All of us are familiar with the search functionality in Google and I am sure in today’s day and age nobody needs instructions on how to perform a standard search to find what they are looking for on the internet.  However, Google allows for much more sophisticated and powerful searching than the basic keyword searches we all use in our normal day-to-day and I am unsure of how many of us are actually aware of this. I have therefore gone through Google’s search help pages at http://www.google.com/support/websearch/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=134479 and http://www.google.com/support/websearch/bin/answer.py?answer=136861 to compile this short reference guide to refine your search results by using a more specific query:

  • Phrase search(“”):  When you place double quotes around a series of words it instructs Google to only return results for which the exact words in that exact order exists on any given webpage. For instance, a search on [web development] returns approximately 171,000,000 results, while the same search on [“web development”] returns approximately 30,100,000 results.
  • Search within a specific website (site:):  You can specify that your search results for your chosen key phrase must come from a specified website e.g. a search for [web development:revium.com.au] will return only results about web development found on revium.com.au.
  • Exclude unwanted terms (-):  You can exclude certain words from the search results by placing a space and a minus sign immediately before the word you wish to exclude. For example, [web development -melbourne] will not return Revium in the search result listing where a search for [web development Melbourne] will return Revium (a Melbourne based web development company) within the first 4 listed results. You can exclude multiple words in this way e.g. [web development -sydney -adelaide -brisbane].
  • Wildcard search to fill in the blanks (*): You can include a * within a query which will instruct Google to treat the * as a placeholder for any unknown term. Google will then try to find the best match, for example: I want to see all pages where the marketing coordinator for Revium has been quoted online, but I am unsure of his name; searching on [* marketing coordinator for * Revium] returns a list of all the pages containing interviews with David McLaughlin.
  • Search exactly as is (+):  This works in the same way as putting double quotes around a single word i.e. placing a space immediately before a word will instruct Google to match the word precisely as you typed it. For example [+web +development] will return only results which match these two words exactly.
  • The OR operator(‘|’ or ‘OR’):   By default Google uses the AND operator for all words in your key phrase. You can instruct Google to return results for either one of several words, for example: [Revium 1997 OR 2009] returns results about either 2009 or 2010, and is different from a search on [Revium 1997 2009] which will return pages which include both these years on the same page.

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