How to Become A Google Guru

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Since it was created on September 4, 1998, Google  has become our go-to reference library.  We use it for everything from finding a new internist to finding a new restaurant to finding people we’ve lost touch with.  But very few of us look very hard for that information…we give up after one or two tries, assuming the information isn’t findable.   Few of us are aware of all the search features Google offers.  There are many techniques for squirreling out information from Google.   But to use them you have to know what they are!   Here is a primer on Googling tips and tricks:

  • Specify what you’re looking for. For example, if you’re looking for photos of a particular person or object, don’t just google their name, include the word “images” as well.    For instance, if you’re looking for a picture of George Clooney, put George Clooney images in the search bar.   You can even specify the size of the photo you need at this site  You can also use parameters like “videos,” “books,” or any other filter.

The number of search techniques to use on Google are almost endless.

  • Use quotes to find exactly what you want. Without quotes, Google will search for all the words in any order.  For instance, if you’re searching for plus size sweaters Google might turn up plus size clothing and sweaters in all sizes.   But if you narrow it down by using the quotes to specify  “plus size sweaters” you’ll get exactly what you’re looking for.
  • Consider the source of information you want. A lot of us use Google to find medical information.   You will get more legitimate info if you exclude .com from your searches, since those are commercial sites.  Instead use .org or .edu or .gov at the end of your search string.  For instance, say you want information on dental implants.  Just searching dental implants will turn up hundreds of dentists promoting their services.  But if you search dental implants + .org or .gov you will get legitimate research sites.   Here is a .gov site that tells you how to evaluate medical info.
  • Use advanced or Boolean search. Google has a feature that gives you a bunch of filters to narrow down what you’re looking for, including images, videos, books and other parameters.  It will also allow you to do a “Boolean search”  which allows you to combine keywords with modifiers such as AND, NOT and OR to produce better results.  You can also do an advanced search. With terms such as   “All these words,” “This exact word or phrase,” “Any of these words,” “None of these words” or even “Numbers ranging from…”
  • Use plus and minus signs. Like a Boolean search, you can use symbols instead of words. Let’s say you’re looking for a Greyhound bus but keep getting information or photos of greyhound dogs.    Search for greyhound – dogs.   Or greyhound + bus.   You can also type greyhound not dog.
  • Phrase your search specifically. This can be very tricky because you have to think about what are the most likely ways your information would be phrased.   Google uses SEO, or search engine optimization, to search phrases that most people are likely to search.   Let’s say you are looking for a writer to help you rewrite your book.   It would be helpful to know the term “developmental editor” or “book doctor” to find the best selection of sites.  If you put in something general like “writer” you’ll get too many sites that have nothing to do with what you want.
  • Search for information in a specific format. If you’re looking for a document, type filetype at the beginning of your search.  Let’s say you’re looking for a spreadsheet, PDF, or another document.  If you want PDFs, write filetype:pdf in the search, along with your keyword.   Need an Excel spreadsheet? Just type filetype:xlsx along with your keyword into the search engine.
  • Look past the first page. All kinds of valuable info can be buried on page 2 or 3.   People pay for placement at the top of Google results.  If you look further, you’ll find sites that didn’t pay to come out on top but may be more helpful.

Whatever it is you’re searching for don’t give up.  The number of search technique to use on Google are almost endless.   The more variables you try the more likely you’ll find what you’re looking for   Check out this site which has many more tips and tricks for using Google….and happy hunting!!

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Erica Manfred’s articles and humorous essays have appeared in print and online publications including the Washington Post, Atlantic, Salon, Village Voice, and the New York Times.   A self proclaimed Geezer Geek, now in her seventies, she specializes in writing about aging.  She’s the author of four books, including her memoir,  I’m Old So Why Aren’t I Wise; Snarky Senior in the Sunshine State.   You can subscribe to her newsletter at or visit her website at

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