Google Search Tricks, Tips and Hints

Even though I work in the search engine space I have a lot of the same bad search habits that most people have. I expect Google to know that when I type in [Wedding Band] it should know whether I’m looking for jewelry or musicians. With that in mind I’m going to provide some tips to help you use Google to find things faster and quicker. You can find many of these tips on Google’s website or other sites, however what I’m going to do is show you how to use some of these special queries to get better results. We’ll start off with the basics and move on to more complex queries.

Basic Searches

[blue widgets] Finds pages with the words blue and/or widgets on them, in the title, or used in the anchor text to link the page. Words may not be near each other (this is known as proximity).1, 2

[“blue widgets”] Finds pages with the words blue and widgets on them, in the title, or used in the anchor text to link 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.

[blue or widgets] Finds pages with the words blue or widgets on them, in the title, or used in the anchor text to link the page.

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

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

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

[define: blue] This will give you definitions for the word [blue] 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 combines with [“] and [-] as well.

[widgets (red OR blue)] Finds pages with the words widgets 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.

[widgets (red AND blue)] 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.

[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]

Search Modifiers

Google has a series of search modifiers that allow you to perform very specific searches, these include [inanchor], [intext], [intitle], and [inurl]. In addition you can also add the word [all] in front of each term to include all of the words in the phrase. These modifiers can also be combined with the [“] , [-], and logical operators and be used to create complex queries.

[inanchor:blue widgets] Returns pages where the words blue is used by other pages or websites to link to the page, and have the word widgets on the page, in the title, or in the anchor text used to link to the page.2

[allinanchor:blue widgets] Returns pages where the words blue and widgets are used by other pages or websites to link to the page.

[intitle:blue widgets]Returns pages where the word blue is used in the title, and the word widgets is on the page, in the title, or in the anchor text used to link to the page.

[allintitle:blue widgets]Returns pages with the words blue and widgets are in the title.

[inurl:blue widgets]Returns pages where the word blue is used in the URL, and the word widgets is on the page, in the title, or in the anchor text used to link to the page.

[allinurl:blue widgets]Returns pages with the words blue and widgets are in the URL.

Lets say you were looking for pages about cookbooks where people used the words celebrity to link to them here is a query you might construct [cookbooks inanchor:celebrity]

Lets refine that query taking out all the bad, horrible, and terrible cookbooks with this query [cookbooks -bad -horrible -terrible inanchor:celebrity]

Now lets refine it once more to find only cookbooks with recipes from your favorite movie star Alicia Silverstone in them [cookbooks “alicia silverstone” -bad -horrible -terrible inanchor:celebrity]

Restrictive Searches

Google also has restrictive searches that allow you to limit the sites or information that you are searching for.

[soccer site:whitehouse.gov] Will return only documents from the site whitehouse.gov with the word soccer on the page, in the title or in the anchor text that links to the page.

[intitle:soccer site:whitehouse.gov] Will return only documents from the site whitehouse.gov with the word soccer in the title.

[ipod $100..$150] Will return pages with the word IPod on the page, in the title, or anchor text linking to the page, and with dollar amounts between $100 and $150 on the page, in the title, or in the anchor text linking to the web page.

[ipod $100..$150 “in stock”] Will return pages with the word IPod, and “in and stock” on the page, in the title, or anchor text linking to the page, and with dollar amounts between $100 and $150 on the page, in the title, or in the anchor text linking to the web page.

[ipod $100..$150 “in stock” -shuffle (green OR blue)] Will return pages with the word IPod, and “in and stock” on the page, in the title, or anchor text linking to the page, and with dollar amounts between $100 and $150 on the page, in the title, or in the anchor text linking to the web page. The word shuffle must not be on the page, in the title or anchor text, and the page, title or anchor text must contain either the word green or blue.

[telescope filetype:pdf] Will return only PDF files with the word telescope on the document, in the title or in the anchor text to the document. Filetypes can be any of the following: Adobe Portable Document Format (pdf), Adobe PostScript (ps), Lotus 1-2-3 (wk1, wk2, wk3, wk4, wk5, wki, wks, wku), Lotus WordPro (lwp), MacWrite (mw), Microsoft Excel (xls), Microsoft PowerPoint (ppt), Microsoft Word (doc), Microsoft Works (wks, wps, wdb), Microsoft Write (wri), Rich Text Format (rtf), Shockwave Flash (swf), Text (ans, txt).

