While Google is not in danger of losing its position as the most popular search engine, the site’s results are much more hit-or-miss than they used to be. Instead of the most reliable, accurate answers to your questions, a typical Google results page these days is jam-packed with advertisements, recommended results, and websites that are the best at search engine optimization.
To get good Google results, you need to do more than just type in a few keywords and hope for the best. You should be able to find what you’re looking for faster and easier if you follow the advice we’ve provided below.
Execute More Accurate Searches
Putting your search terms inside quotation marks is one of the most effective ways to narrow your search: This can remove a lot of the clutter from results pages, from song lyrics to movie titles, because Google knows exactly what you’re looking for. It’s especially useful when the keywords you’re looking for aren’t commonly used together.
You can exclude results that include a keyword by immediately preceding it with a minus (“–”) sign. When you want to avoid a particular association that your other keywords have, or when you want to filter out a news story that’s dominating the headlines, this is a great way to do it (and the search results.)
Concentrate on Particular Sites
Most of the time, you’ll want Google to search the entire web for results, but this isn’t always the case. Type site: followed by its main URL after the keywords you’re looking for if there’s a specific site you want to look at or that you trust above all others. Only results from that domain will be returned by Google.
This is useful when looking up information on Wikipedia, for example. A regular search might bring up a lot of sponsored, optimized, and biased sites ahead of the online encyclopedia, but if you add “site:wikipedia.org,” you’ll only get Wikipedia results—and you can still benefit from Google’s excellent search and page ranking capabilities.
Make use of the Advanced Search Tools
You might not have noticed the small cog icon at the top right of the Google search results page in your haste to search the web. When you click this and then choose Advanced search, you’ll have access to a slew of new parameters that will help you refine and improve your searches.
As previously mentioned, you can use the Advanced Search page to include or exclude specific words. You can also limit your results to a specific language or region, which is useful when you’re getting a lot of duplicated results. The file type drop-down list is another useful option here, as it allows you to search for PDFs, Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, GIFs in image search, and other file types instead of webpages.
The Advanced Search page also includes options for displaying recently updated pages, searching for keywords in a specific section of a website, and returning content with a Creative Commons license.
Include More Search Operators
You can use a variety of search operators to delve deeper into Google results and return page matches that you would not have gotten otherwise. Put a “OR” between your keywords to search for multiple terms at once that don’t all have to match. Alternatively, you can use the asterisk (“*”) as a wildcard that Google will use to return all of the most popular hits for—for example, “how to learn * on YouTube.”
If you’re looking for hashtags on social media, use the hashtag (#) symbol, and if you’re looking for a price, use a dollar sign ($) followed by the number that corresponds to the budget you’re working with.
You can actually search for numbers that cover a wide range of values: Replace the keyword and price bracket with whatever you want, for example “camera $50…$100.” Finally, at the end of your search query, type “related:” followed by the URL to find results on a site that is related to another site.