Top Tips for Searching with Google

Chances are you use Google to search for information multiple times a day. Yet, most internet users do not really know how Google works. Google relies on a complicated algorithm they call PageRank. While PageRank takes into account many factors like the web address, words on the page, and age of the site, its biggest component has to do with backlinks. 

Backlinks are incoming hyperlinks from other sites. Google figures that webpages that are linked to by other sites must be good, so the more backlinks, the higher PageRank score a site receives. The higher the PageRank, the higher on the search results a webpage will appear. Backlinks are so important to how Google sorts search results that before taking its current name, Google was known as BackRub (true story!).

Since Google’s system of ranking might not immediately produce what you are looking for, it’s important to know how to refine your search. I think the best way for students to learn this is to have it modeled for them and practice doing it. In addition to displaying links to websites, Google often serves up information itself at the top of your search results. Let’s take a look at how to get better search results and about the information Google serves up.

Links from Tony's presentation:


Consider the Source
Just because Google includes a webpage in its results does not mean it’s a credible source of information. Consider where the information is coming from. If seems suspicious, confirm or find the information elsewhere. Remember, anyone can put anything on the web.


Make a Change
Start simple and add key words to refine your search. Try to think of words that would appear on the web page you’re searching for.


Don’t Worry
Google ignores capitalization and punctuation, so don’t worry about it when you search. Also don’t fret about spelling. Google will spell check and correct misspellings in your search terms.


Quote Me
Narrow a search by telling Google a specific phrase to find by putting the phrase inside of quotation marks.


Subtract Keywords
Use a minus sign in front of a word you’d like to eliminate from search results. For example, your search might look like: 2nd grade math centers -teacherspayteachers.


Either Or
Putting OR in between keywords will find webpages that might use one of several words. This might look like: 2nd grade math centers OR stations


Add an asterisk as a placeholder for any unknown or wildcard terms. This can be useful when you’re unsure of a word or its spelling. It’s also a way you can investigate possible plagiarism. In addition to using an *, there are other search operators.


Recent Results
On a search results page, click Search Tools and click Any Time. Change the filter to display more recent results, like in the past month. This is handy for searching pages that have been updated recently. 


Google suggests how to complete your search, based on what others have searched for. For fun, play Google Feud to guess how a phrase is finished. There is no easy way to turn off autocomplete (also known as Google Instant). Though, you can use use this link to search Google and autocomplete suggestions will not appear.


Keep Tabs
Instead of having to click the back button after following a Google search, hold down Control (Windows) or Command (Mac) and click a link. That page will open in its own tab. You can easily close a tab by holding down Control or Command and W. Your original search page is still open, so you can explore more links.


Search by File Type

Just looking for a PDF or PowerPoint? Narrow your search to a certain file type by adding filetype:pdf or filetype:ppt. For example: whale hunting filetype:ppt.


Google This
Google presents certain information at the top of results pages. These include:

  • Definitions - define captcha
  • Calculator - 12*144
  • Time - time Poland
  • Weather - weather New York, NY
  • Timer - timer for 5 minutes
  • Comparison - potato vs rice
  • Dates - Labor Day 2016
  • Convert - 32 ounces to cups
  • Write a Number - 32,124,888=english

Tip Tuesdays
I share a technology tip every Tuesday morning on Twitter and Facebook. Follow me on Twitter or like the Learning in Hand page on Facebook. Click here to see the archive of over 80 tips. Many of them are Google tips.