Part of the challenge in using search engines such as Google is in choosing appropriate keywords that actually yield good results. Even if your words are well-chosen, a broader context than the one you intended may share keywords — burying the pages you’re looking for deep in search results, leading you to refine your search.
This is when you might benefit from switching to Google’s Advanced Search, by clicking the cog at the top-right of a search results page. It provides a form that enables you to explicitly state how Google should treat particular keywords and phrases. You can also tell it to look for a sequence of words as an exact phrase, rather than as individual keywords that might appear in any order, as is the default.
Searches can be restricted to a particular site, or perhaps several, so that you only see pages from, say, CNN and select other organizations. Or maybe you just want to exclude a specific, less authoritative site that dominates results.
There’s no need to break down your search in this manner. Many of the most useful options of Advanced Search can be used from the search bar itself, provided you know what to type. This enables you to perform complex searches more quickly. By doing so, you help Google do its job to the absolute best of its abilities, and for only a small amount of extra effort.
If you still can’t find what you want, it’s worth checking whether certain of your keywords are limiting. Look at their punctuation. Hyphens are okay because Google considers the words on either side to be strongly connected, so a search for “built-in” returns pages that are hyphenated like that, or which omit the hyphen.
Contractions are more problematic; Google does not treat “won’t” and “will not” as the same search term, and you may find that it helps to reframe a search phrase to omit contractions and their expanded forms. In this type of scenario, the wildcard operator can help by telling Google that you aren’t so specifically concerned about which form appears within a longer phrase.
Google automatically considers different forms of the same word — so if you specify the stem word “install,” results may include pages that contain “installation” or “installing.”
Using Google like a pro isn’t just about knowing how to specify keywords, though. It’s also about adapting your way of thinking, as we’ll see in the following walk-though.