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Must-Have Google Search Tricks

Monday, May 09, 2011 -

Finding the needle you need in the Internet haystack isn't easy, but a few search techniques can save you time and frustration. The next time you hit up the Google search box, keep these tricks in mind.

Find exact phrases with quotations. When you're searching for a specific sequence of words, like a first and last name, enclose them in quotes. Searching for Jack Smith can return pages that have the names Jack Jones and Martha Smith in them. Instead, search for "Jack Smith" to only get pages on which Jack Smith appears. This works for phrases, too. For example, to find song lyrics, try "I want you back". You can add more words and use multiple phrases in quotes to further narrow your results. Try "I want you back" "Jackson 5" lyrics.

Search within a single web site with site:example.com. Many web sites don't have their own search box, or the one they do have doesn't find the stuff you need or wraps results in obnoxious advertising. To search within a single site with Google use the site: operator. For example, to search this site for the websites, enter site:alwaysinteractive.com websites. Google's results will only show pages from this site.

Search for particular kinds of files. Similarly, you can find only files of a certain type by using the filetype: operator. For example, to find a PDF cheat sheet, try filetype:pdf "cheat sheet".

Add and subtract terms. Narrow down your results to pages that definitely contain a word plus another word (with a plus sign), or a word without another word (minus sign). For example, to find Jackson 5 videos, try "Jackson 5" +video. To find salsa recipes, try salsa +recipe. To avoid any pages about salsa the dance, try salsa -dance.

Advanced tip: find synonyms. To find pages that include terms like the one you're searching for, try the tilde (~) sign. For example, a search for ~nutrition ~information McDonald's turns up pages that contain words like info, food, facts, and protein.

Combine operators into a single search. Any number of these operators can go into one search to narrow your results even more. For example, you can search for all the McDonald's nutritional information that appears on sites NOT including mcdonalds.com by combining the minus sign and site operator, too, like this: ~nutrition McDonalds -site:mcdonalds.com.

Check out Google's own search operator cheat sheet, which is formatted for printing and putting near your computer monitor. If all of these tips are old news to you, check out 10 more obscure Google search tricks.

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