How do you have more fun when searching? Simply: become a better
searcher. Here are some syntax basics as well as advanced tricks or bits
of trivia for searching with Google.com:
A quote/ phrase search can be written with both quotations “like this”
as well as a minus (or dot) in-between words, like-this.
Google didn’t always understand certain special characters like “#”, but
now it does; a search for C#, for example, yields meaningful results.
Note that not every character works yet.
Google allows 32 words within the search query (some years ago, only
up to 10 were used, and Google ignored subsequent words). You rarely
will need so many words in a single query – just thinking of such a long
query is a hard thing to do, as this sentence with twenty words shows. However, it
can come in handy for advanced or automated searching.
You can find synonyms of words. E.g. when you search for house but
you want to find “home” too, search for ~house. To get to know which
synonyms the Google database stores for individual words, simply use
the minus operator to exclude synonym after synonym. Like this:
~house -house -home -housing -floor
Google has a lesser known “numrange” operator which can be helpful.
Using e.g. 2000..2010 (that’s two dots in-between two numbers) will
find 2000, 2001, 2002 and so on until 2010.
Google’s “define” operator allows you to look up word definitions. For
example, define:nasa yields “
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
” along with many more explanations. You can also enter
what is nasa for similar results.
Google searches for all of your words, whether or not you write a “+”
before them. Therefore, writing queries +like +this is not really necessary.
Sometimes, Google seems to understand “natural language” queries
and shows you so-called “onebox” results. This happens for example
when you enter goog, weather new york, ny, war of the worlds (for this one,
movie times, move ratings and other information will show), or beatles
(which yields an instant discography). Not all Googles are the same! Depending on your country, Google might forward you to a different version of Google with potentially
different results to the same query. For example in Germany and
France, certain results are censored for a long time now. In earlier time,
Google decided to self-censor Chinese search results (such as web
pages of human rights organizations) in compliance with Chinese
government requests – which not only resulted in an oddly skewed
Google.cn, but also a public outcry from both diehard fans and
organizations such as Reporters Without Borders.
For some search queries, Google uses its own search result
advertisement system to offer jobs. Try entering work at google and
sometimes, you find job offers straight from Google.
Some say that whoever turns up first for the search query president of
the internet is, well, the President of the internet. Take a look at the
results for this search to find out who’s currently ruling you!
Can you guess why the Disney homepage is in a top 10 search result
position when you enter “Exit”, “No”, or “Leave” into Google? Try it
out, you’ll be surprised (I won’t spoil here why this is happening, but it
has something to do with adult websites). Google doesn’t have “stop words” anymore. Stop words traditionally are words like “the”, “or” and similar which search engines tended to
ignore. Nowadays, Google includes all of your words, even the former
stop words. You can use the wildcard character “*” in phrases. This is helpful for
finding song texts – let’s say you forgot a word or two, but you
remember the gist, as in "love you twice as much * oh love * *." You can
even use the wildcard character without searching for anything specific
at all, as in this search: "* * * * * * *."
The following search tip, on the other hand, you better not follow. But
you may sing along…
When it’s late at night
And you’ve an essay due
And you don’t know what to write
I’ll tell you what to do
Find something to plagiarize
Talkin’ ‘bout Google..”
– Mort, The Google Song