How to improve Google searches

Comment on this story
iol scitech nov 1 google maps AP Social-media sites Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn will also post content to Google's new mobile platform. Picture: AP

Google is undisputedly the world’s most widely used search engine. And while the term “Google it” is undoubtedly understood by almost all Internet users, not everyone is aware of Google’s advanced search functionality to optimise search results.

Carolyn Holgate, GM of MWEB Connect, MWEB’s home and small office division, says the key to refining your Google search is to set parameters on what you are looking to search to increase the chances of finding content which is relevant to you.

“Your first step is to think about what you’re looking for, be it: websites, images, books, maps etc. This will assist in honing your search. You then need to think about whether you want to limit your search to local sites, or scan through international sites as well. From there, you can narrow down your results using different search tricks,” she says.

Some of these include:

inverted commas are used to search for an exact phrase. E.g. “child care”

a plus sign ensures the content has both words or phrases. E.g. child+care, or recipe+mushrooms+basil to find a solution for the leftovers in your fridge

a star (*) can be used to fill in the blanks. E.g. Nkosi * Afrika

a minus sign will exclude a word or phrase. Sharks -rugby

typing in “site: search word or phrase” can be used to search that word or phrase within one site only.

“OR” is used to search for two different search words/phrases. E.g Springbok 1995 OR 2007

Using ~before a word will look for synonyms of the word as well.

Search a number range with two full stops in between.E.g. 2001..2011

You can also use “categorisation words” to narrow down your search, e.g. movie Braveheart or author Tolkein.

Google Translate will allow you to type in a phrase and receive it in another language and Google will also auto-detect when you visit a website in another language and offer to translate it for you. It’s also a great spell checker, simply type in the way you think the word is spelt and Google will give you options.

The Google Search bar can also be used as a currency converter (R1000 in USD), for unit conversion (10.5 cm in inches) or as a calculator by tying in a mathematical equation (5*9+(sqrt 10)^3=). Simply visit for more details.

Google also has features to let content find you, Holgate says. “Google Alerts allows you to input search criteria using the tips and tricks we’ve already mentioned and Google will email you with content it finds. You specify the criteria including type of content, how often you should be emailed and the volume of content you’d prefer. You can also use Google + (Google’s equivalent of Facebook), simply type a term into the Sparks section and it will deliver search results to you in a content stream.”

“Google’s website is a powerful tool which, with just a little bit of extra search savvy, can help you leverage a wide range of features and functions to find exactly what you are looking for in the shortest space of time,” she says.

Hungry for more scitech news? Sign up for our daily newsletter

sign up

Comment Guidelines

  1. Please read our comment guidelines.
  2. Login and register, if you haven’ t already.
  3. Write your comment in the block below and click (Post As)
  4. Has a comment offended you? Hover your mouse over the comment and wait until a small triangle appears on the right-hand side. Click triangle () and select "Flag as inappropriate". Our moderators will take action if need be.

  5. Verified email addresses: All users on Independent Media news sites are now required to have a verified email address before being allowed to comment on articles. You are only required to verify your email address once to have full access to commenting on articles. For more information please read our comment guidelines