Quick ReferenceStart - Reference Cards

Google, Yahoo, Bing ... — Search Strategies

Searching the internet can be cumbersome and arduous, since not always it is possible to find the right search term (keyword), and thus the results are mostly useless.

By the start of the new millennium, the Internet's dozens of search engines were whittled down to a single alpha engine. Pinpointing your online destination has been a relative breeze ever since.
But it turns out even Google can be fine-tuned with a few simple tricks. The search operators explained on this web site will enable you to scan the internet more effectively and they are relatively simple and infinitely useful. And when it comes to muddling through the ever-expanding sprawl of the Internet, you can never have too many tricks.

The tips to use sophisticated Web Crawlers like Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc. more efficiently rely mostly on the approach to narrow down the search to more specific (or exact) results. Instead of just typing in a random combination of words and wading through page after page of hits, there are a number of ways to make your requests for information more productive.

SERP (SERPs) := Search Engine Results Pages := the listing of web pages returned by a search engine in response to a keyword query.

Google Search - Top 10

The internet has become a crowded place today as there are many options for the same query. The knowledge of the different possibilities for users to fine-tune Google and other search engines for their search is of high importance for webmasters, SEOs (Search Engine Optimization) and all other people who which to increase the traffic on their websites.

How to ... Search the Internet

  1. Google allows 32 words within the search query (some years ago, only up to 10 were used) and Google ignores subsequent words. However, 32 keywords are rarely needed for a search. All words are connected by a logical 'AND'.
  2. Search Engines are not case sensitive when it comes to keywords (as opposed to Operators (like 'OR', see below), so there will be no difference if you type [Humor] or [humor] or [HUMOR].
  3. In the gray boxes, you will find examples, which you can directly 'click' on — or copy & paste to the search box. Search Box & Search Terms
    Be aware, a 'blank' can make all the difference.
  4. The syntax can vary between different search engines, and even between the different Google services. But most examples work in all major seach engines. When in doubt, refer to their help pages.

Internet Search - Tips & Tricks

A list of the most important operators for Google, Yahoo, Bing, ...

  1. Exact Phrase: double quote
    Search for a exact sequence of words, not only for the pages which e.g. contain each of your search words in a different sentence.
    Assuming you are trying to find sites about 'transition words'. Instead of typing [transition words] into the search box, you will likely be better off searching for the exact phrase. To do so, enclose the search phrase within double quotes.
    "transition words"
    Remark: for popular searches the double quotes are not really needed, but they can be a great help to find specific terms (e.g. combination of given name and family name, product identifications, fragments from song texts, rare movie titles, etc.).
  2. Search for a Range
    If you are looking for a product in a specific price range use '..'. The example below will search the web for the pages with the text 'Blackberry Playbook', and a price range from $150 to $350.
    Blackberry Playbook $150..$350

    This also works for years (like 2010..2012) and any other kind of number range.
  3. Exclude Words
    You can exclude pages from your result list by puuting a minus (-) directly in fromt of the keyword which you do not want to search for. This also works with more than one exclusion and with domain names.
    ebooks -books.google.com -amazon.com
    smart jokes -laughter  -video
    This search query can be helpful to eliminate all those annoying price comparison sites:
    Blackberry Playbook -shop
    And it can be long, real long - just click, it is easier to see:
    synonyms for easy difficult -thesaurus.com -synonym.com -yourdictionary.com -infoplease.com -merriam-webster.com -.macmillandictionary.com -answers.com
  4. Site-specific
    Use the 'site:' operator to search only within a certain website. For instance, if you are looking for book reviews, try the following: This can also be combined with the 'OR' operator.
    site:economist.com new fiction review 2012..2012
    The 'site' operator alone, with any additional keyword, will list all the sites in the index (importamt for Webmasters), and also displays the total number of pages (About 200.000 (June 2012) in the Simple English Wikipedia).
    The 'site' operator also works with TDLs (= top level domains), e.g. edu, com, org. The example below will show results with the word 'quotes' when the domain ending is 'edu'.
    site:edu quotes
  5. Synonyms / Similar Words
    Use the '~' (tilde) operator to include results that contain similar words or synonyms. In the SERPs, you can see the synonyms in bold, e.g. 'building'; the keyword "house" was excluded to get rid of the TV Series 'House, M.D.'
    ~house -house
  6. OR / Parenthesis
    The 'OR' (needs to be capitalized, otherwise the engine will simply search for the preposition 'or' within the text) is the same as the pipe symbol '|'. Instead of using the default Boolean AND Google will now look for any of the keywords.
    Parenthesis '(' ... ')' are used for grouping. They can be used anywhere, but are mostly useful with the logical 'OR'.
    tie red OR blue
    (tiny | little | small) (notebooks | laptops)
  7. Wildcard
    The asterisk '*' sign can be used as a wildcard. Again, only useful for not so popular search strings, since Google knows the popular ones "by heart".
    "* part of the solution * precipitate"
  8. Filetype
    Besides normal web pages in HTML format, Google also indexes .pdf (Adobe), .doc (Word), .xls (Excel), .ppt (PowerPoint) and .jpg (Image) files. The result list (SERP) can be limited to a specific filetype, with the help of the 'filetype' operator.
    transition words filetype:pdf
  9. Word Definitions
    The mark-up language HTML allows its content to structured. For example, the <dl> tag defines a definition list. These can be found by use of the 'define' command. However, there is no guarantee, that the author of the website uses the <dl> tag for definitions! Examples how the definition tag is used for the mark-up of definitions, can be found here.
  10. Paginate
    There are 2 URL parameters (as is 'q' for the search terms - you can see it by having a close look at the URL in the examples) which control the output of the search.
    retrieves 'number' n of results; Default: 10; Possible values: if q present [1,100], otherwise [1, 30]
    OFFSET: retrieves results starting from OFFSET. NUM plus OFFSET must be less than 1000, otherwise you will get zero results. Requires q
  11. Search Suggestions
    The Auto-Complete feature, works while typing (and only if JavaScript is enabled).
    For popular search terms, a list with search suggestions (Related Seraches) is displayed at the bottom of the SERP page. For the search term "Google Search Tips and Tricks" it looks like this:
    Verwandte Suchanfragen

And now ... good hunting ;-)

A plethora of other tricks to use Google exists (like calculator / converter e.g. pound to kilo / ...) but most of them I find of little practical value. In case you are interested, further readings are available: Google Search Operators
Google News - The Missing Manual