December 1, 2021

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How to Get Google Search Results That Are Actually Useful

This can be handy when looking up results on Wikipedia, for example. Running a regular search might well bring up a lot of sponsored, optimized, and biased sites ahead of the online encyclopedia, but if you add “site:wikipedia.org” you’ll get results only from Wikipedia—and you can still take advantage of Google’s excellent capabilities when it comes to search and page ranking.

The same trick works for just about any site that you consider to be an authority. You might want to focus on a certain news site that you trust, for example, or maybe you want to see results from an official website related to your search rather than matches from elsewhere on the web.

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Use the Advanced Search Tools

Google offers an entire page of advanced search tools.

Google via David Nield

In your haste to search the web, you might not have noticed the small cog icon at the top right of the Google search results page. Click this and then choose Advanced search, and you get access to a whole host of additional parameters that will make your searches more precise and effective.

You can use the Advanced Search page to include or exclude certain words, as we’ve already mentioned. You’re also able to restrict your results to a particular language or a particular region—again, helpful when you’re getting a lot of redundant results. Another useful option here is the file type drop-down list, which lets you look for PDFs, Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, GIFs in image search, and other file types rather than webpages.

The Advanced Search page also has options for showing pages that have been updated recently, for looking for keywords in a particular part of a website, and for returning content that’s got a Creative Commons license attached to it. Once you start using these advanced features, you might wonder how you ever did without them.

Add More Search Operators

Choose your operators carefully for better search results.

Google via David Nield

You can deploy a number of search operators to dig deeper into Google results and to return page matches that you otherwise wouldn’t get. Put “OR” between your keywords to search for several different terms at once that don’t have to all be matched. Alternatively, use the asterisk (“*”) as a wildcard that Google will use to return all the most popular hits for—”how to learn * on YouTube” for example.