Happy Googling

October 1st, 2002


Originally published in Unlimited

Google, with over two billion documents in its search database, is the most popular search engine on the planet. Here’s how to get the most out of it:

Detail: Searching for discount brokers Auckland instead of just brokers will yield a more useful set of search results.

Plural: If you don’t get good search results with the singular form of a word, try the plural – and vice versa.

Order: The order of keywords is important. Results for confidential business plan and business plan confidential will be different.

Phrases: If you’re looking for a complete phrase, rather than the words interspersed through a site, put quotes around your query. For example, “income tax”.

Multiple phrases: To search for two phrases at once, put each phrase in quotes with a plus sign in front of each. For example: +”financial planning” +”tax avoidance”

New Zealand only: You can restrict your search to local sites by adding inurl:nz. Search results for financial planners inurl:nz will be very different from financial planners New Zealand results.

Exterminate: To eliminate documents from your search, use a minus sign before your unwanted search query. Looking for info on fringe benefit tax but don’t want the government’s opinion? Search for +”fringe benefit tax” -inurl:govt.nz

Hard to find: What you’re looking for may be buried in hundreds of search results. Use “Search within results” near the bottom of the results page to refine your search.

File types: You can restrict your search to Word, PDF or PowerPoint files by adding filetype:doc, filetype:pdf or filetype:ppt to your search query. For example, if you need a great PowerPoint presentation on estate planning that you can “rework” for a meeting, search for estate planning filetype:ppt.

Site down: Click the “Cached” link included with each search result and you’ll get the version of the page that Google grabbed when it visited the web site. So even if the web server is down or the page has been deleted (“File Not Found error 404”), you can still access the cached page. “Cached” will also highlight your search keywords on the page.

Photo: To find a photo of someone, click the “Images” tab on Google’s homepage, then search for the person’s name.

Digging dirt: Want the gossip online? Click the “Groups” tab on Google’s homepage to search a topic among millions of Usenet discussion posts.

Confidential: Looking for secrets? Include confidential in your search. For example, financial plans confidential.

Competitors: Enter www.yourcompetitor.co.nz. in the search bar. The results will list all the pages on your competitor’s site, even ones it may not realize are publicly available (such as confidential documents posted online for a client).

Links: Search a web address, then click “link to” on the search results page to see who links to it.

Google on tap: Install the Google toolbar to have Google always at hand, built into your Microsoft Internet Explorer browser. Instructions are on toolbar.google.com. Choose “Install with Advanced Features” to be able to see Google’s PageRanks.

Stephan Spencer is founder/president of Netconcepts, a Madison, WI-based Web marketing agency that offers search optimization services.

This article first appeared in the October 2002 issue of Unlimited magazine.