Start Page: Tips to make Google searches more effective

Kim Brand
August 15, 2012
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Kim BrandG-O-O-G-L-E will replace Q-W-E-R-T-Y on keyboards of the future. It has already replaced S-E-A-R-C-H. Chances are after your word processor and email programs, you spend more time with Google than any other application on your computer. If you use Google Docs + Gmail, Google is already your number one app, and Google knows a lot more about you than you realize.

Problem is you probably aren’t very good at Google. Like a bad golf swing, without training, you just keep practicing the wrong swing and haven’t taken lessons. Here are six tips for how to play Google better:

1. Use ‘site:’ to narrow your search results

When you type in a search term you can get results from anywhere. Sometimes, you know which site might hold the most reliable and relevant results. How do you get Google to show you just those results?

After your search terms, add site: followed immediately by the URL of the website you trust. Google will only return hits from that site.

hp 4560 printer driver

2. Use a hyphen (dash, minus sign) to remove a website or keyword from your search results

Say you are looking for bookkeeping software to replace QuickBooks. How do you get Google to show you results that don’t include QuickBooks? Add a hyphen followed immediately by the term you want to avoid in the results.

small business accounting software -quickbooks

In a similar fashion, you can use a hyphen in front of the site: directive to exclude whole websites from your search results. Here is an example search for “Affordable Care Act” that produces results from all websites except

affordable care act

3. Use ‘filetype:’ to get results of a particular type: PDF, DOC, JPG, PPT, XLS

If you would rather focus on results of a particular type, say PDFs or PowerPoint presentations, you can instruct Google to only search for those. This is a great way to find presentation materials you can use as a template for your own. Locating PDFs is a good way to focus your search on more lengthy and complete papers instead of webpages.

google tricks filetype:ppt

4. Use ‘..’ to get results in a time or price range; or just enter a year

You can narrow the results if you are shopping by adding a price range using the .. search feature. Just enter the lowest price and the highest price you are willing to pay separated by ..

new cars 30,000..40,000

You can also use this feature to specify a year or range of years for the results you want. You’ll get more recent information faster by simply adding 2012 to the search query.

illegal drug policy 2012

You can even use this feature to get results that include amounts up to a maximum value. This is handy when you want to set a top-end price but are happy to start at the bottom. Here is an example that will return results for cameras up to $300.

cameras ..$300

5. Use ‘*’ to fill in the blanks

We’ve all experienced the frustration of remembering parts of a quote or a phrase. Google can help. Just replace the words you can’t remember with an asterisk and type the rest of what you know.

I wanted to include a pithy quote from Jean-Jacques Rousseau in my Curriculum Vitae but could only recall the gist of it.

if not * at least I am *

This search returned the full quote from Rousseau: “If I am not better, at least I am different.”

6. Google will return results from all words you enter, regardless of where they occur in a web page.

Think of this as producing an ‘OR’ result. In other words, it is as if you asked Google to find web pages that had this word or that word or another word. Sometimes you might prefer to have results which contain all the words: this word and that word and another word, in a particular order.

An example would be:

“computer experts” Indianapolis

This query will look for the phrase “Computer Experts” and narrow the results that would otherwise be returned from websites that included the separate words.

Google will remain the No. 1 search engine for a long time, and it will be the primary tool most people use to explore the vast store of knowledge available from the ever-evolving World Wide Web. You should plan on becoming a master of this essential tool.•


Kim Brand is a technology expert, author and president of Computer Experts, Inc. In addition to The Indiana Lawyer, he writes for West Publishing, the ILTA and the IL Bar Association. Kim also contributed to the ‘On-Premises’ section of the recently released ILTSO.ORG legal technical standards and he is the inventor of the FileSafe Server used by many law firms. You may reach him at The opinions expressed are those of the author.


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