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Google Search Tips and Tricks

We all know how to use Google’s basic search functions, but the search engine is far more powerful than most people think, meaning most of us aren’t using it to its’ full potential.

So to give you an idea of the range of search parameters available for you to utilise, here’s a list of some of the most common and lesser known Google search tricks:

1. Restricting Google searches
When you search for a term, Google searches either the entire web or pages from the UK, depending on your selection. However, you can use Google to search for terms in or information on a specific website, using restrictive search parameters.

site:pixelinternet.co.uk
This will restrict Google to searching a specific URL, meaning a search for [hosting site:pixelinternet.co.uk] will return only results mentioning hosting on the Pixel Internet website.
If you want to restrict the search even further to looking for terms only in page titles on a specific website, you can use intitle:hosting site:pixelinternet.co.uk

You can also find relevant information on a website using restrictive searches:

link:pixelinternet.co.uk
This will return a random selection of sites that link to the specified URL. Whilst this is by no means perfect or as useful for SEO purposes as a dedicated link-checker, it does give you an idea of the kind of sites linking to any given domain.

cache:pixelinternet.co.uk
This will return all the pages of a specified website cached by Google. This is useful if you workplace blocks a particular website that you need to see, as viewing Google’s cached pages will bypass this block on the originating site.

2. Finding files and media
You can use a combination of restrictive searches to find numerous different types of file media. For example, if you want to search for a PowerPoint presentation on fuel prices, you could use the following search:

fuel prices filetype:ppt

The first part of the search can be changed depending on the keyphrase you’re search for, with the ‘filetype:’ parameter restricting Google to finding specific types of file. You can search for pdf, doc, ppt, rtf, ans, swf, wks, xls and numerous others.

By combining several restrictive parameters, you can also find specific types of media. For example, if you wanted to search for music by The Beatles, you could use the following search:

-inurl:(htm|html|php) intitle:”index of” +”last modified” +”parent directory” +description +size  +(wma|mp3) “The Beatles”

Obviously “The Beatles” can be substituted for whatever you’re looking for, and the +(wma|mp3) parameter can be altered to allow you to find videos or any other media format.

3. Adding to the search URL
When you search for something, the results page has a unique URL. For example, a search for Pixel Internet lands on the following page:

http://www.google.co.uk/search?q=pixel+internet&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-GB:official&client=firefox-a

You can then add to this URL to return slightly different results. For example, you can make Google return 100 results per page instead of ten, which is particularly useful if you want to look through several pages of results. To do this, you would add

&num=100

to the end of the URL, before pressing return. You can also depersonalise the returned results by adding the following tag:

&pws=0

These can also be used in combination, which is particularly useful when checking results for SEO purposes. To do this, you would add the following to the end of the URL:

&num=100&pws=0

You can employ similar approaches with Google image searches. A good example of this is when you’re looking for pictures of a person rather than an object. Say you were searching for ‘dawn’ and you wanted only pictures of people and no pictures of sunsets, etc. you could add this to the end of the search URL:

&imgtype=face

4. Conversions, metrics, etc
Google can also be used as an extremely powerful calculator for mathematics, conversions, etc.
You can perform simple mathematical calculations, simply by inputting the sum. For example:

24+17×9+20

You can also ask conversions questions, such as:

millimetres in a metre

Or currency conversions, for example:

£150 in $

This can be extended to any metric or calculation, making it a very powerful and useful tool. You can also search using addresses (provides Google Maps results) or by phone number.

5. Other uses
There are numerous other little uses for Google’s search bar; you can find out the time anywhere in the world:

time London

You can use the – key to limit searches; for example if you wanted to search for Manchester City but exclude all stories about Roberto Mancini, you could use:

“Manchester City” -mancini

You can also search in specific time periods. For example, if you want to find stories about Oscards awarded in the 1980’s, you could use:

Oscars 1980..1990

Hopefully that gives you a few new tricks to play with, if you’ve got any good ones we’ve missed out, let us know in the comments section!


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