1. Google Phrase SearchIf you want Google to return your search as a complete phrase, in the exact order and proximity that you typed it in as, then you’ll need to surround it with quotes; i.e., “three blind mice.” Otherwise, Google will just locate these words either separately OR together.
If you are looking for a specific phrase, just typing it into a search engine will probably not get you the results you were hoping for. Search engines might bring back pages that have all the words you entered, but those words most likely will not be in the order you intended or even anywhere near each other. For instance, say you had a very specific search query in mind such as:
Nobel Prize Winners 1987
Your results could bring back pages that have Nobel Prize, winners of prizes, 1987 winners of prizes, 1,987 winners of prizes..and the list goes on. Probably not what you were hoping for, to say the least.
However, using quotation marks around your phrases takes care of this problem. When you use quotation marks around a phrase, you are telling the search engine to only bring back pages that include these search terms exactly how you typed them in-order, proximity, etc. For example:
"Nobel Prize Winners 1987"
Your search results now will only bring back pages that have all these words in the exact order that you typed them in. This little trick saves a lot of time and frustration.
2. Google Negative SearchUse the "-" symbol when you want Google to find pages that have one search word on them, but you need it to exclude other words commonly associated with that search word.
There are a few basic principles that you can successfully use in nearly all the search engines out there to find exactly what it is that you are looking for, and one of the most basic techniques is using the add and subtract symbols in your Web search string.
Basic Math Can Help With Your Web SearchBasic math can really help you in your Web search quest. Here's how it works:
- The minus symbol:
- Superman -Krypton
- The plus symbol:
Search Engine Math - Just Part of a Web Search StrategyUsing the plus and minus symbols is just a small part of a successful Web search strategy. Be as specific as humanly possible. Search engines are not intuitive and will not be able to figure out that when you type in "jewelry", you actually are looking for "handmade freshwater pearl watches". Don't be timid about telling a search engine specifically what it is that you are looking for, and using different techniques (in different ways) to get better results.
3. Google Order of SearchThe order in which you type your search query actually does have an effect on your search results. For example, if you are looking for a great waffle recipe, you’ll want to type in “waffle recipe” rather than “recipe waffle”. It does make a difference.
4. Google Forced SearchGoogle automatically excludes common words like “where”, “how”, “and”, etc. because it tends to slow down your search. However, if you’re looking for something that actually needs those words included, you can “force” Google to include them by using our old friend the addition sign, i.e., Spiderman +3, or, you could use quotation marks: “Spiderman 3”.
5. Google Site SearchThis is one of my most common Google searches. You can use Google to actually search within a site for content; for example, say you want to look inside of About Web Search for everything on “free movie downloads.” Here’s how you would frame your search at Google: site:websearch.about.com “free movie downloads”
For example, if you wanted to search About Web Search for the word Google, this is what it would look like:
6. Google Number Range SearchThis is one of those “wow, I can do that?” kind of Google searches. Here’s how it works: just add two numbers, separated by two periods, with no spaces, into the search box along with your search terms. You can use this number range search to set ranges for everything from dates (Willie Mays 1950..1960) to weights (5000..10000 kg truck). However, be sure to specify a unit of measurement or some other indicator of what your number range represents.
nintendo wii $100..$300
You’re asking Google to find all the Nintendo Wii’s within the price range of $100 to $300 here. Now, you can use pretty much any kind of numerical combination; the trick is the two periods in between the two numbers.
7. Google DefineEver come across a word on the Web that you don’t know? Instead of reaching for that bulky dictionary, just type define (you can also use definition) word (insert your own word) and Google will come back with a host of definitions. I use this one all the time not only for definitions (mostly tech-related), but I’ve also found it’s a great way to find detailed articles that can explain not only the word you’re looking for, but the context in which it most commonly occurs. For instance, the buzz phrase “Web 2.0” using the Google syntax of define web 2.0 returns with some really interesting and practical stuff.
8. Google CalculatorAnything that helps with math-related stuff gets a vote in my book. Not only can you use Google to solve simple math problems, you can also use it to convert measurements. Here are a few examples of this; you can simply type these right into the Google search box:
- Half a quart in tablespoons
- 5 miles to kilometers
9. Google PhonebookGoogle has a gigantic phonebook directory, as well they should – their index is one of the largest, if not THE largest, on the Web. Here’s how you can use Google’s phonebook to find a phone number or address (United States only at the time of this writing):
- first name (or first initial), last name, city (state is optional)
- first name (or first initial), last name, state
- first name (or first initial), last name, area code
- first name (or first initial), last name, zip code
- phone number, including area code
- last name, city, state
- last name, zip code Don’t want your information in the Google phonebook? You’ll want to visit this page: Google Phonebook Name Removal (http://www.google.com/help/pbremoval.html).
Personal phone numbers
Although Google has discontinued their official phonebook search feature, you can still use it to find phone numbers, albeit with a little more legwork (and somewhat limited success, to be honest). Here's how you can do that:
- full name plus zip code: Type in the person's full name plus their zip code, and Google will return relevant contact information, including a map.
- A simple Web search: If the person has ever inputted their phone number onto the Web, a simple search for that person's name can sometimes turn it up. Type their name in quotes into Google's search field and see what comes back.
Google is fantastic for tracking down business phone numbers. You can accomplish this in a number of ways, including:
- type of business plus zipcode: Perhaps you don't know the name of the business you're looking for, but you have something in mind. Type in the business genre, for example, "pizza restaurant", then the zip code. Google will return local listings that include maps, reviews, and contact information (phone numbers, addresses, website URLs, even email addresses if available).
- type of business plus city: Just like in the previous example, except you can substitute the name of a city for a zip code, i.e., "seattle doctors".
Sometimes, we know a phone number exists for a company, website, or organization - it's just that we can't find it and it doesn't come up easily in a rudimentary Web search. There's an easy way to solve this problem:
site:www.site.com "contact us"
Basically, you're using Google to search within a website for the "Contact Us" page, which typically has the most relevant phone numbers listed. You could also try "Help", "Support", or any combination of these three.
Filter your search results
Usually when most people use Google, they're seeing all the results from all of Google's search properties in one convenient place. However, if you filter these results, you potentially end up seeing quite a few different results than you might have otherwise. Try searching for a phone number in the following services:
In addition to general Web search, Google offers specialized search properties that focus in on specific segments of online content. You can use these search engines to find phone numbers and personal information you might not have otherwise.
- Blog Search: Search by name, phone number, or, if you know a username or nickname that the person you're looking for goes by, try that too.
- Scholar: This search site takes a little bit of getting used to, but if the phone number you're looking for is related to a scholarly or research-based topic in some way, this could be a useful option.
Searching by domain - limiting your Web search to top level domains - can be attempted when all else fails, especially when you're looking for an educational or government-related phone number. For example, say you're looking for a contact page for the Library of Congress:
site:.gov library of congress "contact us"
You've limited your search to only a ".gov" domain, you're looking for the Library of Congress, and you're looking for the words "contact us" in immediate proximity to each other. The very first result that Google returns is a contact page for the LoC.
Reverse Lookup with Google
As of November 2010, Google no longer supports the phonebook search operator (see Reverse Phone Number Lookup for more information). However, not all hope is lost - you can still certainly use Google to find a phone number, several different ways.
A reverse phone lookup with Google can be done, but only if the number is A)not a cell phone number and B) is listed in a public directory. Type in the number you're looking for with hyphens, i.e., 555-555-1212, and Google will return a list of sites that have that number listed.