Google Search Education
If you have used Google a lot, you might be seasoned enough to know how to get the best search results but even if you are using Google for a very long time you might be using the wrong approach in your searches.
I have participated in the first Power Searching class with Google Search Education. It is the first of its kind combining online classes with Google+ hang out activities and forums to have interactive search education. If you happen to participate on early registration last month, you probably got a certificate. However, even without a certificate this is worth your time.
I have taken down notes and summarized the entire curriculum. Now, read on.
Learn the Basics of Google Search
Class 1 talks about how filtering image searches by color, how Google search works and the art of keyword choices.
Searching images is an easy task but if there are many options available it gets a little challenging. Color gives you filtering options that you may not find in the text associated with the image. It gives you information only available to the eye. For example, if you are searching for old photographs, you may want to use black and white so that only old photos will appear.
The art of keyword choices can be learned and you just need is:
- think what you are trying to find,
- choose words that you think will appear on the page and…
- put yourself in the mindset of the author of those words.
Bad: What was the old city in san francisco bay called?
Better: old city san francisco bay
Best: ghost town san francisco bay
The best option is to use an alternative term for old city, which is “ghost town”, giving you a precise target on old towns and cities. Also note that you have to get rid of unimportant words that doesn’t help with the search at all.
Word Order Matters
Every word matters in your query and even the word order matters for common phrases. For example, try searching for sky blue and blue sky. You’ll get very different results.
What does not matter in Google searches
- Most special characters: § ¶ ¥ £ € © ® ≅ ≠ √
- With a few exceptions like C++. C#. #hashtag, Google+, $100
Control-F / Command-F
Find functionality is in your browser and it helps speed up in finding what you want to search from a particular web page. This is kind of surprising but according to Google, only 10% of all searches knew about using CTRL+F or Command+F.
That’s the end of class 1. Now for class 2, the main subject is interpreting results.
Using search result suggestion
There are several ways in which Google search results can help you suggest what you are trying to find.
Panels on the right hand side
The results here are often taken from from Wikipedia.
With the addition of Google Knowledge Graph, the right panel helps you provide answer. Google is now able to identify entities and it knows the nodes and relationships of different information. It is very useful for a very popular entity. Google compiles information about persons, animals, books, movies, etc
It a great way to sense the kind of things other people have been looking for. Sometimes the suggestions in autocomplete can help you get unstuck as you search, or get new ideas about how to approach finding something you want.
It works in tandem with autocomplete search. Search-as-you-type gives you search results without you needing to figure out a whole query.
For me, this is very useful in searching because it can give you a different approach in finding what you are trying to find.
Thinking more deeply about your search
Another method to build more targeted queries is to learn new, more precise terms to describe what you seek. Often, these terms show up somewhere in your search results, and if you are attuned to noticing them, you can use them to help you find information faster.
For example if you are looking for [immigrate send money home]
You may notice the word remittance.
You can use dictionary in Google using the syntax below:
Understanding Different Media
When you do search in Google, you are not only confined with the classic text search. You can explore different modes in Google searches: images, videos, shopping, etc.
Sometimes the best answers is in images so when suggestions comes up for that, go check it out. If you are looking for how-to instructions a video instruction might be the best reference you are looking for instead of images. If you are looking for the price of a gadget, look for shopping. If you are looking for scholarly materials for research papers and thesis, use Google Scholar.
Sometimes, using other Google products such as Google Maps can help you plan your travel by utilizing street view.
All these are available at the left panel.
Reading Search Engine Results Pages (SERP)
Using Page Preview
Apart from skimming the results, you can use this to check what can be found inside the webpage from search engine result pages. Instead of visiting each links you can hover the guillemets or the sideway chevron when you hover at the search result block.
Understanding Individual Search Result
I’ve mentioned result block awhile ago. So do you know the parts of a search block?
Here it is:
Page title is in blue, web address is green and snippet in black.
Take note that the snippet is generated by Google algorithm and it could contain different part of the page content. You have to watch out for the ellipsis because it means that other text before or after it are truncated.
If you are searching a relatively large website, a box right below in the SERP will appear. In essence it gives you the option to search right within the site. It is similar to using the site: operator to restrict results to a domain, website or directory.
Using the entire results page
Sometimes you are presented with contradicting information so you must understand what you are looking for first before jumping to a conclusion. Like if you are searching for different types of cats. There are several organizations that categorizes cats so the exact number of breeds would vary for each organization. If you do not try to understand this first, you will be confused why there are different count for cat breeds on your search results.
Different kinds of content
Previously, we looked at different media available through Google such as images, videos, news, etc. There are more such as blogs, discussions, recipes, patents, books, 3D models, and legal documents.
Take note that the left panel does not appear on tablet computers (iPads and Android devices).
That concludes class 2. Class 3 covers advance techniques using operators.
Advanced Techniques using operators
Here are the different operators that you can use in Google
The site: operator restricts the searches on a particular website or web page.
filetype: pdf, doc, docx, ppt, pptx, txt, csv, dat, kml
If you are interested on a specific filetype, you can use the filetype operator to get only filetypes you are interested.
minus operator removes search results we are not interested in.
[ salsa ]
To remove “salsa as dancing” we use:
[ salsa –dancing ]
To remove the vegetable too:
[ salsa –dancing –tomatoes ]
OR and quotes
Use quotes to do phrase search and use OR if you want to combine ideas together, like if you are searching with synonymous words.
Take note: you must use OR in all capital letters. Otherwise it will not work.
1. OR is all capital letters
Effective: [uk OR england]
Ineffective: [uk Or england]
Ineffective: [uk or england]
2. OR acts on the words touching it
Effective: [“tesla coil” OR “jacobs ladder”]
Ineffective: [tesla coil OR jacobs ladder]
Generally, OR only applies to the words directly on either side of it, so search engines read [tesla coil OR jacobs ladder] with the OR only applying to coil and jacobs.
Google interprets this query to mean that you want all the pages to have the words tesla and ladder, since they are not next to an OR. Only putting the two names in quotes, you make the OR apply to tesla coil and jacobs ladder as set phrases.
It allows you to find pages that have a specific word in the body of the text somewhere–it forces inclusion on the page.
When you search for multiple terms on it, some terms my drop out because they are not frequent enough. If you want to force the inclusion of that word on the page, you use intext.
[coral bleaching site:stanford.edu intext:geophysics]
If you need more advance search options, you can always use the advance search (gear menu) found at upper right side.
That’s the summary of classes 1 to 3 of Power Search course by Google Search Education. I will cover classes 4 to 6 on my next post.
Read part 2 here: Google Search Education Makes You a Better Googler (Part 2)