If you Google [google search tips], you’re bound to find plenty of articles that explain several ways you can improve your search techniques.
They may even entice you with the promise of turning you into a Google power searcher.
The problem with most of these articles is that most of the tips they offer are copied straight from Google’s Inside Search blog or any number of Google for Dummies-type books.
Now I’m not saying that those articles don’t serve a purpose.
But there’s a definite need in the Google how-to genre for more creative search tips, especially ones developed from everyday internet usage.
Here’s a list of 5 search tips I have stumbled upon over the years and found to be very useful.
1. Find list articles
Pick up any book about “problogging” (blogging to make money), and if it’s any good it’ll spend a few pages or even an entire chapter identifying several kinds of tried-and-true blog articles. One that never fails to be mentioned is the “list article” (like this one.)
Lists are some of the best kinds of blog articles that can be written because they are perfectly formatted for online readers who tend to be impatient and easily bored.
They let readers quickly scan the article, which helps them decide if they’re interested enough to read it in full or at least get the main points before moving on to something else.
The abundance of list articles on the web is a boon for searchers. Let’s say you’ve developed an interest in blogging and want to find a blogging platform to use. Or let’s say you’re new to Twitter and you want to find some people to follow. Maybe you’re visiting a new city and you want to find a good Mexican restaurant.
An uninspired Google search might involve querying [blogging platforms], [Twitter accounts to follow], or [Mexican restaurants Los Angeles]. You’re sure to get results, but probably too many and too generic.
You’ll be better off if you realize that someone else at some time not only probably has written about your topic but also has ranked it. So you could enter instead [5 best whatever], or [10 best whatever], or [top 5 whatever], or [top 10 whatever], and the odds are very good that you’ll get a few list articles entitled something like “5 Best….” or “Top 10….”
These articles most likely will not only give you the information you seek but also the best of whatever it is you’re looking for, along with succinct evaluations.
You could also use one of those basic Google search operators alluded to earlier to broaden your search and reduce your number of searches. Try searching for [5 OR 10 best OR top whatever] or [5 OR 10 best OR top whatever] (OR in caps returns results containing the keywords directly to its left or right.)
2. Find more list articles
Here’s the thing about list articles. While they’re typically 5 or 10 items long, some writers feel the need to be a little different and list 6, 7, 8, or 9 of the best or top things.
Or maybe they’re incapable of whittling down their lists and write instead about 20, 30, 50, or 100 of the best or top things.
In either case, you can find even more list articles by using another basic Google search operator, the number range operator, in combination with the list article search strategy.
The number range operator is just two periods with numbers on each side to represent a range, as in [5.10 best OR top whatever] or [50.100 best OR top whatever].
3. Use similarity search features
For more internet surfing-type searches, as in discovering new and interesting websites rather than specific answers, there are a couple of search features that Google has created to make internet surfing more effective.
Most internet surfers already know about the related operator. Type [related:nameofwebsite.com], and Google will return a list of similar webpages, usually the homepages of websites. This tip is straight from Inside Search or a Google how-to book.
Many internet surfers, however, used to overlook the “Similar” link in Google’s site preview feature. Site preview was a cached screenshot of a search result that was revealed by rolling a cursor over a search result then to the right over the double arrowhead that appeared. When the screenshot appeared, the “Similar” link would be in the upper right.
Just recently, however, Google changed its site preview feature. Now internet surfers see a solid, upside-down, triangle tab that when clicked typically reveals three text links, namely “cached,” “similar,” and “share” (sometimes there are less than three.) Clicking “similar” will produce a list of similar sites.
So rather than repeatedly typing the related operator, an internet surfer can use the browser back button to work from a main list of search results to check out a wide range of similar websites. Or he or she can surf from similar site to similar site, as if riding out the digital chop for as long as possible.
4. Use comparative keywords
Google and most Google evangelists generally recommend avoiding extraneous words (like “what is,” “where is,” “and,” “the,” and so forth.) Most of the time these extraneous words get ignored anyways, but sometimes they can be helpful, especially when they are comparative keywords.
Comparative keywords like “reminds me of,” “similar to,” and “sounds like” might seem extraneous, but they often return some revealing results. Most of the search results are going to be review articles that have the phrases in the body of the text and forum threads that have the phrases in the title and in the form of a question.
But the kinds of webpages that constitute your search results don’t really matter as long as your inquiry is resolved, right? Another set of comparative keywords that tends to return informative results are “difference between” and “vs.”
5. Use symbolic keywords
Symbolic keywords have meanings beyond their literal senses. By using them in a Google search, you’ll find webpages that literally contain them, but in reality you’ll be searching for something else.
Suppose you want to find an online training program to help prepare you for the many work-at-home online jobs you’ve been hearing so much about. Besides outright scams, there are probably several online programs that are so low-quality that they’ll prove to be a waste of time and money.
What you should try is using the symbolic keywords “as featured in” or “as seen in” in your search along with the specific keywords describing your field of interest.
For example, if you’re interested in virtual assistant jobs, your [how to become virtual assistant "as featured in" OR "as seen in"] search will uncover a virtual assistant training program called AssistU. This program has been featured in Time, Entrepreneur, Inc., The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and the Today Show.
Stories in these established and respected media outlets will reassure you, if not confirm, that the program is reputable and not some unworthy, fly-by-night operation. In other words, these particular symbolic keywords are great for avoiding scams and verifying reputations.
There are any number of other symbolic keywords that internet users have developed from experience.
How about sharing them or even other unconventional search tips in the comments below?