[telescope filetype:pdf intitle:dobsonian 2004..2005] Will return only PDF files with the word telescope on the document, in the title or in the anchor text to the document. The title must contain the word Dobsonian and the document will contain numbers from 2004 through 2005.

[link:whitehouse.gov] Provides a completely random sampling of some sites that link to whitehouse.gov. There is no logic or reason to the sites displayed or the order they are displayed in. Many sites that link to you will not be displayed. This search is considered “broken”.

[info:whitehouse.gov]Provides links to information and searches about the website whitehouse.gov.

[cache:whitehouse.gov] Displays a copy of the page stored on Google’s server. This may vary from the actual page on the website.

Specialized Searches

Google has a number of specialized searches that search through a small subset of data for highly relevant results.

[phonebook: gibson NY] Will return a sampling of business and residential listings with the word gibson in the name, town or street that are in New York.

[bphonebook: gibson NY]Will return a business listings with the word gibson in the name, town or street that are in New York.

[rphonebook: gibson NY]Will return a residential listings with the word gibson in the name that are in New York.

[movie:Goblet of Fire] Will return pages about the Goblet of Fire, contain the words Goblet of Fire . Has links to reviews about the Goblet of Fire and movie show times.

[movie: flux capacitor] Will return pages about movies with the words flux capacitor on them.

[stocks:goog] Will return information about the stock with the symbol GOOG.

[weather las vegas NV] Will give the local weather for Las Vegas Nevada.

[fly JFK LAX] Links to flight information from JFK airport to LAX airport.

[fly new york to los angeles] Link to flight information from New York to Los Angeles

[jetblue 189] Provides a direct link to the status of Jet Blue Airlines flight 189.

[frank zappa] Links to More information about Frank Zappa, albums, and other information. This is sometimes hit or miss depending on the artist.

[related:whitehouse.gov] Returns links to other pages that are about similar topics or information. Some of these sites will have links that exist between them others will not. In some cases this may show direct competition, for example [related:walmart.com]

[1600 pennsylvania avenue washington dc] This is an address search and provides a direct link to Google Map for the address.

Fact Searches

This category provides you with immediate answers to a specific narrow set of questions. It’s a bit of hit or miss here but here are some examples.

[gdp malta] Gross Domestic Product of Malta

[population malta] Population of Malta.

[capital malta] The capital of Malta.

[location malta] Rough idea of where Malta is located.

[currency malta] What is the currency of Malta.

[flag france] The flag of France. Note there was no flag shown for Malta.

[anthem france] What is the national anthem of France.

[state bird hawaii] What is the state bird of Hawaii.

[state flower hawaii] State flower of Hawaii.

[motto hawaii] what is the state motto of Hawaii.

[size hawaii]

[governor hawaii] The governor of Hawaii.

[birthplace of walt disney] Where Walt Disney was born.

Math and Number Searches

[100+37+92+641-7] Works like a calculator to perform math operations.

[how many teaspoons in a tablespoon] Provides the answer to measurement conversions.

[convert 300 yen to dollars] Provides currency conversion

[1Z9999W99999999999] Provides a link to UPS tracking information.

[790187289080] Provides a link to Fed Ex tracking information.

[0103 8555 7493 2721 4413] Provides a link to USPS tracking information.

[1HD1BEK11BY123456]
Provides a link to VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) information.

[073333531084]Provides a link to UPC information for that product.

[212] Provides a link to information about the area code 212.

[202-456-1111]Provides a link to more information about the residence, business, or organization for that phone number.

[patent 5123128]Provides a link to more information about patent number 5123128.

[n199ud] Provides a link for more information about the FAA registration for the airplane with that registration number.

[fcc IHDT5ZG1]Provides a link to information about the product with that FCC id number.

Footnotes

In some rare cases you may find that the word or phrase you searched for is neither on the page or in the title. For example [miserable failure] returns the biography of George W. Bush. This is the result of group of highly motivated people attempting to influence the search engine algorithms with a practice known as Googlebombing.

Anchor text is the hyperlinked or click able words that bring you to another page or website.
photo credit: dannysullivan

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