Improve your Google searches

Google, the go-to search engine, you use it almost every day but are you using it effectively – are you searching smart?

Trawling through page after page of search results looking for the meaning of life, the artist that sings that song you were humming earlier, or the best place to find life enriching web hacks (er, look no further) can be a long and painful process.

Listed below are some of the useful features that Google has in its locker to help you improve your searches, many of which you probably didn’t even know existed…

1. Use quote marks to search for an exact phrase

A simple yet highly effective trick for targeted searches, extremely useful when looking for results containing a specific phrase. Put a word or phrase inside quotes to search for an exact match e.g. “longest river in the world”.

2. Use the minus sign to exclude words from your search

Really helpful when your search returns lots of results that aren’t what you’re looking for, or topics that share similar words but are a different subject altogether. For example if you are interested in big cats and less interested in cars, use the minus sign to filter your results e.g. jaguar -car.

3. Use an image to search for images

Google - Search By ImageEver downloaded an image to your desktop then forgot which site you got it from? Or perhaps you have a really great image and would like to find similar images online. Google Images has a great feature that allows you to upload an image (or paste in an image url) to search the web for similar images – to do this simply click on the camera icon in the Google Images search bar.

4. Search for keywords on a specific website

Want your search to generate results from a particular website? Perhaps you only believe the news when it hits the BBC website and would rather that results from other news portals did not show up, if so you can use Google’s very nifty “site:” function. For example, to return results for the subject Brexit, a search of Brexit would only return mentions found on the BBC website.

5. Use an asterisk to find unknown words

Now this one is really good! I’ve lost count of the number of times that i’ve heard a song on the radio, had it stuck in my head for the rest of the day but didn’t know what the title was. In scenarios like this, when you can’t recall all the lyrics, you can search for what you can remember in quotes and replace a missing word with an asterisk to help name that tune, for example “like a * over troubled water”. The same method also works really well when searching for expressions and phrases e.g. “* is thicker than water”.

6. Search for the definition of a word

Google’s “define:” function provides a quick way to get a definition of a word without having to visit an online dictionary website, for example define: loophole. You can even use this trick to define slang words e.g. define: bae.

A couple of extras, just for fun…

7. Flip a coin

Google - Flip a CoinNeed to settle an argument by the flip of a coin but payday is weeks away and your wallet is empty – fear not, Google has your back. Type flip a coin in your search bar and watch that coin spin!

8. Play ‘Atari Breakout’ on Google Images

Time to kill? Go to Google Images, search for Atari Breakout and whittle away the hours with Google’s tribute to the legendary block breaker. It’s surprisingly good and annoyingly addictive.