Symbols You Can Use to Make Google Work Better for You

Everyone knows about Google. The term “Googling” is even part of the lexicon! We all know how to go to the search engine and type in the question that we want to know the answer to. But did you know that there are special characters you can add to your search query to help you get the information you’re looking for? These tricks are called Google search operators. There is regular Google searching, and then there is advanced Google searching. In this article, we’ll discuss what Google search operators are, some examples, and how to use them. 

What are Google Search Operators? 

Google Search Operators

Google search operators are tools you use to help you refine your web searches. There are two different kinds of Google search operators. The first kind is basic search operators. These are codes and symbols that modify basic text searches to help you find websites to help you answer your question. The second kind is advanced search operators. These are commands that modify basic text searches, but also require additional parameters to narrow down search results. 

Special Operators

Did you know that search engines actually scan all search queries they receive for special commands? Special operators can be extremely helpful, if you know how to utilize them correctly. Here are some commands you can use on Google to help you become an expert Google searcher: 

Subtraction

Adding the negative symbol (-) before a word in a search will tell Google to ignore any websites that use that word. You should use this if you’re trying to find a particular piece of information, but the word you’re using to search has more than one meaning. For instance, the phrase “painter” can refer to either a house painter or a Renaissance painter. If you’re looking for the art kind of painter, you can search “painter -house” and that will show you a search engine results page without any house painters. 

Similar Results

Putting the tilde (~) before a word when you search it tells Google that you are looking for words similar to the one you typed. For example, if you are looking for a house to rent, but you are also interested in apartments or townhouses, you can search “~houses.” 

Exact Match

If you are looking for an exact match to your search term, simply put quotation marks (“”) around your search term. Usually, when you type a search term with multiple words in Google, it tries to match as many words as possible. This works best when you don’t know exactly what it is you’re looking for. However, if you know exactly what you’re looking for, you can search with quotation marks to get an exact match. 

Range of Numbers 

If you want to search for a range of numbers (for example, between two dates or in a certain price range when shopping) you can use two periods (..) like this. This special operator means “between,” and is always used for numbers. For example, if you are looking to purchase a new vehicle, you can type “cars $1,000 .. $10,000” and your search should only find listings of vehicles in that specified price range. 

Wildcard

The asterisk symbol (*) translates on Googles into a “wildcard.” A wildcard (in this case, the asterisk) is used as a placeholder that can be replaced by any word or even phrase. The wildcard search is an excellent trick if you have forgotten one word of a phrase or sentence. For example, you can use the wildcard to look up a song lyric you may have forgotten. Perhaps you forgot what the title of the song by Elton John “Candle in the *,” so you search it on Google, which shows you that the word you were missing is “wind.” 

Definitions 

Google dictionary

Did you know that you can treat Google like a dictionary? Simply type “Define:” and follow the colon with the word you want to know the definition of, and the search response will tell you the definition of the word. You can also look for symptoms using “synonym:”, too. 

Logic Operators

You can utilize logic operators along with keywords in your search to either include or exclude certain results. For example, you can search meat OR cheese, and get results for either term. But when is this applicable? Depending on how wide your search is, the search engine will find sites that might or might not be helpful for your search. Excluding words from a broad search phrase can improve the quality of your results. 

Specific Site Search

If you want to search for a topic only on one particular site, you can do that! For instance, let’s say you want to search for coyotes on National Geographic’s website. You can search “Site:” and National Geographic and only find results from that website. This is considered an advanced search operator because it both modifies searchers and requires an additional parameter. In this instance, the additional parameter is the domain name. 

Built-In Searches

Built in Searches

These days, Google can anticipate the most popular searches like weather, conversions, movies, and more. These are called built-in searches. It saves time and Google is adding these for more and more queries all the time. 

Google has also seen an uptick in searches containing the phrase “near me.” Now, they show automatic results for many searches if you type in something generic, like “restaurant.” 

More Tips for Google Searching

There are some other ways you can improve your Google searches. Just like “near me” is a popular way of searching, you can manipulate Google in other ways and narrow your results and get the information you need quicker. Here are some tips: 

Specificity

The more specific you are with your search, the less time you’ll have to take sifting through your search results. For example, if you’re shopping online for a new vehicle, instead of searching for a “Lexus car,” search for a “Used 2015 Lexus RX.” This will help give you the best possible results. 

Spelling 

Spelling errors

Though Google does its best to interpret typos, it’s best to spell your search queries correctly. If you don’t know how to spell something, Google the correct spelling before performing your actual search. 

Utilize Local Modifiers

It’s important to make use of local modifiers. For example, try to use your neighborhood or city to modify your search results. For example, if you’re looking for the best pizza in Chicago, instead try “best deep-dish downtown Chicago” rather than “Chicago pizza.” This helps narrow down your search results, so you don’t get search results 50 miles from where you actually are looking to have dinner. 

Less is More

It can be tough to know how many modifiers to use. While you do want to be specific, you also don’t want to be too lengthy. The more modifiers you use, the less weight the search engine will give each term, which can actually muddy your results. So, try to keep it to five or so words per search. (This is just a rough guideline!) 

Don’t Worry About Punctuation 

Outside of using punctuation as search operators, it’s not necessary to use punctuation in your searches. That’s because search engines don’t use them when finding your results. So, to save time, eliminate punctuation from your search queries. 

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