- Some lesser-known tips for getting the best Google search results include paying attention to the order of the words in your search query, using suggested links that show up underneath results to save time, and using the minus symbol to exclude certain words from your results.
- Daniel M. Russell, Google’s senior research scientist for search quality and user happiness, recently shared such tricks during a class at the company’s New York City campus.
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It was nearly 10 a.m. on a Friday morning, and class was about to begin. I logged into the laptop sitting on the desk in front of me, opened a web browser, and prepared to get started on my first assignment: performing a Google search to find out when the Californian city of Santa Clara was founded.
The class discussion that followed focused not only on the answers my classmates and I found, but the steps we took to get there.
That’s because I was taking a class at Grow with Google, the learning centre next to the search giant’s main campus in New York City that offers free classes, workshops, and one-on-one coaching sessions.
This particular session focused on how to get the most out of Google’s search engine, and it was led by Daniel M. Russell, Google’s senior research scientist for search quality and user happiness who has been with the company for 14 years.
Even if you consider yourself a Google expert and use the search engine daily, there are probably a couple of tweaks you can make to improve the quality of your search results. Here are five tricks I learned from taking Google’s class and speaking with Russell beforehand.
Pay attention to the order of the words in your query.
Getting an ideal result from Google’s search engine isn’t just about finding the right search terms. It’s important to put them in the correct order too.
Russell pointed to two specific examples to underscore the important role word order can play when conducting a search. A search for “sky blue” will yield different results than “blue sky,” for instance, since one term refers to a specific shade of the colour blue and the other describes the colour of the sky.
The same could be said for the search terms “dog chow” and “chow dog;” one refers to pet food while the other is the name of a breed of dog.
Of course, there will always be exceptions to the rule. Searching for something like “iPhone 11 cases” will probably turn up similar results as “cases iPhone 11.” But if you’re not finding the results you’re looking for, it’s worth considering whether the words are written in the correct order.
Use the minus sign (-) to exclude certain words from your search results.
Use the minus symbol to better refine your search by excluding words that aren’t relevant. For example, if you’re performing a search to learn more about penguins (the animal), and want to filter out results pertaining to the hockey team, try searching for something like “penguin -Pittsburgh -hockey.”
Use the suggested links that appear under some search results to save time.
If you’re looking for a specific piece of information about a broad topic, try clicking on the links that appear under the main search result. These links typically appear under Wikipedia search results, and they can bring you directly to a section of the page that includes the information you’re looking for.
In the example above, you’ll notice there are links that bring you directly to the sections of the Wikipedia page for Thanksgiving that cover the history of the holiday. It’s a small tip, but one that can help you find what you’re looking for a little bit faster.
Don’t bias your search results.
One common mistake that Russell often sees in his field research is the habit of tailoring search terms so that they point to a specific result. Doing so could cause Google to find results that may not reflect the most accurate answer to your query.
Russell offered the following example. If you’re using Google to find out the average length of an octopus, you wouldn’t want to type a query like “average length of an octopus 21 inches.” That type of query may tell Google to pull up websites that list 21 inches as the average length of an octopus even if it isn’t true.
A better search query would be “average length of an octopus.”
“You wouldn’t want to prejudice a jury,” Russell said. “So, likewise, you shouldn’t put terms into your query that prompt Google to give you a specific type of answer.”
Use the colon symbol to filter search results.
The colon symbol can be a useful tool for filtering search results by website, domain type, and more.
For example, let’s say you’re looking for an article on a specific website. Try typing a query such as “site:espn.com best fantasy football picks 2019” if you only want to view articles from ESPN.
Or, if you’re searching for medical research but only want results from educational institutions, try typing “site:edu” along with your query.
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