How to Maximize a Google Search

by Ashley Gallman

A Google search seems like the simplest task in the world. Type in your query, hit search. Easy, right? Believe it or not, there are ways to make it even easier. Instead of wading through endless pages of search engine hits, learn these helpful shortcuts to honing any Internet hunt.

Know the notation. One of the most important factors in a Google search is the way you type your request. For example, if you simply type the name Joe Smith, you'll get hits about everyone ever named Joe or Smith or was a blacksmith or listened to Cotton Eye Joe ... you get the picture. If you place quotations around your search words, Google will know you are only hunting for the exact phrase "Joe Smith" and nothing in between. A dash before a word indicates that Google should avoid that word. If you're getting a lot of hits for a bar Joe Smith and you want a person, use this technique to make all of those unwanted results disappear: "Joe Smith"-bar.

Help Google help you. If the above notation still seems a little too complicated, Google will actually insert these features for you. Click on "Advanced Search" next to the search button and fill out the appropriate fields according to your wishes. The helpful prompts say things like "Find pages that have all these words." The advanced search also allows you to filter your results by language, file type and website. You can even control how many results appear per Google page.

Think outside the search engine box. Once you have mastered the basics, you can get even more creative in the way you narrow your search. Using a combination of advanced search features often yields the best results. For example, if you want to find a dance club in New York, type "dance club" "New York." This will give you every result with both of the exact phrases you want. To take things to a trickier level, if you are trying to find the Bob Smith who is married to Susan Jones, but not the Bob Smith who went to Harvard, simply type: "Bob Smith" "Susan Jones" -Harvard. You will suddenly have 1 or 2 pages of the exact information you were hunting for.

Give a little hint. All notation aside, the exact wording of a search is also very important. Try to use the most exact language possible. If you are looking for a salsa club in your town, be sure to use the very specific word "salsa," not simply "dance" or "club." If you want to go to a museum exhibit, type "museum" rather than "art" to weed out hits about galleries, fine arts schools, and other terms with "art" in them.

Get Google personal. Google has a relatively new feature called iGoogle that allows you to customize the Google features to fit your needs. One of the most useful options this program boasts is customized Google news. Simply add a Google news box to your homepage, enter your request using the above tips, and Google will instantly update your page with any fresh information or news on that topic. This way, you no longer have to repeatedly search for the same topic daily, but let Google do it for you.

About the Author

Ashley Gallman works as the assistant director of a New York art gallery specializing in American paintings. She began her career as a writer and continues to incorporate writing into her life. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Sewanee: The University of the South, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and art history.