How To Use Search Like A Pro: 10 Tips And Tricks For Google And Beyond Google


Search engines are good enough to find what you are looking for these days, but sometimes they are still insufficient. For these occasions, there are a few little-known tips that come in handy.

So here are some tips for better Google search (because it is the most popular search engine), but many will also work on other search engines.

1. Exact expression

Exact search Photograph: Samuel Gibbs / The Guardian

The easiest and most efficient way to search for something specific is to use quotes around a phrase or name to search for those exact words in that exact order.

For example, a search for Joe Bloggs will show results with both Joe and Bloggs, but not necessarily placed sequentially. Looking for “Joe Blogs” will only show those specifically named Joe Bloggs somewhere on the page.

Finding exact or explicit phrases is very useful for excluding more common but less relevant results.

2. Exclude terms

“Joe Bloggs” -jeans Photograph: Samuel Gibbs / The Guardian

If the exact phrase doesn’t give you what you need, you can specifically exclude certain words using the minus symbol.

A search for “Joe Bloggs “-jeans will find results for Joe Bloggs, but it will exclude those results for the jeans brand Joe Bloggs.

3. Either OR

OR search
OR search for things that could be one thing or another, but you don’t need both terms on the same page. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs / The Guardian

Default text searches find results with all of the words in the query. By using the term OR, you can search for either term, not just all of the terms. OU searches can be useful for finding things for which you are unsure of the term that will be used in a known list.

4. Search for synonyms

Search for synonyms
Searching using synonyms covers all bases. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs / The Guardian

Sometimes it helps to search for a less specific term. If you are not sure which term will be used, you can use the synonym search.

Looking for plumbing ~ university will bring results for plumbing colleges as well as universities, for example.

5. Search within a site

Google site search
Use Google to search for a particular site. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs / The Guardian

The search engines for most websites are poor. You can search using Google instead using the site or domain limiter.

Search with site: followed by a search term, will only find results from The combination with explicit search terms makes it even more powerful.

6. The power of the asterisk

Wildcard character search
Asterisks work as wildcards in search to replace a word or letters. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs / The Guardian

Like the blank tile in Scrabble, the asterisk functions as a wildcard in searches. It can be used in place of a missing word or part of a word, which is useful for completing sentences, but also when trying to search for a less defined article.

A search for an architect * will search for an architect, but also architectural, architecture, architected, architecting and any other word starting with architect.

7. Search between two values

British Prime Minister 1920 .. 1950
British Prime Minister 1920 .. 1950 Photograph: Samuel Gibbs / The Guardian

Looking for something with a qualifier between two ranges is a good way to answer questions. For example, if you search for who were the British Prime Ministers between 1920 and 1950, a search using the British Prime Minister 1920 .. 1950 will show results with dates between 1920 and 1950.

It’s your search term followed by a colon and a space.

8. Search for a word in the body, title or URL of a page

title: research
title: research Photograph: Samuel Gibbs / The Guardian

Sometimes you just want to search for text in the URL, body, or title of a page. Use the qualifier inurl: will just search the url. The qualifier in the text : will seek in the body, while title: will only search in a page title.

For example, intitle: review will show all articles with “review” in the page title.

9. Look for related sites

Related research.
Related research. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs / The Guardian

The associated qualifier is useful for finding similar sites. Looking for linked: for example, will display the websites of other news organizations that Google considers most similar to the Guardian.

10. Combine them

combined search terms
Combine terms and modifiers for powerful searches. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs / The Guardian

All of these search tools can be combined to refine or broaden searches. While some of them can only be used infrequently, some such as explicit phrase searches are useful in almost all cases.

As Google and other search engines improve their understanding of how people naturally type or say search queries, these powerful tools are likely to become less and less useful – at least that’s the case. goal the search engines are working towards – but it certainly isn’t at the moment.

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