Improving Your Google-Fu
February 25, 2005 11:59 AM   Subscribe

This thread has me wondering: What's your favourite Google trick? How do you get past the torrents of lousy links to sites trying to sell you stuff or bombard you with pop-ups to get to the gold?
posted by gompa to Computers & Internet (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I like the Intext: command. It tells Google to search only the body text, not titles, links, etc. of websites.
posted by mlis at 12:07 PM on February 25, 2005

Learn when to use google, and when to use a different database.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:11 PM on February 25, 2005

KJS-Want to provide any useful information about that?
posted by OmieWise at 12:15 PM on February 25, 2005

site: and filetype: do a pretty good job of narrowing down some searches. e.g. site:edu filetype:pdf

and I love the google calculator for measurement conversions:
search for "3.4 inches in centimeters" or "1/2 cup in tablespoons"

Though, if your Google searches consistently bring up terrible popup filled results for the first few hits, you might be infected with Google hijacking adware:
posted by ThePants at 12:24 PM on February 25, 2005

I can't speak for KJS, but I know sometimes the interface at Vivisimo is easier and oftimes I've actually found info that was missing on Google.

Also, I like inurl and "parent directory" and filetype. And, you're using those quotation marks, right? Those make a lot of difference. Also, changing the preferences to 100 results is great for skimming down really quickly--I wish that were the default.
posted by Jim Jones at 12:26 PM on February 25, 2005

Not really much of a trick, but if I'm looking for an answer to a technical question, and the obvious searches are returning too many results, I try to think of words that would specifically be in the answer I'm looking for.

For example recently I was trying to get the program lirc working with MythTV, and couldn't get the direction keys on my remote working. MythTV lirc returned way too many irrelevant sites to be useful, but MythTV lirc Up Down Left Right got me much closer.
posted by Capn at 12:28 PM on February 25, 2005

My favorites are the simplest and they apply to other search engines.
  • Sometimes, the more keywords you know about your subject, the better, but don't get too specific or you'll miss important hits.
  • Try different combinations and likely synonyms; don't just search once and think you've done it.
  • Don't search for mountain bikes (anything with "mountain" and "bikes") if you want "mountain bikes" (the exact phrase).
  • Use the cache to see stuff that doesn't show up on changing pages (such as news pages).
  • After you find a good site, use that site's links (instead of Google) to search for more.
These are really obvious to frequent searchers, but they're the things you have to teach infrequent searchers who you'll otherwise just end up helping in their searches. After they get good at the basics, you can show them how to use all the little twiddly bits.
posted by pracowity at 12:32 PM on February 25, 2005

If you know of a specialized database that meets your particular needs at the time, then it frequently is worthwhile to use that database, even if it means making a trip to a library. For example, I recently had better luck searching a database of medical abstracts for good information on gall bladder surgery and diagnosis than google. Some of the stuff turned up by google was nice on a rather shallow level, but deeper investigation required searching a different set of information.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:33 PM on February 25, 2005

Try to use quotes more often. For me this means imagining a phrase that would appear on the page you're looking for and using that.

Learn to exclude sites that are trying to sell you stuff by doing stuff like -buy.

As others have said, Google isnt the end-all even as a way of indexing the Web. If you're looking for specific advice, reputable info on a product etc, it might be a two-step process where first you find a site you can trust and then you search within that site.

Also, I recently bought a very cool shirt. The designer is "Velvet" Now, try finding the company's website online. I tried and failed. But then I went over to Yahoo directory and it was the first result for "velvet clothing"
posted by vacapinta at 12:46 PM on February 25, 2005

If you use Firefox, the address bar + Enter is the same as "I'm Feeling Lucky."

It saves me a lot of time if I already know the site and the info I want. For example, I type in "gamespot freedom force third reich" (with no quotes) into the address bar, hit Enter, and whammo.

For sites that I use a lot, it's often faster than using a search box, e.g. "allmusic syd barrett" or "harpers' 'quitting the paint' factory" - works best with specific sites and articles, of course.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:24 PM on February 25, 2005

Often you get halfway through typing the first word in your query before you realise it's part of a quoted phrase. No need to add the quote mark at the beginning, just use a punctuation mark instead of a space to separate the words.

It should be noted that recently google has stopped ignoring punctuation entirely in queries, so if the exact phrase with the used punctuation mark and all is common those hits will show up first, but in most cases you can still get away with this.
posted by fvw at 3:33 PM on February 25, 2005

I never knew that about the address bar in firefox...thanks mrgrimm.
posted by rooftop secrets at 4:14 PM on February 25, 2005

Check out these Google Hacks.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 6:02 PM on February 25, 2005

not exactly a google hack, but I swear by dave's quick search bar. it's like a swiss army does everything.
posted by juv3nal at 8:56 PM on February 25, 2005

When looking up government information, I use, instead of plain google. It only show government sites, which comes in handy to avoid news and law websites when I need just the official government word.
posted by icontemplate at 10:41 AM on February 26, 2005

I'd like to mention this post I made last year....
posted by Daddio at 11:11 AM on February 26, 2005

I use ... It only show government sites

Actually, it includes and, which are good quality sites for government information. But the vast majority of the pages are from .gov, .us, and .mil domains (and, despite the name, state and local sites as well as the federal government)
posted by WestCoaster at 2:07 PM on February 26, 2005

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