Wednesday, 6 March 2013

The joys of intext and other Google search tips

Every now and then I revisit my growing pool of half-written blog posts and see if any are worth salvaging. One such post is some useful Google search tips from John Todesco.

His post from last summer, How to solve impossible problems: Daniel Russell’s awesome Google search techniques, was sent to me by a colleague at work. There are lots of useful tips in the article but a few in particular stood out for me, including a couple of things I knew but a couple more that I had wondered about but never got round to looking up for myself (modified from John Todesco's post):

Use quotes to search for phrases.

  • Typing “San Antonio Spurs” will show you the websites with the phrase “San Antonio Spurs.” If you don’t use the quotes, Google will search for the terms “San,” “Antonio,” and “Spurs” individually and you might miss pages related to the basketball team.

Use OR but not AND.

  • Don’t bother typing AND in your search queries – Google treats it like any other word.
  • OR in all caps actually works. OR is great for finding synonyms and boilerplate language. Typing “Smith denied” OR “Smith claimed” OR “Smith argued” will find more pertinent websites about the controversy involving Smith.

Use minus, not NOT.

  • Avoid using NOT if you want to exclude a search term. Instead, type a minus sign in front of the word. So if you’re visiting San Antonio but don’t want to visit the Alamo, type: “San Antonio” -Alamo.That will search for the phrase “San Antonio” on web pages that don’t have the word “Alamo.” There’s no space between Alamo and the hyphen.

Minus does not equal plus.

  • Although putting a minus sign in front of a word removes it from a search, adding a plus sign in front of the word does not force Google to include it. It simply stops Google from changing the word into a synonym or correcting the spelling, like putting it in quotes. Typing +Alamo is the same as typing “Alamo”. If you want to force Google to include an exact word or phrase in all your search results, use intext:...

Force Google to include search terms.

  • Typing intext:[keyword] might be Google’s least-known search operations, but it’s one of Russell’s favorites. It forces the search term to be in the body of the website. So if you type: intext:”San Antonio” intext:Alamo it forces Google to show results with the phrase “San Antonio” and the word Alamo. You won’t get results that are missing either search term. This also stops Google using an alternative word that it thinks you're searching for.

Find relational search terms.

  • What if you’re curious about search terms that are near each other on a website? [keyword] AROUND(n) [keyword] is incredibly handy for finding related terms such as “Jerry Brown” near “Tea Party.” (“n” is the number of words near the search terms.) Typing “Jerry Brown” AROUND(3) “Tea Party” will show you all the websites where the phrase “Jerry Brown” was mentioned within three words of “Tea Party.”
I've not yet used AROUND successfully but intext: and -unwanted has already helped me out a couple of times.

h/t: Alistair Bailey

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