Five tips for smarter searching …

We all know how Google works (and we mostly use Google, although other search engines are available!) but as the web becomes ever more cluttered it helps to be able to home in on the content that we are really looking for. Here are five tips for smarter searching, using tools that Google already provides.

Exclude specific terms

Many people will know this one, but if you don’t it’s a good place to start.  If you search for “presley” you are liable to get results dominated by Elvis, yet there are two other Presleys (at least) who may be of interest.  You can bring them to the surface in general by using “presley -elvis”.

The use of the “-” symbol expressly excludes results containing the term “elvis”, so you get a whole range of other Presleys – many of whom are Lisa Marie Presley, of course.

If you are my age, you may be more interested in the legendary Troggs front man Reg Presley, so here you have two choices – either search for “Reg Presley” (in apostrophes), which will match that exact phrase, or go for “presley +reg”.

Searching page titles only

You can use allintitle: or intitle: to restrict your search to page titles only.  This might help to focus on more relevant articles.

So “allintitle:fish fried” will return results with both ‘fish’ and ‘fried’ appearing in the title.  Using the “intitle:fish fried” option is a little more subtle – this will give you articles where the word ‘fish’ appears in the title, but ‘fried’ can be anywhere in the article.

Similar to the above, the parameters intext: and allintext: perform the same function, but for the body of the material, as opposed to the titles.

Searching by file type

You can use the simple parameter filetype: to return only results of a particular sort.  You may be searching for a downloadable report, so you could restrict your search to ” pensions filetype:pdf”.

Searching by site

You can use the site: parameter to restrict your search to a particular website, if you like, so try searching the BBC for articles about Lady Gaga, by using “site:bbc.co.uk lady gaga”

Searching by date

This is a tricky one, because Google supports a rather clunky date: or daterange: parameter.  This parameter requires dates to be entered in a Julian format, which needs to be calculated and is not exactly intuitive!

After much rummaging about, some time ago I found a very neat trick which in my view is much easier to work with, although it involves editing the URL (the bit in the address line of your browser).  Don’t worry, though, it’s easier than it sounds, and very powerful.

Try it now.  Open another tab on your browser, and go to Google and search for “wordpress seo”.  The URL you will get will differ from mine to an extent, but I get:

Have a quick look at the results returned by this search.  A few entries down I can see one from 2015, so I may decide that I don’t want SEO advice that is as out of date as that.  Perhaps I only want content from the last 14 days, for example, so I would add the string “&tbs=qdr:d14” to the end of my URL, by clicking in the address bar and just typing it in – the end of the URL now looks like:

Hit return, and check the results and you can see that you now only have content from the last fourteen days.  Very powerful, and potentially far more relevant than the stuff you had before.

The logic of the URL extension is straightforward – you always need the “&tbs=qdr:” part, and then you define the measure of time you want to use:

n: minutes
h: hours
d: days
w: weeks
m: months
y: years

Then just add the number you want: n30 will give you content from the last 30 minutes only, which may be useful if searching the latest breaking news story, or d14 (I use this a lot) gives you two weeks worth – obviously w2 does the same thing – and so on.

Try it – hours of fun!

Finally, as a reward for reading this far, type “do a barrel roll” into Google.

Thank me later.

Leave a Reply