Searching is big business in the world of Google. Enabling users to find relevant information is at the core of Google’s culture and mission.
A recent interview and article with a “search anthropologist” at Google inspired me to give you a list of four search techniques I use every day to save time when searching.
Put these into practice now and stop wasting more time than you need to online.
An astonishing 90% of users don’t know how to use CTRL+F – based on a sample size of thousands of searchers. I’m guessing ignorance of this simple searching shortcut wastes hundreds of thousands of hours each year, online and offline. Here’s how to use it:
Holding down the Control or Command button (Ctrl on a Windows keyboard, Command on a Mac) and pressing the “F” key brings up a search window. This lets you search within the current browser or system window, whether you’re searching a web page or a large text file on your computer.
Some browsers actually highlight the word you search for in the text of the web page displayed in the window or count the number of occurrences of that search term.
This also works for PDFs, especially valuable when searching downloaded journal articles.
If you’re searching within a particular website for a certian string of text this command lets you do it from right within the Google search window.
site:[what you’re searching for] into Google’s search box and hit Enter.
This command limits all your search results to pages found at that particular website.
So, for example if you know there’s an article on reachpatients.com about rating sites but don’t want to go to the site, search around and hunt for the page, you can try this:
Type the following into Google:
site:reachpatients.com "rating sites"
then hit Enter.
Use a minus symbol before your search term if you want to exclude that word from your search results.
So, if you want to find all web pages containing information about cardiac stents, but didn’t want to know about recalled stents, you could type in the following:
cardiac stents -recalled
I’m a Mac user, so I might search for presentation backgrounds, but I don’t want to see ones for Powerpoint, because I use Keynote. I would type in
presentation backgrounds keynote -powerpoint
to eliminate results I don’t want.
You may want to eliminate versions of words or find instances of just the root word.
Adding the plus symbol returns pages containing just that word, without any added suffixes or prefixes.
For example, if you are interested in pages with the word blog in them, Google will return results containing terms like blogging, blogger, blogs if you just type that in.
Add a plus in front of your search term to eliminate those other word variations.
“[search term – multiple words]”
Putting quotes around a search string will give you pages containing that exact sequence of matched words.
This is especially helpful to find more information about catch phrases, movie quotes, and details about events with specific titles.
For instance, if you are tracking your publications or clinic’s name in Google by using a Google Alert (a technique I shared with my subscribers in an email), you want to see specific results by typing in the exact name of your clinic. You can get that specific result by using quotes around the search terms.
Combining the techniques
I hope you’re thinking of some uses for these tools. One way I combine them is when I read an article online by an author I like, I search in Google for the following:
site:www.siteilike.com "Author’s Exact Name"
This returns all the web pages with that author’s name on them, giving me a chance to read more of what that author wrote.
What other Google search tips have you tried that others can learn from? Let me know in the comments below!