Get the most out of Google search

It’s simple to Google, but it’s not always easy to get it right.

It’s simple to Google, but it’s not always easy to get it right.

We’ve all been frustrated by typing something into the search bar, only to be bombarded with a bunch of junk: pages of search results, filled with Web links from questionable sources. Results that aren’t what you were looking for.

Google is unquestionably the most popular search engine, with an estimated 900 million unique visitors every month, according to eBizMBA, which compiles website statistics.

Its nearest competitor, Bing, gets an estimated 165 million unique visitors every month by comparison. It would be impossible to give tips for every search engine out there, so here’s how to refine your Google searches:

First, use the advanced search option.

Type in your question to get the preliminary results, then click the options button at the upper right part of the page (it looks like a cog) to select advanced search.

Narrow down your results by adding words, excluding words or specifying an exact word or phrase.

If you’ve performed the search before, you can show updates only within a certain time frame, so you’re not looking at old information.

Once you’ve got your advanced search results, note that additional options appear in the menu on the left side of the screen, so you can modify results with additional conditions, such as sort-by-date versus relevance, or only sites with images.

Or you can use a number of “operators” instead to achieve similar results.

— To search for an exact phrase, put it in quotes. If you’re looking for a list of Dr. Seuss books, typing those words probably will generate results that include not only the books but websites about doctors and medical journals. By typing “Dr. Seuss” books, Google will return results with that exact phrase.

— To exclude a word, write “minus” in front of it. Looking for information on ducks, but not mallards? Typing “ducks minus mallards” into the search parameter gets you closer to your goal.

— For synonymous terms, enter the wavy-line character (to the left of the numeral 1) in front of a word.

— When you know only some of the words in a specific title or phrase, substitute an asterisk for the unknown. This wildcard search is great for finding out the title of song — and how to spell it.

— Identify that random caller in a flash (assuming it’s a landline) by typing the phone number into your search field. Or type in the area code and find out the city in which the call originated.

Additional tools can help. Run a mathematical equation in the Quick Calculator’s search bar, using the addition, subtraction, multiplication and division symbols.

Trying a new recipe? With Google’s Unit Converter, type in “2 cups equal how many ounces?” It will perform even that basic calculation (16). Or have it convert pounds into kilos, or Celsius into Fahrenheit, or convert length, volume and speed.

For “Dictionary,” type in “define” plus the word in question. Interested in entertainment? To find out what movies are playing in a specific area or ZIP code, use the “movie” operator followed by a title; it will show all theater listings in the area.

Check out the menu on the left of your search results for specific Google search filters that can help you narrow results to News, Shopping, Recipes, Flights and more, each with tailored search filters to narrow your results. And happy hunting!

Andrea Eldridge is CEO of Nerds on Call, which offers on-site computer and home theater set-up and repair. Based in Redding, Calif., it has locations in five states. Contact Eldridge at www.callnerds.com/andrea

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