Refining Your Google Searches

We all know that sinking feeling you get when you have a question, but when you google it (or bing it, if that’s what you’re into) you cannot for the life of you find the answer. Suddenly you’re frustrated and short of breath and your palms are sweaty and everyone in the office is laughing at you and then all of a sudden flames burst out around you and the world has literally ended. If you think I’m being dramatic, you’ve obviously never come across this problem; I bow to you. 

Lucky for the rest of us, there are some tricks we can use so this doesn’t happen again. All the information you could possibly want will be at your fingertips now.


This funky little sign (which is hiding on the top left of your standard keyboard) can be particularly useful if you’re interested in search a keyword and other words with similar meanings. Adding ~ before a keyword without a space will instruct Google to search for web pages with the word you inputted and his synonym friends. For instance, if you google ~dolphins, you’ll get searches about the adorable animal AND the mediocre NFL football team AND the video game console emulator. (Though why one would be interested in any of those options but the first is a mystery.)


The linear version of the last guy is even more useful. Add a - before a keyword, again without a space, and that word won’t appear in your search. It essentially leaves out all articles and web pages that include that word. This is great if you’re looking to start a semi-pro Hockey league in Portland, Michigan, but your Google results keep giving you stuff about the Portland Winterhawks and the Portland Pirates. Simply throw in -Oregon and -Maine and you can relish in the vast amount of facts that do not exist pertaining to Portland, Michigan’s hockey scene. 


Though this symbol is famous for correcting misspelled words in already-sent-text-messages, it has another useful purpose in your Google searches. Have you ever thought of a phrase, but there’s one word on the tip of your tongue that you can’t quite spit it out? Simply use the wildcard character * in place of the unknown term. For example, if you enter the phrase You * and you Learn into the search bar, Google will fill in the Live part of this famous saying. You can ever use multiple * in one phrase, such as Muhammad Ali’s famous saying Float like a *, Sting like a *. It’d be super awkward to get the animals in this saying mixed up at your next dinner party.


Sometimes you want to recall a page that has just one of multiple words. Adding OR in all caps between two words will search for pages that include one or the other. Googling Winter Olympics 1992 OR 1994 will yield the top result specific to the winter of 1992 with the top result for the winter of 1994 right below it. This way you can quickly determine which year was held in Albertville, France, without having to sift through an entire Wikipedia article. Useful stuff, I know.

(You’re probably thinking, dang, this guy talks a lot about sports. The truth of the matter is I know everything there is to know about every other subject but sports, so that’s the only thing I ever have to google. That’s how I’ve gotten so good at this.)

If you would like to search a range of numbers, particularly in regards to money or measurements, add a between the two numbers. For example, if you type in authentic Legend of Zelda master sword replica $10 … $50 it will provide web pages selling or reviewing master swords within that price range. Although everybody knows those things don’t sell for anything less than a couple hundred.

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The last tool I want to talk about is by far the most well-known symbol to assist in google searches. However, it’s also the most useful, so I’d hate to skip it in case you missed this day in elementary computer lab. Whenever you need to find keywords in a specific order, slap some quotes around either end of your search request. This will instruct Google to only offer results that match those keywords in that exact sequence. This is a great way to narrow your search if Google is offering way too many results by displaying pages that match each individual word. 

Congratulations, you are now a Google pro! You can walk around the office with your head held high, because you will never again experience the anguish that occurs when google fails you. 

Looking for more tips and tricks to brag about around the office?