Search engines are pretty great at finding things, but sometimes we’re not so great at remembering the things we’re looking for out there on the interweb. Google has a whole bunch of tools to help us narrow in on our searches. Here’s a list of 4 search operators that I use pretty much every day. I figured some of you may find them useful too.
Sometimes searching for things like Macintosh brings up a boat load of information on the fruit itself. Not ideal when I’m searching Google for something specific about the computer itself. You can exclude words from your search so Google will eliminate certain types of keywords. All you have to do is put a minus sign ( – ) in front of a keyword you’re looking to exclude.
Example: “Macintosh colors -fruit” You probably noticed my conundrum. You can exclude the word apple, but then i’d be back to where I started. If I did that, neither the computer company, nor the fruit would show up.
Google’s search will be better than any on-site search you use for your favorite websites. Did you know that you can search Google and have the search engine only look through pages that have been indexed for a specific site? All you have to do is add your keywords to a search and follow it up with site:url.net.
Example: iPhone 17 site:macgasm.net – this setup will search our site for the keyword iPhone 17. It’s probably the custom search operator I use the most every day. You can also use the site operator to search for TLDs specifically like .gov, or .edu. For instance, iPhone 17 site:.edu – that will search all sites with a .edu TLD.
Sometimes journalists use different words for the same thing. For instance, today a number of journalists used the words “supply constraint” and others used “supply problems” and then some used “supply concerns.” They all pretty much say the same thing, but they really mess up a Google search. Since Google indexes and knows everything about us, the search engine knows what some other similar words may be for your search. Put a tilde ( ~ ) in front of a keyword, and Google will return everything will similar words.
Example: supply ~problems site:daringfireball.net – this will bring up all the results from Daring Fireball that mention supply problems, but also words similar to problems, including trouble, and issue. Surely it’s handy when you’re trying to serve up some claim chowder.
Sometimes you know a phrase, but can’t remember exactly what words were in it. You can search Google; it’ll fill in the blanks for you. For instance, you may remember part of the phrase “A House Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand.” Let’s pretend for a moment that we can’t remember part of it. Just use an asterisk in place of the words you can’t remember.
Example: “A house * cannot stand” – Google will do its best to fill in the blanks.
There you have it, four of my most useful Google search operators. I hope it helps you find what you’re looking for out there on the interweb.