With dozens of queries every day, you probably feel like you have a pretty good grasp of Google by now. You type in a few words, hit enter, scour for a second, reword your search phrase, hit enter again, and repeat until you find what you’re looking for. What you may not know is exactly how precise you can be with your search terms, all without ever having to click the somewhat hidden Advanced Search feature. All you need to know are some operators and symbols to cut through the muck and narrow your search results quickly.
1. Search only specific sites or domains
If you happen to be looking only for results from a specific website, you can limit the scope of your search to that domain using the site: operator. For example, say you want to search for Amazon Alexa content on CNET. Type Amazon Alexa site:cnet.com into the search bar and hit enter. All of the results will be restricted to the CNET domain.
2. Search for a specific word or phrase
Likewise, if you have a specific word or phrase in mind, you can wrap your search query in quotation marks to restrict the results to that exact wording. Searching Amazon Echo review provides around 22.5 million search results, while “Amazon Echo review” narrows those results to roughly 91,700 results.
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3. Exclude sites or words
On the flip side, if there’s a specific website or word you would like to exclude from your results, place a hyphen before the word or operator, such as: Amazon Alexa -site:cnet.com or Amazon Echo review -Dot. This is very helpful when searching for something like an animal with a car named after it, like a mustang or jaguar. Search jaguar -car to get results more related to the animal. This won’t filter every Jaguar (the car) result, but the animal results will be more prominent. To filter even further, try stacking the operators, like jaguar -car -auto.
4. Idioms or phrases can’t fully remember
If you can only remember part of an old saying that your grandmother used to say or part of a song lyric, you can use the wild card operator, an asterisk, to fill in the blanks for you. Search “a * saved is a * earned” or “I don’t want to set the * on fire.” Usually, this can help you find the phrase you were looking for.
5. View a cached version of a site
Not all web pages stay around forever. If something you were hoping to come back and read has disappeared since you first visited the site or page, you can check to see if Google cached it. However, this operator needs to be used in the address bar, not the search bar—type cache: before entering a URL and hit enter. If you’re lucky, Google will have a cached version of the page so that you can still view it. Just know the cached version of the page won’t stick around forever.
6. File types
If you’re after a PowerPoint or PDF, you can narrow your results to that specific type of file using the file type: operator. To use it, you would want to search something like productivity filetype: pdf or brew coffee filetype: ppt.