Get the Goods on Google

September 10, 2020


Laptop open to Google homepage
Here's how to improve your Google search results.

Search engines have come a long way from their early days, but they can still overwhelm you with unrelated results. But take heart, there are things you can do to improve your results. Here are some ways you can improve your search results in Google.

How to Get More Relevant Search Results

If you type in PACE certification as your keywords, Google does default to searching for all of the words you are looking for. This would return each page that included PACE and certification. However, they may not necessarily be together as a phrase, so these might not be related to what you are seeking. The words become one unit/phrase when placed in double quotation marks, such as: “PACE Certification”. This simple change reduced the results on Google from 110 million pages to just over 7,000 results and provided more accurate responses.

After you run a search in Google, you can click Settings (located directly below the search field), then Advanced Search. This allows you to modify many options in Google, including restricting words to exact phrases, excluding certain words and using number ranges (including dates and prices). You can also restrict the results to more recent pages, search specific domain names and specify certain file types (such as limiting the results to PDF files).

There are times when you actually want results based on any word that you type, rather than requiring that all words be present on the resulting page. If you were researching meeting venues in New York, Las Vegas, or Los Angeles, you would want the pages to reference the individual cities. If you look only at pages listing all three cities, you severely limit your results. Then you could use the keyword phrases typed in this manner: “Convention Center” “New York” “Las Vegas” “Los Angeles”, being sure to use double quotation marks appropriately and selecting the option to include any words.

If the search engine provides many undesired results, you can exclude certain words by putting a minus symbol (hyphen) in front of the keyword (no space between hyphen and word).  Thus Paris -France would instruct the search engine to include all results that have Paris on the page, but omit any pages that contain the word France.

When using this symbol, be careful not to restrict yourself right out of an answer. If you want to find a hotel anywhere in New York as long as it isn’t at the airport and your keywords are New York Hotel -Airport you might indeed exclude the airport hotels, but you might also exclude any hotel page providing directions from the airport. That could be a sizeable percentage of appropriate hotels.

The most efficient way to use Google is to start by asking the question you specifically want answered and then modifying your request as you see what results are supplied. Google can process natural language queries (questions written in everyday language). You can try typing: What time does the sun set in Seattle in April?

Helpful Shortcuts

If you are looking for social media posts of an individual, just enter the @ symbol and their handle. This will find social media posts where they have been tagged or did the posting.

You can search for trending topics by including the hashtag reference, such as #adminresources.

Google automatically provides stemming, which means you can type the beginning of a word and Google will provide results that match that word, regardless of the ending. For example, searching “travel agen” would provide results for  travel agent, agents, agency, agencies.

You can search for a range of numbers (dates, prices, etc.) by including two periods between the numbers. Entering 1800..1850 in the search field would search for results that reference any number between 1800 and 1850.

An extremely useful feature available in Google is caching of past searched pages. If you ever get a result with a link that goes to a file not found page (meaning most likely the page was deleted or renamed), check to see if there is a cached version of the results. To find out, in the search results, click the downward facing triangle immediately after the url in the search results and select Cached. This will bring up any archived versions of the page that Google maintains. You can see full version, text only or the original source.

Google’s Specialized Sites

Many people think of Google as a one search engine, but it is actually a collection of sites, including specific purpose search engines. If you are looking for particular types of information, you might get better results at the unique search engines focused on those topics. Examples include: Google Books, Google Earth, Google Finance, Google Images, Google News, Google Patent Search, Google Scholar, and Google Shopping.

The Internet is an amazing resource, but it can be overwhelming and time consuming trying to sift through the millions of websites that might come up in a standard internet search. Using the right search engine and parameters for the right purpose can greatly reduce the amount of time it takes you to get the answers you need and give you an opportunity to shine!

About the Author: Marie Herman CAP, OM, ACS, MOSM is the founder of MRH Enterprises LLC, whose services include teaching technology and professional development classes through corporate training and various webinars and workshops, writing articles, and more.  She leads study groups to prepare students for Google G Suite, Microsoft Office Specialist, and the Certified Administrative Professional certification exams.

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