google will suggest popular keywords other people have used in their searches. Follow these suggestions and see whether they can help you gain better results.
3. Use Operators to Properly Connect Keywords
This is a whole article of its own and fortunately it has already been written. Please have a look at my article on Google Operators for an overview. You can use each of these “commands” to improve your search results. Here I will mention only the three most helpful ones.
- Use Negative Keywords
If you’re seeing irrelevant results, identify a keyword that has nothing to do with what you’re looking for and make it your “negative keyword”. Simply add it to your search query with a minus symbol in front of it, for example if you were looking for the band Gossip, you would search for [gossip -celebrity] (without the brackets).
- Use Quotes
This is most commonly used to find an exact match. Since Google already uses the AND operator to connect single keywords per default, you won’t need quotes to find exact matches in most cases.
However, if you find that Google returns results with highlighted keywords that are spelled completely different from what you entered, try to put these single words into quotes and try again. This will prevent Google from “finding” more popular keywords that are only vaguely similar to your search term.
- Search Within a Specific Website
If you don’t want to search the entire internet, but instead a specific URL, this operator is of great help. Type [site:URL “your search query”], for example [site:http://wikipedia.org “brandenburg gate”].
4. Use Advanced Search
If you can’t be bothered with manually typing operators, you can use Google’s Advanced Search. It allows you to exclude words, search for results in a specific language or specific files, and search within a site or domain. As you enter the details, the search query is automatically composed for you.
5. Use Google Chrome With Quick Scroll
One of the most annoying parts of following a search result is finding the relevant part within the page that opens. The Google Chrome extension Quick Scroll helps you tackle this issue as it provides a quick way to scroll to the parts in that website that are relevant to your query.
We have profiled Quick Scroll in the MakeUseOf Directory.
In Firefox you could simply use Quick Find, i.e. “find in text as you type” to quickly find the keywords again. However, if you’re into Google Chrome, you should check out these, an article written by Tim earlier this month.
6. Ditch Google
Google is the most popular search engine and as such it has a lot of power. Google naturally has full control over its search algorithm. This in turn has a great impact on what results you will see, i.e. those you actually want to see or those that Google wants you to see.
There are two major variables that determine which results are recognized as relevant for your search: Link Authority (a.k.a. PageRank) and Keyword Relevance. Keyword relevance is straight forward. How well do the keywords you entered match the result, how often do they appear throughout the website, are they included in links pointing to that site, etc? Actually, this is all that you’re looking for when using a search engine.
Google, however, is biased towards link authority. The number of links pointing to a certain page determines its “authority” or PageRank. The more, the better. Unfortunately, this means that keywords only remotely related to a high PageRank site may cause this site to appear on your SERP, no matter how relevant it really is. The advantage is that you’ll see a lot of results from reputable high impact pages like Wikipedia or MakeUseOf. On the other hand you may miss out on many more relevant results from smaller pages. That’s not necessarily what you want.
So what can you do? You cannot change Google’s algorithm. However, if you keep seeing irrelevant search results, no matter how well you tune your search, there is one more thing you can do to get better results: don’t use Google’s search engine in the first place.
Yahoo’s search engine, for example, is less biased towards link authority and will thus provide you with much better search results. For a detailed analysis and examples, please see Troy Philis’ article on More Irrelevant Google Search Results.
What are your experiences with Google search and what has helped you to get the most relevant results?