Google makes its living by helping us find stuff. And with both new and old features built into Google Search, it’s doing a better job of that than ever before. I’m always learning new ways to search but continue to use old favorites that are still very effective in helping me find what I need.
Some strategies that I use everyday include:
Searching by Phrase
If you’re looking for something like the Battle of Gettysburg, you should use Phrase Search. Phrase Search tells Google to look for your phrase, exactly as you type it. If you type the words – battle of gettysburg – into the search box at Google.com, the first thing Google does is to ignore the word “of”. It then looks for any site that contains the words “battle” and / or “gettysburg” in any combination resulting in literally millions of hits.
Putting your phrase in quotation marks tells Google to look for the exact phrase “battle of Gettysburg” giving you much more exact results.
Searching within a specific site or class of sites
Some sites are so large and complex that it may be difficult finding exactly what you need even if you’re actually on that specific site. For example, the Library of Congress has a huge site. To speed things up, do a Google search for just the LOC. If you’re looking for Battle of Gettysburg lesson plans at loc.gov, use the site search function by typing:
gettysburg “lesson plans” site:loc.gov
You can also do a generic site search by just doing search for certain URL extensions such as .org, .gov or .edu. Typing:
gettysburg “lesson plans” site:edu
will give results for Gettysburg lesson plans found at sites maintained by colleges and universities.
Many times, I’ll get results that I would not have predicted that include terms that I don’t want. I simply search again but put a minus sign directly in front of those terms that I don’t want Google to search for. For example, a search with the terms battle and Gettysburg might return hits that include references to Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. I don’t need that information so I can refine my search by typing:
“battle of Gettysburg” –address –lincoln
Google is always adding handy, little search functions and it’s sometimes hard to keep up with all of them. I’ve gotten into the habit of visiting the Google Search Features page to find new tools.
Among other things, Google can give immediate weather reports, airline flight information, do math, display sports scores, find local restaurants, give current movie times, perform currency and other conversions and track packages. There are numerous cheat sheets around. One of the best can be found at GoogleGuide.
Together, these old and new tools can help you find whatever you need.