“With Google I'm starting to burn out on knowing the answer to everything. People in the year 2020 are going to be nostalgic for the sensation of feeling clueless.”
~ Douglas Coupland
Go to your computer right now and Google “real estate.” Go ahead, I dare you. Care to guess how many results you’ll get? Well, I just tried it, and I got 1.1 billion results. That’s billion with a b. Talk about information overload!
You’re pretty sophisticated, though, so you know not to try that kind of a mushy search. And you already know that you can search specifically for images and videos. You also realize that Google is pretty good at guessing what you’re looking for, and it will usually put those results first. But not always: If you search for “bronco,” Google won’t know whether to give you information about cars, football, or rodeos.
Luckily, you can tweak your searches to be surprisingly precise, if you know how. Here are some tricks for searching on Google that I’ve found useful. I’m concentrating on Google because it’s so popular, but some of these will work in other search engines, too.
Use search commands. Let’s say you want to know something about how many people there are in your zip code. A government source would be great, because you’d like some official statistics. Good news! You can narrow your search results to government websites. Try this search: POPULATION 30308 SITE:CENSUS.GOV. This tells Google to limit its results to pages within the Census Bureau’s website. By putting in that extra command, you cut the results from 131,000 to 650.
You can also use the same command to limit your results to a particular type of domain. For example, adding SITE:.EDU to your search will limit results to educational sources. Caution, though: you’ll also get results from student websites, and .edu can be used by some pretty uneducational entities.
Here are some more handy commands you can try: INTITLE: will search only in the title of webpages, which may get you to sites that are specifically about your topic. LINK: will get you websites that have links to a particular web page. If you’re looking for an exact phrase, put it in quotations. Boolean terms like AND and OR also work in Google. Putting a hyphen in front of a word will keep out results that have that word.
Find the missing word. Let’s say you want to use a famous quote, but you’re not sure exactly how it goes: “Something is ______ in the state of Denmark.” (Icky? Smelly? Stinko?) Just Insert an asterisk in the place of the unknown word, like this: SOMETHING IS * IN THE STATE OF DENMARK. You’ll learn that the word you’re looking for is “rotten.”
Take advantage of other search engines. Google isn’t the only game in town, you know. There’s Bing.com and DuckDuckGo.com, among others. (DuckDuckGo, by the way, is the way to go if you want maximum privacy, because it doesn’t keep information about anyone’s searches.) There are also “metasearch” engines that will search other search engines. For example, Dogpile.com will search Google, Yahoo, and others, all at once.
Even within Google, you can narrow your results by using specialized search engines. For example, https://news.google.com/news/advanced_news_search will let you limit your results to news sources. Google Scholar will get you court cases and academic papers.
There are tons of search engines out there. Want a search engine that’s specific to real estate? Try searching “REAL ESTATE” “SEARCH ENGINES” and you’ll find some great resources.
Use the advanced search. Have I given you brain freeze with this information? If it all sounds too “techie” to remember, then forget everything I just said, because Google’s advanced search is for you. Just go to Google.com and click on “settings,” and then on “advanced search.” You’ll get a search form that gives you all kinds of nifty options. Many search engines have advanced-search capabilities of one kind or another – look for a link.
There are many, many more search tricks you can use, and I can cover only a small fraction of them here. But now maybe you have a better idea of what’s possible.
Want to know more? Of course you do, and I’ll bet you know what I’m about to suggest.
Why, ask any ten-year-old kid, of course. They’ll know way more than I do. In the meantime, happy searching!