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Search Magazine

How to Google: essential tips and tricks

01 July 2015 ( 02 October 2018 )

Google is the world’s most visited website. Here’s how to make use of everything the search engine has to offer and find what you're looking for, faster.

Lady in garden using digital tablet to browse
Google can be your best online friend if you know how to use it

How Google works

In the early days, the search engine was designed to look for keywords or phrases and match them to documents. 

If you typed “World Cup Cricket” in the search box, the search engine would find matching text in documents.

To make results more relevant, Google also indexed sites and ranked them by authority according to the number of visits they received.

Getting the most out of Google

To get the most out of Google, you need to know how to use the search engine to your advantage. 

There are two ways to do this:

• Be more specific with your search terms

• Use Google’s search filters

Imagine you can’t remember the name of a player from England’s 2014 World Cup side. Instead of typing England football team, type 2014 England FIFA World Cup squad.

Let's say you keep getting results about the Playstation game. Add the minus symbol before the word - Playstation will stop results with the word Playstation appearing. 

If it is showing you too many results featuring other country's squad, put "England FIFA World Cup Squad" in quotation marks, as this will make the search even more specific.

Adding those extra words will tell Google you’re looking for more specific information and it’s more likely to list that information near the top of the page.

It’s easy to overlook all the search filters on Google. These will be listed along the top of the page just above your search results. Some of the most useful filters are hidden from view, though.

Click on “Search Tools” and you’ll be given three filter categories:

• Any country

• Any time

• All results

Click on any of those and you can refine your search to include results only from your country; at a more recent time; or for more specific results.

For example, if you’re looking for the latest news, click on “Any time” and change it to the past hour, past 24 hours, past week, past month or past year to narrow down your results.

You can also narrow your search by eliminating search terms you don’t want Google to reveal. To do this, type the minus symbol (-) followed by the term you don’t want to see.

When we searched for “2010 UK FIFA World Cup squad,” we also got results for 2014. When we added “-2014” to our search terms, the 2014 entries were removed.

Read our guide to online security

Reading your results

The top 10 results from your search will be shown on one page (with more on following pages). 

For each result, the title is shown first, followed by the URL (or website address) and a brief description of the contents. The description (known as the meta description) is either taken automatically from the text or created by the author or website manager.

Google’s ‘semantic search’ algorithm analyses the content to help ensure companies aren’t using misleading keywords and meta descriptions just to attract more people to their site. 

In most cases, the meta description will be an accurate reflection of the content of the page.

If you look closely, you’ll notice that some of the search results feature a small box with the word “Ad” written in green letters inside it before the title of the webpage. These are advertisements companies pay for to ensure they turn up in search results for certain keywords.

The other ‘organic’ (unpaid) results will be from the most visited and relevant pages.

Google can be your best online friend, but it’s not foolproof. 

As yet, Google cannot distinguish between fact and fiction. So if you’re looking for important information (such as medical advice), check out at least a few authoritative sites (like hospitals, universities and medical journals) before coming to a conclusion (and if you’re ever in doubt, contact a relevant expert directly).

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.