Get better results from Google
Use Google’s advanced search operators to improve your search queries
The web is a marvellous research tool for study and work, to solve a problem with a piece of equipment or software, or just because you’re curious about a subject. Part of the challenge in using search engines such as Google is in choosing appropriate keywords that actually yield good results. Even if your words are well chosen, a more popular context other than the one you intended may share keywords, burying the pages you’re looking for deeper among search results than you care to dig, leading you to refine your search to hone in on the correct resources.
This is when you might benefit from switching to Google’s Advanced Search, by clicking the cog at the top-right of a search results page. It provides a form that enables you to explicitly state how Google should treat particular keywords and phrases. You can tell it to look for a sequence of words as an exact phrase, rather than as individual keywords that might appear in any order.
Searches can be restricted to a particular site, or perhaps several, so that you only see pages from, say, BBC News and select other organisations, or maybe you just want to exclude a specific, less authoritative site that dominates results.
There’s no need to break down your search in this manner. Many of Advanced Search’s most useful options can be leveraged from the search bar itself, provided you know some special syntax. This enables you to perform complex searches more quickly. By doing so, you spend less time digging through page after page of results – often a fruitless task anyway – and instead leave it to Google to do its job to the absolute best of its abilities, and for only a small amount of extra effort on your part.
If you still can’t find what you want, it’s worth checking whether certain of your keywords are limiting. Look at their punctuation. Hyphens are okay because Google considers the words either side
Many Advanced Search options can be leveraged from the search bar, with some special syntax
to be strongly connected, so a search for “built-in” returns pages that are hyphenated like that, or which omit the hyphen.
Contractions are more problematic; Google does not treat “won’t” and “will not” as the same search term, and you may find that it helps to reframe a search phrase to omit contractions and their expanded forms.
In this type of scenario, the wildcard operator can help by telling Google that you aren’t so specifically concerned about which form appears within a longer phrase.
Google will automatically consider different forms of the same word – so if you specify the stem word ‘install’, results may include pages that contain ‘installation’ or ‘installing’.
Using Google like a pro isn’t just about knowing how to specify keywords, though. It’s also about adapting your way of thinking – by considering how other people might phrase something, for example. Perhaps your chosen words are appropriate in a formal context, when an informal synonym would yield a wealth of useful pages, ripe for browsing.
We’re going to look at how to use these and other advanced features right from your browser’s search bar – or the bar at google.com or google.co.uk, if you prefer. For other search engines, check their documentation for similar syntactic shortcuts. In the following examples, when we’ve specified what you need to search for in single quotes, you should omit those quotes but enter everything that’s written between them into the search bar. However, wherever we show something in double quotes, include those. As you’ll see in a moment, Google gives special meaning to them, but it will ignore single quotes as if you hadn’t typed them. Alan Stonebridge
You can take a shortcut by learning special syntax to enter into your browser’s search field.
Refining criteria from the search field works well with image search to get inspiration for creative projects.