It’s fairly often that as I’m speaking with someone about website and internet related topics, I’m asked the question, “how do you know all this stuff?” And my response is always the same: I google things a lot. I’m a firm believer that these days, while it may be nice to be “smart” or “knowledgable” – what’s much more important is being resourceful. What do I mean by resourceful? I mean being able to quickly find the information you seek. And since the Internet is without question our primary source for finding any kind of information these days, it would serve you well to better know how to search it. To get you started, here are a few tips for finding exactly what you’re looking for on the Internet.
1) Think like a website. This is by far the most important thing to consider when it comes to searching effectively. Instead of focusing on your question at hand, try to think of what words would be likely to appear on the ideal website for your needs. For example, if you’re trying to figure out what percentage of people use Firefox as their browser, instead of typing “how many people use Firefox” into Google, try to imagine what the website that has this information would say in its header. Probably something like “browser usage statistics 2014”, right? The more you can learn to think in the terminology that websites use, the better you’ll get at finding what you need online. A few other examples: instead of searching for “how to get rid of a headache”, try “home headache remedies.” Instead of searching for “subway map of New York City”, try “NYC subway map.”
2) Be specific. Keep in mind when you’re searching that there are as of today 644 million active websites online (and counting!). The more specific and the less general you can make your search inquiry, the greater your chances for success. Let’s say you’re looking for information on composting. Rather than searching for just “composting” – get specific. If you’re looking to learn how to compost at home, search for “home composting methods.” If you’re looking for a place to drop off your compost, search for “brooklyn compost drop-off locations.” If you’re looking for information on the science of how compost works, search for “science of composting” or “why composting works.”
3) Learn some searching tricks. Most people don’t realize that there are several tricks you can use while googling to get the search engine to work exactly how you want it to. I’ve included a few of my favorites below.
If you want an EXACT phrase to show up in all your search results, put that phrase in quotation marks when you search. For example, let’s suppose you need to find some information about music festivals in San Francisco. If you simple search for music festivals san francisco you will probably get some websites for festivals about things other than music, as well as some general sites about music in san francisco. But if you search for “music festival” san francisco – you’re going to get ALL music festival results because every result will need to have the exact phrase “music festival” somewhere in its page content.
Use the + sign if you want your results to have multiple words. For example, a search inquiry of jazz+chocolate would return to you only sites that have the words jazz AND chocolate in their page content (probably more sites than you would think).
Use the – sign if you want to exclude words from your search. For example, let’s say you are looking for businesses that include the word “churches” but you aren’t looking for ACTUAL churches. A search inquiry of churches -congregation would return all sites that DO contain the word “churches” but that do NOT contain the word “congregation.”
If you’re interested in learning more tricks to use when googling, here’s a great article I found on this topic that has oodles more information for you. And yes, you guessed it, I found it by googling for “google search tips.”