Tips & Tricks: Get the most out of Google

There are some basics to using a search engine like Google. Like finding exact phrase matches using quotes like “so say we all” or searching within a single site using In addition to the basics, I’ve included some of my favourite search tips and a helpful Did You Know section.

Just the Basics

[purple puppy] Finds pages with the words purple and/or puppy on the page, in the page title, or in the text used to link to the page. Words may not be near each other.

["purple puppy"] Finds pages with the words purple and puppy on the page, in the title, or in the text used to link to the page. The words must be next to each other and in the exact same order. This type of query is known as an exact phrase match.

[purple or puppy] Finds pages with the words purple or puppy on them, in the title, or in the text used to link to the page.

[purple and puppy] Finds pages with the words purple and puppy on them, in the title, or in the text used to link to the page. Both words must occur in one of the cases, but can occur in any order.

[purple -puppy] Finds pages with the words purple BUT without the word puppy in them. It’s very important that the minus sign [-] be next to the word without a space. This is known as a negative search term.

[purple ~puppy] Finds pages with the word purple on them, in the title, or in the text used to link to the page. It also returns documents with synonyms for the word next to the tilde [~] (in this case puppy) on the page, in the title or in the anchor text to the page.

[define: purple] This will give you definitions for the word [purple] and links to pages with definitions.

Compound Searches

Using logical operators like [and] and [or] we can create complex searches. We can create extremely complex searches by combining logical operators using parenthesis. These complex searches can also be combined with ["] and [-] as well.

[puppies (red OR blue)] Finds pages with the word puppies on them, in the title, or used in the anchor text to link the page. The words blue or red must be on the page, in the title or in the anchor text used to link to the page as well.

[widgets (red AND blue) -green] Finds pages with the word widgets on them, in the title, or used in the anchor text to link the page. The words blue and red must be on the page, in the title or in the anchor text used to link to the page. The word green must not be on the page, in the title or in the anchor text used to link to the page.

Lets say you wanted to do a search for people who haven’t posted or updated their blog in a while, here’s how you would create that query ["haven't (updated OR posted)" and blog]

But there are many more uses for Google than just the basic search. Here are some of my favourite tips and tricks:

Get the local time anywhere

What time is it in London right now? Ask Google. Just enter “what time is it” to get the local time in big cities around the world, or add the locale at the end of your query, like [what time is it London] to get the local time there.

Track flight status

Enter the airline and flight number into the Google search box and get back the arrival and departure times right inside Google’s search results.For example, [air canada flight 901]

Calculate and Convert currency, metrics, bytes, and more

Google’s powerful built-in converter and/or calculator can help you out whether you’re cooking dinner, travelling abroad, or building a PC. Find out how many teaspoons are in a quarter cup [quarter cup in teaspoons] or how many seconds there are in a year [seconds in a year] or how many euros there are to five dollars [5 USD in Euro]. For computer nerds, bits in kilobytes [155473 bytes in kilobytes] and numbers in hex or binary [19 in binary] are also pretty useful. Plus you can use Google like a calculator just enter the equation you want to solve [5*9+(sqrt 10)^3=].

Compare items with “better than” and find similar items with “reminds me of”

Simply search for, in quotes: “better than *keyword*”. For example ” better than Internet Explorer” or ” better than Sony”.

The results will almost always lead you to discovering alternatives to whatever it is you’re searching for. Using the same concept, you can use this trick to discover new music or movies. For example, ” reminds me of *someband*” or “sounds like *someband*” will pull up artists people have thought sounded similar to the one you typed in. This is also a great way to find good, no-name musicians you’d probably never know of otherwise.


” reminds me of Metallica” or ” similar to Garden State” or ” sounds like The Shins”.

Just get creative and you’ll, without a doubt, find cool new stuff you probably never knew existed.

Use Google to avoid your network’s restrictions

What, your company blocks that hip new web site just because it drops the F bomb occasionally? Use Google’s cache to take a peek even when the originating site’s being blocked, with []. Warning, this is a cached or stored version of the site, therefore it most likely won’t be up to date.

Remove affiliate links from product searches

When you’re sick of seeing duplicate product search results from the likes of eBay, Bizrate, Pricerunner, and, clear ‘em out by stacking up the operator.

Find related terms and documents

Ok, this one’s direct from any straight-up advanced search operator cheat sheet, but it’s still one of the lesser-used tricks in the book. Adding a tilde (~) to a search term will return related terms. For example, Googling ~nutrition returns results with the words nutrition, food, and health in them.

Find music and comic books

Using a combination of advanced search operators that specify music files available in an Apache directory listing, you can turn Google into your personal Napster. Go ahead, try this search for Nirvana tracks: -inurl:(htm|html|php) intitle:”index of” +”last modified” +”parent directory” +description +size +(wma|mp3) “Nirvana”. (Sub out Nirvana for the band you’re interested in; use this one in conjunction with number 7 to find new music, too.) The same type of search recipe can find comic books as well.

ID people, objects, and foreign language words and phrases with Google Image Search

Google Image search results show you instead of tell you about a word. Don’t know what jicama looks like? Not sure if the person named “Priti” who you’re emailing with is a woman or a man? Spanish rusty and you forgot what “corazon” is? Pop your term into Google Image Search (or type image jicama into the regular search box) to see what your term’s about.

Make Google recognize faces

If you’re doing an image search for Paris Hilton and don’t want any of the French city, a special URL parameter in Google’s Image search will do the trick. Add &imgtype=face to the end of your image search to just get images of faces, without any inanimate objects. Try it out with a search for rose (which returns many photos of flowers) versus rose with the face parameter.

Did you know…

In addition, to Google being a search engine they offer a ton of free services that can help make your life easier. Did you know that you can have an email address, share documents, and even call long-distance all for free. If you already have a Gmail (Google Mail) account then you automatically have all these services (top left when logged in | click documents to create and even collaborate on spreadsheets, word documents, presentations and drawings).

Google Calendar (also free) can keep track of your appointments and to do list; it even sends text message reminders to your cell phone if you set it up (cellular service charges may apply).

The world being as global as ever it’s often hard to keep up with all the different languages that’s when google translate helps out. You can even translate an entire website to and from a large number of languages. It’s not the best translator but it’s a good start and it can help in a pinch.

If you don’t use a smartphone, and you’re trying to call a business, you can send a text message with the name and location of the business to 466453 (“GOOGLE”) and They will text you the information, or on Gmail you can use the new phone-calling features to call any North American business free of charge.

Are you a news junkie or just like to be informed but don’t have the time to check out all the sources? Use Google’s RSS Feed Reader to gather, read, and share all the interesting blogs and websites you read on the web. Most web sites that have content changing often provide an RSS Feed of information you can subscribe to just look for the orange icon (usually on the right hand side of the address/location bar at the top of your browser).

For a complete list of search features and more information about Google check out these links:

For help with any Internet or Web Site related services contact WbC Web Design (514) 909-8773.


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