This is a guest post by James Adams. If you want to guest post on this blog, just drop me a message using the Contact page.
Efficient use of a search engine is the most important tool for getting information from the internet. No matter how many good resources there are online, they won’t help you at all if you can’t find them. Here are some of the best tips for enhancing your Google-Fu, using example queries of searches for information on the best hot coffee. Most of them are elaborations on the list from Google’s own tip sheet, located here.
1. Find exact phrases with quotation marks: Searching for a few words will show you websites that include the words anywhere in the web contents. If you need a specific topic or a quote, searching for “best hot coffee” will return results that include exactly that phrase.
2. Use “-” to filter out junk results: A phrase like “hot coffee” will return results about the video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. When this kind of unexpected result distracts you from good results, you can search for “hot coffee -”Grand Theft Auto” -GTA -mod” to search only for hot coffee, and direct Google to exclude results about the game.
3. Use Google as a calculator for quick conversions: In addition to the mathematical operations on the cheat sheet, you can convert units with phrases like “10 lbs in ounces” or “300 miles in meters” to get measurements.
4. View old page versions and dead websites using Google’s cache: Underneath most of your search results, you will see an option to view a cached version of a webpage. This will not be the most recent version of the website, but if you need an old version of the website, or the server itself is down, you can access it by using the cached version.
5. Use the “site:” filter to search websites without their own search tool: Many websites do not have built-in search functions. By searching with the “site:” operator, you can search for all mentions of your topic on a specific website. Searching “hot coffee site:www.starbucks.com” will show you results only from www.starbucks.com.
6. Look at related websites to find information you can’t think of keywords for: The “related:” filter has syntax similar to the “site:” filter, but finds webpages related to the named site. A search like “related:www.starbucks.com” will list websites with information relevant to people who browse Starbucks’ website without linking directly to it.
7. Get regional information using your Zip code: Google aggregates information from specialty websites, such as movie times and weather, in a format that’s saves you the step of going to an individual website for each theater or a specific forecaster. By searching for “weather 90210″ or “movie times 90210″ you can get a quick sketch of the weather and movie times near the zip code 90210.
8. Track flights, packages, and stock quotes: By plugging in a flight number (such as American Airlines 4290), a UPS package tracking number, or a stock ticker (such as GOOG) into Google’s search bar to see the flight status, package location, or stock price as the first result. Generally, this is much faster than trying to navigate individual airline sites, the UPS website, or the scattered information of a finance page.
In a world filled with information, having the best, fastest tool at your disposal to ignore all the junk is what really shows that you have search engine savvy. Use these tips and the others on Google’s help page to cut the rubbish, search with refined specificity, and skip the bureaucracy of bloated web pages in favor of Google’s fast, elegant layout.
About the author: James is a full time in-house technology analyst and writer based in the UK where he works with an online print cartridge specialist. Subscribe to their blog for more of his writing.