While it is not necessary to be a semiotics expert, the proper use of symbols (and the right word here and there) will get you closer to your Holy Grail when using Google as an online search engine.
Admit it. You’ve done it. We all have. When you’re alone, or even in a crowded office, you’ve found yourself with that irresistible urge to… Google. And while it isn’t always strictly for “research purposes”, (Where do I get half price Manolo Blahniks? What was the name of that song by that guy I thought was cute in 1996?) it is an effective search tool.
Beginning life as a university research project in 1996, Google, the brainchild of Larry Page and Sergey Brin, has developed and grown to become the world’s largest internet search engine. In a nutshell, Google essentially ranks websites in order of relevance according to search topics and keywords.
But have you been getting the best results possible in your use of Google? Did you know the use of punctuation and other symbols can result in more specific search results? Here are some tidbits to help you get even better results in your online hunting and gathering.
Firstly, and like any good journalist will tell you, you must quote accurately. When doing a Google search, any topic (or string) contained within quotation marks (“”) will return results pertaining only to that string.
If your search results must contain certain words or phrases then you should include the + symbol. For example, + “Hugh Jackman” Oscars 2009, will return all results containing Hugh Jackman but not necessarily the Oscars.
Shut out the negative. Ever had to search for something that is spelt the same as another item but is completely unrelated and thus returns irrelevant results? The best way to counter this is by employing the minus sign (-). Similarly, if you want to search for a filetype, you can exclude those filetypes you don’t want by placing ‘-‘ infront eg -.mp3.
But it’s not all about symbols. A choice word here and there can work wonders, too. If you only want to return results from a specific site, then attaching the word ‘site’ to the web address will search only that website eg site:www.vogue.com will only return pages from the Vogue website.
Similarly, if you want results which are related or linked to a specific site, do as above but simply replace ‘site’ with either ‘related’ or ‘link’. The ‘link’ search is also a great way of seeing what sites have been linked to your website. And when all else fails, talk about the weather. By typing in ‘weather: london’, for example, you will get that city’s weather report.
For these and more tips, head to the Church of Google.
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