Useful tricks searching on Google

Alexis Wilke's picture

Google is a very powerful search engine. The search has been enhanced greatly over the years and is still moving forward. Now we get the instant search among other things...

Yet, most people get the result they want but when you are searching for something very specific it can be quite tricky (or take hours when you had only 10 min. to find the complete answer!)

Here are the few tricks I commonly use.

Searching a website

It happens that I want to find something very specific on a website. Searching as is on Google will not return answers from just that one website I have in mind...

Instead, you can tell Google to search a site by adding the site specification such as this: SEO

Such a search shows you that I already have 25 posts that mention SEO (26 with this one...) And you can see that I've been to all of them since the links are purple meaning that I visited those pages.

This can be useful in many situation as when you are looking for contact information, or a specific report or, as I often do, a specific issue in the software we're using.

Searching an exact phrase

Firefox underlines
spelling errors

You probably noticed that now a day Google will actually correct your spelling for you. This means you better write your website correctly! No, just kidding... well... yes, you should write your website correctly, but Google indexes misspelled words just the same as well spelled words. Although if you have more words misspelled on your website, it may not get the best grade (i.e. Page Rank.) So the best is to write with Firefox and make use of your right mouse button when you see the red dotted underline under a word.

Yet, at times you want to search something that Google may think is misspelled even though it isn't. To prevent Google from changing your keyword search, use the double quotes as in "Alexis Wilke". Note that this works with one word or multiple words.

Searching a blog where you can post a comment

When including both techniques together, you can willingly search for a blog that's hosted on a .edu website where you can post a comment. To do so you'd use a search like this: "Add new comment" OR "Leave a Reply"

This looks funny, doesn't it? It will return Education (schools and universities) websites in the US that have one of the "Add new comment" or "Leave a Reply". The former you will find on Drupal systems (including Snap! Websites) and the latter you find on Wordpress websites. I'm sure you can find such sentences for newspaper, forums, game, and other websites.

Note that I also introduced the OR keyword. I don't think it needs explanation, but I wanted to highlight it.

Searching but this keyword

At times, you may be searching with a keyword that is widely used by some company or well known individual. The problem with such keywords is that the first page will be covered with links to their and related pages.

For instance, the SSWF keyword has 3 main use:

  • The SSWF library (a C++ Flash library I wrote)
  • The SSWF Faucets
  • The Olympus SSWF lenses

So... if you want just and only information about the SSWF library, you'll want to try, as much as possible, to negate the other two results. This is done with the minus sign (the dash character on your keyboard.)

For instance, I could type something like this:

SSWF -Faucet -Olympus -Lens -Water

With this search, there is only one wrong result. A page at a university that has a page named sswf.

Searching inbound links for your Snap! Website

The Behaims Erdapfel Globe is the oldest known globe.
Martin Behaims Erdapfel Globe
(Built in1477 for Sixtus IV)
Picture by
Alexander Franke

There are other tricks that do not appear as is in the Advanced search. One that I like to use is the link colon (link:). This gives you a list of pages where your links appear. Google used to show you the best links (from pages with the highest rank) but they now randomly assign a small percent of the pages they know of. To get a complete list, you want to use the Webmaster tools instead (and you'll notice that the number of links is often larger than the one found by Yahoo!)

Searching... what about other fun stuff?

You can actually use Google for all sorts of things. For instance, you can type the following:

100 USD in EUR

and it gives you a more or less current conversion of dollars in euros.

If you're wondering about the definition of a word, use the define: feature as in:


Hope this helps some people make better use of Google Search.

- What are the tricks you use on Google to quickly find your results?