Advanced Googling

Update: Oct 22nd, 2009

- by Jeff Christensen

All the webpages in the world wont help you if you don’t know how to find them. And according to my own very scientific process of making up statistics, 90% of people don’t know how to really search for websites, with a margin of error of 80%. 

There is the typical search where you type in a few words related to what you want and hope for the best. That works nicely, if you don’t mind getting any webpage with those words in it. 

A few people might know some clever tricks like using quotations. If you search for which words does google prune a few things will happen. One, google will remove the words ‘which’, ‘does’, and ‘google’ since they’re used too commonly, and you will then get every website with the words ‘words’ and ‘prune’. Not what you wanted. If you instead use quotes  and search for “which words does google prune” you will only find websites that contain the exact phrase ‘which words does google prune’ which, while in this example doesn’t help since that phrase apparently does not show up, likely due to the word ‘prune’ instead of something like ‘ignore’, has a far better chance of finding your website

Then there’s the other commonly known one using the minus sign. You’re looking for pictures of gates, and your search for gates show a lot of pictures of that guy from Microsoft. Searching for gates -Bill means that you won’t be seeing him, as all results containing ‘Bill’ are removed. This won’t stop ‘Mr. Gates’ from showing up, but its a start.

There are some lesser known tricks as well. You can use the plus sign to indicate that something must be contained, like Louis +I France which will bring you information about Louis I but not Louis II or Louis XIV. 

The hyphen, not to be confused with the minus sign, will search for all variations. A Search for skate-boarding will return results for ‘skate boarding’, ‘skateboarding’, and ‘skate-boarding.

You can search for specific information too, such as just the definition of a word. Search for define: defenestrate and get just definitions from a few different sources, no webpages. Google will do math too, so 3+4-8^2  will return ‘-57′ with no webpages.

There’s a dozen more. Calendar will search for results for ‘calendar’ only on the site will search for webpages that link to filetype:pdf will search for only pdf files available online. Then try movie:, weather:, or stocks:.

There are many many more, And I’m not going to go over all of them. There’s a comprehensive list out there on the internet. Search for it.


cautiongrayThis post is for informational purposes only. The technologies and services discussed are not officially endorsed or supported by the Colby College Information Technology Services department. Colby account holders should review the College’s Information and Data Security Policy and Best Practices guidelines, especially as they pertain to the handling of sensitive data.
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