Editor’s note: For a newer, updated version of this post, check it out here.
Ever wondered how many websites are there in the world right now? According to Pingdom, it’s a whooping 255 million as of December 2010! A total of 21.4 million websites were created last year alone. Logically speaking, our search for websites should get exponentially tedious and difficult along with the years, especially at a time when access to information is more valuable than ever.
Surprisingly, we are still able to find the information we need most of the time, thanks to the effective and reliable search engine, Google. Nevertheless, with that much wealth of information out there online, it’s easy to lose ourselves and not get the optimal results we could have.
There are fortunately methods of searching to ensure that we are digging in the right holes, and below we will cover 5 essential steps that include tips & tricks to help you refine your search. Learn them all and get what you really want from the Google while not wasting your time flipping the result page!
More: You may also interested in – Gmail Advanced Search – Ultimate Guide
1. 5 – 7 Keywords
Keyword searching is most often the first step to your online search. A common mistake made is that people often key in less than five keywords. Given that the Internet has millions of sites out there, the search results become diluted if you only input a few words.
For those who may not know, normally search engines would return the results containing any of the keywords you typed in search form, regardless of the order they appear. Of course, Google, being a smart tool, would list the results in the manner where pages consisting of most of your keywords, or pages consisting of your keywords in closer proximity will be shown earlier. In other words, an intelligent ranked ordering for your results.
Ironically, if you want to narrow down your search to get more relevant websites, you got to expand on the number of keywords to about 5 to 7 keywords. That way, Google becomes clearer to what is it that you are looking for.
2. Using Truncation
Not sure of what keywords to use? You might consider using the simple
* to expand on your search. What it does is that if you place that in the query, then you’ll get results for the word combination you’ve keyed in, with
* as variant. For example, if you type in cartoon * tutorials, you will get sites with the phrase “Cartoon Character Illustration Tutorials”, “Cartoon Coloring Tutorial”, “Cartoon Animation Tutorial”, etc.
This would be beneficial to someone who is out there looking for ideas, but isn’t sure of what keywords to use. Let’s say you wish to research on the color of web design. You want to know what are the colors web designers or clients care about, thus you can try entering * color web design, and the results will show sites or its posts that are related with the query “color web design”, such as “Warm VS Cool Color Website Designs”, “Beautiful Purple Color Website Designs”, “Stunning Blue Color Website Designs”, etc.
3. Exact Phrases
Sometimes, you can narrow down your search by simply telling the Google to search websites with the exact order of the words. For instance, if you want to find out who quoted “The unexamined life is not worth living”, then it is preferable that you type the whole line rather than putting in keywords like “unexamined” or “living“.
Quotation marks, ” “, should ideally be used if you want the search engine to only look for sites with exact phrasing. But as I mentioned in #1, search engines are capable of sorting the results in a ranked manner in accordance to how close the words are next to each other. You would probably still get your results if the quote is well-known.
At other times, you might want to use a combination of exact phrases and keywords to enhance your search. For example, you might want to search for sites that provide useful tips on leveraging social media for your business. Rather than using three keywords: “social”, “media” and “business”, you can type in “social media” business in the form and get more accurate results.
How so? “social media” is an inseparable entity, which makes sure that all sites listed must have the exact phrasing of “social media”. This is more useful than searching for “social” and “media” individually. “business” and “social media” have now become keywords that will be searched in any order of the wordings.
4. The “OR” and “-“
OR operator already exists in Google. When you type in any keywords, websites that contains any of the keywords will be displayed in the results. The difference with the OR operator is that you can define keywords or phrases with quotation marks rather than have the search engine search for all the words you typed in. This means to say that if you put “social media” OR “business”, you will get sites that consists of either “social media” or “business”, and not any of the three words per se.
The minus sign,–, is useful if you wish to exclude a particular word or phrase in your search. This is valuable when you are searching for exception to what search results would typically produce.
Let’s say you wish to search for someone with the name “Bill Gates”, but not the chairman of Microsoft who we are all familiar with. You know that sites with the name “Bill Gates” would usually come with “Microsoft”, so using the – sign like “bill gates” -microsoft would bring you close to what you really want to find.
5. Search Within A Site
There comes a time when you know there is only one site which you need to search for something you want, but chances are the site has either a broken search function or a confusing search result. The worst case: the site has no search function at all. In these cases, Google prove to be very handy as it allows you to search within certain site, as long as the site is indexed by the Google.
To search within a site using the Google, all you need to do is input the search query into the Google with the domain name, such as photoshop tutorial site:hongkiat.com. Google will then return the results only from the site you mentioned, such as photoshop tutorials only from the Hongkiat.com. Note that the site: must be added before the domain name, else Google will search for other sites as well.
It’s All About Refining Your Search
The above five tips are great by itself, but if you want a really customized and precise search, you should link a few of these steps together in a single search. This will ensure that those results you do not want will be sieved out, thereby enhancing your findings.
To further refine your search with these slightly complicated tips, you have to really know about what you want to search. You need to identify your keywords and consider what kind of phrase, word order, or special feature you need to use.
Be sure to try out every tip and feature covered above before you apply them in your daily search, so you know what are the best for certain conditions, and remember to keep the search query as simple as possible!