It’s fairly often that as I’m speaking with someone about website stuff, I’m asked, “How do you know all this stuff?” And my response is usually the same: I google things a lot. I’m a firm believer that these days, while it may be nice to be “smart” or “knowledgable” – what’s more important is being resourceful: being able to find the information you need. And since the Internet is without question our primary source for finding any kind of information these days, it would serve you well to better know how to search it. To get you started, here are a few tips for finding exactly what you’re looking for on the Internet.
1) Think Like a Website
This is by far the most important thing to consider when it comes to searching effectively. Instead of focusing on your question at hand, consider what words would be likely to appear on the website for your needs. For example, if you’re trying to figure out what percentage of people use Firefox as their browser, instead of typing “how many people use Firefox” into Google, try to imagine what the website that has this information would say in its header. Probably something like “browser usage statistics”, right? The more you can learn to think like a website, the better you’ll get at finding what you need online. A few other examples: instead of searching for “how do I get rid of a headache”, try “home headache remedies.” Instead of searching for “what is fun to do in NYC”, try “NYC best kept secrets.”
2) Be Specific
Keep in mind when you’re searching that there are as of today 1,701,416,511 active websites online (and counting!). The more specific and the less general you can make your search inquiry, the greater your chances for success. Let’s say you’re looking for information on composting. Rather than searching for just “composting” – get specific. If you’re looking to learn how to compost at home, search for “home composting methods.” If you’re looking for a place to drop off your compost, search for “[your city] compost drop-off locations.” If you’re looking for information on the science of how compost works, search for “science of composting” or “why composting works.”
3) Learn a Few Searching Tricks
Most people don’t realize that there are several tricks you can use while googling to get the search engine to work exactly how you want it to. I’ve included a few of my favorites below.
If you want an EXACT phrase to show up in all your search results, put that phrase in quotation marks. For example, let’s suppose you need to find some information about music festivals in San Francisco. If you simply search for music festivals san francisco you will probably get some websites for festivals about things other than music, as well as some general sites about music in san francisco. But if you search for “music festival” san francisco – you’re going to get ALL music festival results because every result will need to have the exact phrase “music festival” somewhere in its page content.
Use the + sign if you want your results to have multiple words. For example, a search inquiry of jazz+chocolate would return to you only sites that have the words jazz AND chocolate in their page content (probably more sites than you would think).
Use the – sign if you want to exclude words from your search. For example, let’s say you want to search for Mustangs – but the horse, not the car. A search for mustangs -car would return all sites that DO contain the word “mustangs” but that do NOT contain the word “car,” giving you a much greater chance of finding what you’re looking for.
If you’re interested in learning more tricks to use when googling, here’s a great article I found on this topic that has oodles more information for you. And yes, you guessed it, I found it by googling for “google search tips.”