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How to Search Google Like a Pro: 11 Tricks You Have to Know

Google is a powerful tool, but you’re missing out on a lot of that power if you just type words into it. Master Google and find the best results faster with these search tricks.

Whether you’re an inexperienced user or a seasoned professional, you’ll probably find at least one search operator you weren’t aware of here. Many of Google’s search operators aren’t very well-known.

Exact Words and Phrases

One of the most basic and widely known search tricks is using quotation marks to search for an exact phrase. For example, perform the following search and you’ll only get pages that contain the word “Hello” followed by the word “World.”

“Hello World”

This same method now works for exact-word queries. For example, if you search for “mining,” Google will also show pages that contain the words “miners.” Previously, you’d use a plus sign and search for +mining, but now you have to enclose the word in quotes:

“mining”

Excluding a Word

The minus sign allows you to specify words that shouldn’t appear in your results. For example, if you’re looking for pages about Linux distributions that don’t mention Ubuntu, use the following search:

linux distributions -ubuntu

Site Search

The site: operator allows you to perform a search in a specific site. Let’s say you’re looking for information on Windows 7 on How-To Geek. You could use the following search

site:howtogeek.com windows 7

You can also use the site: operator to specify a domain. For example, if you’re looking for high-quality references, you could use site:.edu to only pull up results from .edu domains.

Related Words

The tilde (~) operator is the opposite of enclosing a single word in quotes — it searches for related words, not just the word you type. For example, if you ran the following search, you’d find search results with words similar to “geek”:

~geek

Apparently, “Linux” is the most similar word to geek, followed by “Greek.” “Nerd” comes in third. (Hey, no one ever said Google was perfect.)

The Wildcard

The asterisk (*) is a wildcard that can match any word. For example, if you wanted to see what companies Google has purchased and how much they paid, you could use this search:

“google purchased * for * dollars”

Time Ranges

A little-known search operator allows you to specify a specific time range. For example, use the following search to find results about Ubuntu from between 2008 and 2010:

ubuntu 2008..2010

File Type

The filetype: operator lets you search for files of a specific file type. For example, you could search for only PDF files.

filetype:pdf how to geek

One Word or the Other

The “OR” operator lets you find words that contain one term or another. For example, using the following search will pull up results that contain either the word “Ubuntu” or the word “Linux.” The word “OR” must be in uppercase.

ubuntu OR linux

Word Definitions

You don’t have to Google a word and look for a dictionary link if you want to see its definition. Use the following search trick and you’ll see an inline definition:

define:word

Calculator

Use Google instead of pulling one out or launching a calculator app. Use the +, -, * and / symbols to specify arithmetic operations. You can also use brackets for more complicated expressions. Here’s an example:

(4 + 2) * (6 / 3)

Unit Conversions

The calculator can also convert between units. Just type “X [units] in [units]”. Here’s an example:

5 nautical miles in kilometers


Combine these search operators to create more complex queries. Want to search a specific website for a PDF file, created between 2001 and 2003, that contains a specific phrase but not another phrase? Go ahead.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 02/27/12

Comments (37)

  1. LadyFitzgerald

    Many of those functions are contained in Google’s Advanced Search. I don’t even bother going to Google’s simple search page; I have the Advanced Search page bookmarked.

  2. simon

    Thankyou,very informative and useful.Is there a page that lists all of them?Or is it regex?

  3. AlasdairGF

    One you’ve missed but I use quite a lot – currency conversion. So “1200USD in GBP” gives an approximate value of US$1,200 as £756.81 today. All you need to know is the currency codes (http://www.currencysystem.com/codes/).

  4. AlasdairGF

    Oops – need to note that you mustn’t type the quotation marks in my currency code example, as G will then just search for that exact phrase, of course…

  5. Ross Goodman

    You may also want to not that in the OR example, the operator must be in uppercase (well it was the last time I checked)
    ubuntu OR linux
    would work
    ubuntu or linux
    would search for the phrase

  6. Emir

    i use the search in specific site query like this, its more simple

    “windows 7: howtogeek.com”

  7. J-CAT

    @simon – This infographic may be what you’re lookung for:

    http://www.hackcollege.com/blog/2011/11/23/infographic-get-more-out-of-google.html

  8. Cam2644

    Useful tips. Google Search is still king but there are some drawbacks – http://donttrack.us/

  9. Lisa Collins

    If you want to know the origin of a word or phrase you can use this request.

    etymology: geek

  10. Moshe

    google used to have all the functions in advanced mode
    Wher did they disappear?

