Back to Basics: Five top tips on how to optimise your Google searches

When searching for something in Google, the vast majority of us (over 90% in fact) do no more than type in the key word(s) and at most press ‘Images’ to view the photos related to the typed word(s).

It is surprising that only so few of us use any of the basic search tricks, especially when they are so easy. Admittedly, often by typing the word in which you are interested gets you the results you want. However, there are times when the results that are displayed are simply not good enough.

Google cannot guess what it is you are looking for, so the key is to give the search engine as many clues as possible. Here are five top tips to help you optimise your searches:

Place the words for which you want an exact search in quotation marks: Often Google makes it own automatic changes to your search; it makes spelling corrections or looks for synonyms. If you are looking for a word or group of words, put them in quotation marks.

E.g.: “Best John Wayne film”

The asterisk is your carte blanche: In Google searches, the asterisk has the role of a carte blanche or joker. Say you went to a lovely restaurant the last time you were in Paris but that you can only remember that was called ‘The something Café’. By typing an asterisk where there are blanks, Google will show you results for restaurants in Paris with the word café in it.

E.g.: “* Café Paris”

Emphasise and exclude words in your search with + and – signs: Say you want to find out about Dell computers and their prices. You type in “Dell computer prices”. The results will give you information about Dell computers, and their prices, but they will also show a lot of results about, for example, the new MacBook. To exclude information about the MacBook, and to emphasise your search for prices, a good alternative would be to type:

E.g.: “Dell Computer –MacBook +prices”

– Search for two things at once by typing OR (in capitals): By default Google searches for all the words typed in to the search box. However, if you would like to search for two things (but not together), simply type in OR (in capitals). Say you are looking to buy a dog and are still unsure if you want a Labrador or a Labradoodle. By typing in the following word combination the results will show you the places where you can buy Labradors and places where you can buy Labradoodles (as opposed to a single place where you can buy both) in you local area, which, for example, might be Scotland.

E.g.: “Labrador OR Labradoodle Scotland”

– Search by file type: You can search for information by file type as well, such as Word, Excel, PDF or PowerPoint. Say that you are doing some research on the fashion brand Burberry, and in your searches you found an interesting press release about the company’s charity activities in PDF format, which you forgot to save. If you type in the following search words, it will significantly reduce the number of results.

E.g.: “Burberry charity press release PDF”

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