Friday Donut tip: Google search tips


Date: 24 February 2012

Google screenshot -Google search tipEvery Friday afternoon we're going to bring you a great business IT tip. From nuggets of information that make repetitive tasks easier to simple ways to banish business technology annoyances, we're here to help.

If there's something you'd like help with, send an email to [email protected] or leave a comment on this post. We'll try and cover it in a future IT Donut tip.

Google search tips to find what you need

There's a reason Google is the world's biggest search engine. And that's because it's pretty good at doing what it does. Most times, you can tap a few words into the Google homepage and it comes up trumps – no matter whether you want a dog on a skateboard or the UK's population growth rate.

But sometimes, Google doesn't perform. And that's when knowing some Google search tips can reveal what you're looking for.

Google search tips: use operators

One of the best ways to home in on the results you need is to start using operators. Entering these special codes into the Google search box tells Google how to restrict its search results. Here are some key operators:

  • Putting quotation marks ("") around a phrase means Google will only show results containing that exact phrase. This is a good way to find remove similar but irrelevant phrases from your results, or when you're looking for something very specific, like a particular product.

Try it: search for “Illy espresso medium roast” to find a particular type of Illy coffee.

  • Putting a minus sign (-) before a word means Google will only show results that don't contain that word. This is useful when the term you're searching for has several different meanings.

Try it: search for Illy -coffee to find about Illy the place or Illy the rapper.

  • Putting a tilde (~) before a word means Google will also search for related terms. For instance, ~school might also search for pages containing words like college or university. This is really helpful when you need to broaden your search, but you don't quite know which words to use.

Try it: look at the difference between results for coffee and ~coffee.

  • Using site: lets you restrict search results to a particular website. Just enter site: followed by the address of the website, then enter your search terms. Google will only search pages on that particular website. It's a lifesaver if you can't find what you need on a website, but you know it's there.

For instance, a search for income tax bands 2011-2012 using the HMRC website's own search box returns no results (yes, really). But if you put the same search term into Google and restrict it to pages on the HMRC website, you can find exactly what you're looking for.

(The exact phrase to enter into Google is: income tax bands 2011-2012

There are lots of other Google search operators you can experiment with. Read about them on Google's help pages, or see this handy infographic. You can also use the advanced search page to access similar Google search tips without having to remember specific operators.

Leave a comment to share your favourite Google search tips or let us know if we've helped you.

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