  11. StevenTorrey

    These also work for Yahoo…

  12. Hillary

    Another quick trick is type in an address or crossroads and get a Google map of the point or points .
    1234 mystreet , town,state Or name 2 points you want a route or mileage between and G will give you a map or mileage. easier than switching programs to get the same info.

  13. merl

    And they also work for bing.

    It is a shame that google dismissed the + operator back in october 2011. A word in “quotes” just doesn’t give you quite the same results and it really messed up my workflow. Been using bing more often since then.

    http://www.wired.com/epicenter/2011/10/google-kills-its-other-plus-and-how-to-bring-it-back/

  14. Mike

    You can even plot curves by searching for the formula e.g. search for sin(x)

  15. Harvey Hawley

    verbatim, similar to quotes, but not quite.

    around Sorry, you’ll have to find that yourselves as google don’t really like you using it.

  16. Roshnal

    And searching [city] to [city] will show all the flights available along with most of the info. Try searching- Colombo To Bangkok

  17. KB Prez

    Great Article Chris! Didn’t know about most of this before. THANK YOU.

  18. techN

    Just Google for “Google Advanced Search” and bookmark the page. All the options are clearly stated there with examples.

  19. Frank Rivers

    What is a Google search?

  20. Don

    Try this:
    site: google search tricks

  21. minnetonka

    I just Googled for “Google Advanced Search” (Moshe was right, the advanced option is no longer displayed on the main search page by default). It’s all there, but unless you want to dig much further than the 11 tricks shown above, this page alone has everything I think I’d need and the layout is perfect for me. Great resource and now I need to find room on the FF personal toolbar to have handy. Thanks!

  22. Yokozunamihoko

    THANK YOU for the useful and time saving information !!!!

  23. LadyFitzgerald

    For Google advanced search, go to “google(dot)com/advanced_search?hl=en” (without quotes and change “dot” to “.”, also without quotes).

  24. Akoolo

    Very useful information , am sure i will have easier time in my Networking project.
    Tks for the tips

  25. Hooch

    Another handy one, especially if you are buying something online is to only find search results from websites from within your country is to use site:(country code), eg search for a disk drive from an Australian site – “disk drive” site:au

    Not perfect but it does help cut down the overseas results (and shipping costs!!)

  26. nonot

    Very useful guide, hope i could be used to it

  27. Torwin

    Can Google Advanced Search be set up as a toolbar button?

  28. Chris Hoffman

    @Ross Goodman

    Thanks; I updated the article to make this more clear to readers.

    And thanks everyone else for all the good tips!

  29. moin sayed

    Thanks, Very imp. information

  30. AjaFik

    Great Tutorial.

  31. lostnsavd

    Thanks for the valuable info. I’m sure there are a lot of other shortcut tricks to Google Search that you have not mentioned, and there is one that comes to mind that I use a lot, which is… define.

    When you want to search the definition of a word for example, this is what you would type in the Google Search box:

    define camel hair

    The results will be a similar illustration: cam·el hair
    Noun:
    A fabric made from the hair of a camel.
    Fine, soft hair from a squirrel’s tail, used in artists’ brushes.
    Synonyms:
    camel’s hair
    More info »Wikipedia

    Thanks again. Your team is very much appreciated for all the hard work and effort to provide additional information for other geeks and… non-geeks. (grin)

  32. mollybeth

    I love minecraft but I just find it hard to get on

  33. kenedy123

    Good to know about the Google is a powerful tool, but you’re missing out on a lot of that power if you just type words into it.

  34. Doreen Fernandes

    This article has really helped. Now I will do my google search in the right way. Thanks ever so much for this helpful article.

    Doreen

  35. don

    I stopped using Google,so that pretty much solved that problem.

  36. JD Rosen

    We used to own a home in Hesperia California. Google shows that address in two different locations about ten miles apart in that area. The current photo of the house is about 10 years old and the house in the other location shows a different house structure image at a long distance. I’ve often wondered how extensively third party auto navigation devices will use Google and how many times the car navigation has sent someone off a cliff down into a canyon. Or maybe there’s a SciFi explanation.

  37. Chris Hoffman

    @JD Rosen

    You can actually report problems with the Report a Problem link: http://support.google.com/maps/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=162873

    Hopefully people know they should use their brains while following directions.

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