Exact phrases – “the power of quotation marks” in Google
It may be a longstanding feature of search engines and Google in particular, but we know for a fact that not everyone knows it exists. However, quotation marks can be your best friend.
Using quotation marks can help you get more specific results – and bring you closer to what you want, quicker. These can be used in two ways:
1) By putting an entire phrase in quotation marks, the results returned will only feature that specific phrase – those words, in that order.
For example, search “Are they secret? Are they safe? – Why you should be using a password manager”, and you’ll find our own recent story on password managers.
2) If you’re using multiple search words but one is particularly important to you, by putting that word in quotation marks, you’ll ensure that search results feature that choice word. This will eliminate results that are irrelevant for your purposes.
For example, search Microtrading “IT support”, and Google will prioritise results pertaining to us, without including other understandings of the phrase ‘Microtrading’ or ‘micro trading’.
As an extension to that, you can also remove unwanted search results that would otherwise come up – read on…
No, not that! – excluding terms
If your Google search keeps returning results that relate to another topic that uses the same phraseology, with an exclude search you can take those out. It works as follows:
A search for bass -fish will find bass guitars and music-related results, but it will exclude those results for Bass, the species of fish.
Yes that, but also this and this – synonym searches in Google
Isn’t it frustrating when you know what you want, but don’t know the right name for it? Or perhaps you want related results in addition to the specific phrases you search?
A synonym search allows you to use similar words or a slightly less specific phrase in order to find related results that get you closer to what you want.
To do a synonym search is similar to an excluded term search. You need to put a ~ (tilde symbol) next to the word for which you’d like to include its synonyms/closely related phrases. As a simple example, searching art ~school will give you search results for art schools, colleges, universities, etc.
Can’t find the word(s)? Try the almighty asterisk
When you know everything but that key word, let Google find it for you. With an asterisk, you can give Google the task of finding the word, or words, you’re after – this is often referred to as a ‘wildcard’ search. It’s done like this:
Searching part of a popular phrase with an asterisk – the grass is always greener * – Google will find you the rest of that phrase, ‘the grass is always greener on the other side’.
This also helps if you want to find out more about a subject but don’t know what to look for. Google will effectively make suggestions relating to your search words by filling in the blanks with different words.
Oh, and it works for parts of a word too! If you know parts of a word, try filling the gaps with an asterisk and Google may be able to help find the word you’re after! For example:
Can’t remember that place in Wales with Britain’s longest place name? Search Llanfair*gogogoch and Google will tell you it’s Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.
Although, admittedly, Google will also tell you that if you just put Britain’s longest place name, but you get the point… happy Googling!