Top online search tips

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online search tipsHow would you rate your expertise when it comes to using an online search engine?

If your current use of online search engines like Google is limited to typing in words and changing your query until you find what you’re looking for, you’re definitely a novice! It’s time to learn some tricks to get more out of your “Googling” so that you can become an expert in web searches.

These tips and shortcuts will make your web search quicker and more productive:

1. Use quotation marks (“ ”). When searching for a specific topic or phrase, enclose them in quotation marks. The quotation marks will tell the search engine to limit the search results to only contain your exact query and only in the specific order you typed them in. Without the quotation marks, your search will yield all pages that contain the words you’ve provided, regardless of what order those words are in.

Example: Find out where you read about “the complications of the cloud”.

complications of the cloud

2. Use the minus (-) sign. Specify particular items you DON’T want in your results by placing the sign before a keyword to tell the search engine to exclude pages with that term. Make sure to remove the space between the minus sign and the keyword.

Example: Search for labor statistics excluding results from the Australian Bureau of Statistics

use minus sign

Other operators you can use:

* Plus (+) – To include the keyword you added (e.g. local +and cheap supplies)

* Tilde (~) – A tilde in front of a keyword will show its synonyms. (e.g. ~durable)

3. Use site: to search within a specific website or domain. Sometimes a site’s built-in search feature is not helpful for searches. You can use your search engine to narrow your search to a specific site or type of site (e.g. .org, .au). Just type the keyword(s) followed by site: and the URL or address of the website you want to search.

Example: Search for upgrades in the Microsoft website.


Other specialised queries include:

* Define: – To search for the definition

* List: – To get a specific list

* Stocks: – To get stock information

4. Use  filetype:___ to search for specific document. Find the specific file type or extension that you need in a flash. Just type filetype:pdf (or doc, xlsx) to get the exact document you need.

Example: Search for Adobe Photoshop tutorial in pdf document.


5. Use entitle: to specify that the keyword(s) you are using should be in the title of the story.

Example: Search for articles or blogs about Shadow IT.


6. Use an image. Only a few probably knows about this. Most search engines today allow the uploading of image or photo instead of typing in words to search for a specific product, get options like image size/type, or find related images from around the web.

image search

7. Use the X…Y modifier to search for numbers in a range. This can be useful when you want to search for items within your budget.

Example: Instead of searching for “cheap wireless modem”, identify a price range.


8. Specify the numbers to get conversions right away. Don’t go looking for online calculators or currency converters. Instead type on the search box/field the number or amount you want converted.


9. Use phonebook:XXXXXXX to find out who called you. Wondering where that call came from? Look it up on Google using the phonebook feature.


10. Maximise the AutoComplete function. You can save so much time typing if you pay attention to the drop down list shown on your search box when you type a keyword.


Don’t use common words when doing a search. Be specific as possible. Don’t type “cloud” if what you’re really hoping to find are stories about “cloud computing”. You can also drop the “http://” and “www.” prefixes as these are no longer needed when searching for a home page address. Finally, don’t worry about punctuations and other special characters (e.g. @ # % ^ * ( ) = + [ ] \ ). Search engines ignore them.

Search engines host vast information. They need you to tell them what exactly you want to know. Refine and tailor your searches to get the most relevant information at the quickest time possible.