Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 15 seconds

The Internet is such an amazing place.  Sometimes it feels like we have almost any answer at our fingertips.  That is...if we know how to ask the right question.  In an era when "Google" is a verb, we are becoming more and more dependent upon search engines to get us the information we want and need.  It sure beats making a special trip to the library every time we want to know the gross national product of a foreign country or hitting "stop" and "rewind" over and over to try and figure out the lyrics to a song.

Of course, with so much information available, we have to be able to sift through everything out there to get useful results.  While you can certainly get lucky and find what you're looking for with the first search term that pops into your head, you're more likely to end up wading through ads, opinions, and all kinds of other web-type junk.

More Effective Google Searches

One of the ways to do this is to use "operators."  These little tricks used to be required for doing any sort of computer search, but search engines are now a lot more straightforward.  Currently, if you put some words into Google, it will come back with results that include all of those words.  There's more to it, of course, and Google and the other search engines have put a lot of effort and money into making searches more relevant, but this is the basic gist of how it works.

When you start using operators, though, you can have a lot more control over the results that are returned to you.  For example, if you put your search term into quotation marks, the result you get back will include only sites that use those exact words in that exact order, rather than sites that just have all of those words somewhere mixed within the text.  If you want to exclude a word from a search, you can do so by adding a "minus sign" (-) in front of the word without a space between them.

Let's say you're looking for nonprofits in your city that aren't centered around serving the homeless population.  You might use:  nonprofit, Chicago, -homeless to narrow down your results.

Other Google Uses

Google also offers some options that most people don't even realize are available.  For example, did you know that it's a calculator?  Simply type your equation into the search bar, and it will give you the answer.  You can also do conversions by indicating the units you have and what you want, such as 15 dollars in Euros.  It's also a handy dictionary.  Just type in "define:" and add your word afterward.


Last modified on Sunday, 19 May 2013
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