Google Search Education Makes You a Better Googler (Part 2)

This is a continuation of Google Search Education Makes You a Better Googler (Part 1).

Below is my summary of classes 4 to 6 of Power Search class by Google Search Education.

Find facts faster

Class 4 focuses on other tools that makes searching faster and easier.

Search by Image

Google Image search by image feature processes the image and looks for the best possible match for other pictures. It is great for  finding the description of image, what it is and where it came from.

A great tip from Daniel Russel: If you found something you don\’t know, just take a picture of it in white background, then use search by image to search the web. It\’s like taking Google search in the real world.

Search Features

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Basically these are search string shortcuts that you can use in order to find what you really need really fast.

movies + [location]

capital of + [location]

weather in + [location]

weather + [zip code]

flight code

time + [location]

common disease/medical condition/medical term

There are more and the complete list is located here: Google Search features

Conversion and Calculator

I have used this for a very long time already. You can use this to convert about any US units to metric units. Just use the search format:

[number units in units]

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population of [place]

You can do basic addition, subtraction, multiplication and division using Google. There are also easter eggs like this one:

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If you trigger this specific Google search features, Google will show up a new area for converter or calculator as seen above.

Left hand panel and Date range limiting

You can use date range limiting to limit the recency of Google search results. In news, this is very important so you only get the freshest ones.

For books and other reference materials, you can use this to search for very old archives. Want to find which books are published during 1980\’s? Just go to Google Books and filter them.

Translation and search

Most people would be familiar with Google Search but beyond that, most people don\’t know that you can use Google to search for translated foreign websites.

That is the end of class 4. Class 5 focuses on checking facts when doing your search.

Checking Your Facts

Credibility

Some pointers:

  • Highest ranked webpage does not mean the source is credible.
  • Different terms make different implications, so choose the query terms appropriately.
  • Do a variety of search, not just one. Always do one more search.
  • Look at the URL – sometimes it signals where the perspective of the page.

Using time range filter you can check whether this quote is really from Martin Luther King.

\”I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy.\”
—attributed to Martin Luther King, Jr.

If you look at the search results over time you can get a hint how it got published after 1999 but not before it. Of course something is fishy here.

Variant Data

One challenge about doing web searches is the vast amount of data available out there that a simple fact could have one or more subtlety involved in it.

You have to ask question like: does this fact vary based on some contextual information?

You need to find the source. Where it came from? How was it measured?

Use the precise information you have to verify source; Use a generic description to confirm fact.

Don\’t add your answer into your query  to avoid confirmation bias (believing a pre-conceived notion).

Using Books to verify a quote

Quotes are typically hard to find where they came from but books offer authoritative information for this type of information.

WHOIS

If you need to more information about the domain name of a page, there are WHOIS database that can give you information on who owns it.

How do you know if an entity is a business? Use the entity name and the term [contact]. It should give you information how to locate it and how to get in touch with it. That\’s why if you are a business you should always have a \”contact us\” page

Misconceptions

  1. You cannot buy a better ranking
  2. A Google service logo on a site does not mean Google has vetted it
  3. Google ads on a page does not mean Google has vetted it
  4. Rank is not equal to authoritative

That\’s the end of class 5 and now for the last class.

Putting it all Together

Combining methods

Doing good search is an iterative process. Starting from simple search to a complex search with filters

Think broadly

Using other tools in combination, streetview, maps, translation, etc.

All the tools are available online and the best training to practice all these are the activity that comes with the online classes. The reason I summarized this class is for me to look for the lessons quickly when I forget something. Of course, the best learning materials are still found in Power Searching with Google website.

There are two extra two hang out videos with the search experts. You can get valuable lessons from these, too.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZhhiXxiAVtM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dwlpViuIYgU

Just in case you are interested on how the certificate looks like, see below.

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Hint: the font used is Helvetica.

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Google Search Education Makes You a Better Googler (Part 1)

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:

  1. think what you are trying to find,
  2. choose words that you think will appear on the page and…
  3. put yourself in the mindset of the author of those words.
The words you use will influence the kinds of results  you will get from search. This is might be common sense  but some people don\’t alter the search term a little bit to get what they are looking for.
In the example given by Google, notice how you can get the best search results by changing a simple phrase.

Bad: What was the old city in san francisco bay called?

Better:  old city san francisco bay

Best: ghost town san francisco bay

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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.

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What does not matter in Google searches

  • Capitalization
  • 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

Autocomplete

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.

Search-as-you-type

It works in tandem  with autocomplete search. Search-as-you-type gives you search results without you needing to figure out a whole query.

Related searches

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.

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You can use dictionary in Google using the syntax below:

define [word]

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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.

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Understanding Individual Search Result

I\’ve mentioned result block awhile ago. So do you know the parts of a search block?

Here it is:

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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

site:

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.

Original query:
[ 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.

intext

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.

Example:

[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.

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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)

 

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