Everybody Googles, but not everybody is getting the most out of the big G. A few simple tips can focus your search, return more relevant results, track custom URLs and make searching much smarter.
The following article details 10 of our favourite ways to find Google's G spots.
- You might also want to check out: Google Drive and Docs tips: 20 expert tricks and shortcuts
Use operators for precise searching
Google does a pretty good job of guessing what you're looking for, but if you want to make the results as precise as possible you should use operators to tell Google exactly what you want.
Putting a phrase in quotation marks searches for that exact text, whereas adding a minus sign excludes the word, and using OR gives Google a choice, such as World Cup location 2014 OR 2022. Boolean operators such as AND or OR should be in upper case.
It turns out that Google is very good at filling in the blanks, so if you're trying to remember the lyrics to a song or get a list of the things a famous inventor created, just add an asterisk in the bit of your query you want Google to answer.
For example, "Thomas Edison Invented" followed by an asterisk will search for the inventor's many ideas, while "Thunderbolts And Lightning" followed by an asterisk will bring up Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody.
Ask normal questions
In the early days of search, performing even the simplest query involved lots of usage of AND, OR and quotation marks. Now, though, Google's natural language search is very impressive. You don't need to type "distance Glasgow London", "Ghost Pepper Spice Level" or "Leader Labour Party UK" to get answers. Just ask "How far is it to London?", "How spicy is a ghost pepper?" or "Who is the leader of the Labour party?"
Google's natural language processing is particularly useful if you're performing a voice search, as it means you feel a little less silly talking to Google in public.
Tell Google where to look
By default Google searches its entire index, but you can change that with a few simple commands. If you want to restrict your search to a particular website or domain, "site:" does that – so for example "site:techradar.com" restricts searches to Techradar.com while "site:uk" limits the search to UK domains. "source:" does the same for news sources while "intitle:" looks only at web page titles, and "inurl:" restricts searches to the actual page addresses.
Combining these commands with normal search operators – AND, OR, site: and so on – enables you to craft very precise search queries.
Shorten a URL
Google likes very long and descriptive website addresses as they make it easier to classify pages, but they're a real pain in the backside if you want to share the address in a document or in something you're going to print. A URL shortener such as Goo.gl replaces long page or site addresses with something much easier to handle.
Goo.gl also offers link tracking: it enables you to track the short link's performance to see how many people clicked on it, where they came from and what they were using.
Reverse search an image
Google's image search enables you to set all kinds of criteria from the image size to whether you're allowed to use it commercially, but one of its smartest features is hidden behind an icon – if you've already got something pretty close to the image you're looking for, you can carry out a reverse image search that uses your photo as the search criteria.
Performing a reverse search couldn't be simpler. Go to Image Search, tap the icon of the camera and either paste the photo's URL or click on Upload An Image.
Find files, including secret ones
The "filetype:" operator looks for particular kinds of files and "site:" can restrict searches to particular domains. Use both, add "confidential" and you can look for, say, Excel spreadsheets in the UK with the word "confidential" in them. This tip comes to you courtesy of the NSA.
More practically, using the filetype command to look for PDFs can help uncover product manuals and various official documents, while restricting searches to particular kinds of media files makes searching for music or video much simpler.
Find interesting things about travel destinations
Google is increasingly tying its various services together in search results, so for example if you Google "google" you'll get a range of information including the company profile, news stories, recent Google+ posts, Google's Twitter feed and so on.
When you search for places that means you can get more information than just a dry Wikipedia entry. Search "CITYNAME attractions" for thumbnails showing points of interest, and pop into Maps, enter an address and then tap Search Nearby to look for specific things near that address such as pubs, places to eat or other essentials.
Search within specific numbers
If you're looking for something within a numeric range, such as products between two prices or events between two dates, you can restrict Google's search to a specific number range by using two dots, such as: "1914..1918" or "$250..$350".
This one can be a little flaky if the term you're searching for is ambiguous, though. While searching for "cars £2000..£5000" works fine and returns useful car-buying advice, searching for "microwave £50..£100" gives you loads of results about radiation.
Find customer service numbers
Are you fed up with companies hiding their customer service numbers in very small print in obscure corners of their websites to put you off calling them? Allow Google to help: just type "XXX customer service" where XXX is the name of the firm you want to call.
There isn't a similar option for customer service emails, but a query such as "XXX complaints email" usually turns up the correct answer. The exception is if you're looking for help with Google itself – for that, head to support.google.com.