Top tips for better Google searches

There might have been signs of Google’s search market share slipping in recent times, but the big G remains king of the search world and is, arguably, as great as ever.

You don't become synonymous with the term "Internet search" by resting on your laurels, that’s for sure. And Google is always working on its search engine, even when the company seems to be diversifying with so many fingers in various pies, it’s now having to start using its toes as well.

At any rate, the chances are very good that you still use Google for all your search needs. But the real question we’re asking here is – are you using it to the best of your (and its) search abilities? Simply typing in a word or phrase is a good enough way to search, and it's even better if you know to put the phrase in quotation marks, so Google will search for the exact term. But there's so much more you can do.

So that’s what we’re looking at here – nifty searching tips and tricks for Googlers everywhere. You'll be able to dazzle your friends with your abilities to find the most obscure information, long lost data, and that maddening bit of trivia no one else can score. Even just everyday information, like what time it is, becomes a power tool in Google search.

To complete your search skills tutorial, we'll also show you how to rub your new mutant super-search ability in the faces of those around you.

Search by site

Ever visited a website that had a built-in search function that couldn't find squat? Of course you have. But why bother when Google can search that site for you? All you need to do is add the "site:_____" command to your Google search.

For example, if you wanted to find all the articles I’ve written on this website, you would search for:

site:itproportal.com eric griffith

Google will find every mention of that name at the domain name you picked. What better way to ego surf specific sites? You can even limit yourself to top-level domains (.com, .net, .org and so forth). For example, Google will only search for .net sites if you include "site:net" in your search string.

Check the time and weather

Want to know the time? Just type "time" and Google will quickly tell you your local time. Type "time in ______" and put in the name of a city and it will tell you the time anywhere on the globe. This is a great way to find out how many time zones away someone is.

The same goes for what's happening outside. Type "weather" in the search box and you'll get a four-day forecast for your local area. "Weather in ______" can reveal the precipitation expectations for anywhere there's a forecast available for. A quick click will transform the temperatures from Fahrenheit to Celsius or vice versa, and you can click the wind button to find out how gusty it’s going to be.

Conversions

Google makes converting measurements a breeze. Simply type "3 yards metres" and you'll be told “3 yards = 2.7432 metres.” You can convert volume, distance, area, currency, energy, information (bits and bytes), and, well, just about anything you can measure. Google will also default to, say, your home currency, so to convert an amount in dollars to pounds, you just have to type “$100”, and you’ll be told that’s worth £61.16 (at the time of writing).

You can also combine conversions with calculations. For example, type: “(1 hectare) + (2 acres)” and Google will tell you that’s 18093.7 square metres.

Learn your operators

Commands like "site:" are handy, but nothing beats knowing which operators to put in front of words to narrow or expand your searches.

For example:

Tilde (~) – if placed in front of a word, results will include related words.

Plus sign (+) – ensures your search includes that word.

Minus sign (-) – that word will not be on any page in your search results.

Asterisk (*) – if you're not sure how to end a phrase, use the asterisk as a wild card and Google will fill in the blanks.

You can find a full list of operators on GoogleGuide.

Pick a type

If you know you only want to find a certain type of file, then you can ask Google to only look for that file type by using the "filetype:" operator with the file extensions typically used in Windows. This includes Acrobat (PDF), Word (DOC), text (RTF and TXT), Excel (XLS), and PowerPoint presentations (PPT) to name just a few. If you don't specify this, Google will include all these file types in the search, but don't expect them to be at the top of most results. If you want to search multiple file types, separate them in the search with the "OR" operator. So a search for free software mentioned in PDF or DOC files would be:

free software filetype:PDF OR filetype:DOC

If you're doing a Google Image search, you can narrow the search down by clicking Search Tools, then Type, and you can specify a search for clipart, photographs, line drawings, faces or animated.

Go beyond the dictionary

The "define:" search operator does more than just provide a dictionary definition. Google can also provide details on the origin of the word, its usage over time, and it offers instant translations into other languages, too.

Google for someone else

Have you got someone in your life who acts like they can never find anything online, even though the power of Google's search is practically screaming in their face? Feel free to exacerbate the problem by using Let Me Google That For You (a site not affiliated with Google). You type in a query and LMGTFY spits out a tiny URL that you can send to the person. When they click it, they get an animation of just how easy it would have been to type it themselves. The added "Was that so hard?" message helps twist the knife. Of course, this works with any of the search tips above, so you can use it to show off all your freshly learned knowledge to all and sundry.