If you want to step up your search engine game, use these Google search tips to find exactly what you need—without wading through tons of results.
Using Google seems simple enough, right?
You type what you’re searching for into the bar and then wait for a nanosecond before being presented with millions of results that fit your search criteria.
While those pages and pages of relevant results are certainly impressive, they’re also pretty overwhelming. That’s why 90% of us don’t even bother going past the first page of search results when we’re looking for something.
However, we’ve all been stuck in that frustrating cycle:
We enter our search terms and don’t see exactly what we’re looking for on the first page. So, we try a different combination of words—only to grow increasingly irritated that we aren’t finding what we need.
Sure, you could ball your fists and curse Google for not being able to read your mind (when, in all honesty, it seems capable of doing nearly everything else).
Or, you could take some accountability for the fact that there might be a better way for you to search for the information you’re after.
8 Google Search Tips You’ll Be Mad You Didn’t Know Sooner
Here’s the good news: There are plenty of straightforward tricks (dare we call them hacks?) you can use to further tailor your Google searches and be immediately presented with the information you need—no endless scrolling or keyword rearranging required.
Let’s dive into some tips that will help you navigate the never-ending sea of search results like an absolute pro.
1. Search a Specific Site for Content
Let’s say that you know where the information you’re looking for is, you just aren’t sure you remember how to find it.
For example, perhaps you remember reading this awesome blog post about leadership qualities on the Toggl blog.
Using a simple search command, you can tell Google to search only Toggl’s site for the content you’re looking for—rather than having Google comb every website on the internet for similar content.
How do you do that?
Simply put the term “site:” in front of your search, immediately followed by the name of the site you’re trying to search (including the .com) and then your keyword. Make sure not to include any spaces between the colon and the site you’re searching
So, if you were eager to find that Toggl post about leadership, you would enter the following into the search bar:
site:Toggl.com leadership qualities
The blog post you remembered seeing appears at the very top of the listings—meaning you can click right into it without having to pick through dozens of different posts on other sites.
See how easy that was? And, all it took was a small addition to the front of your search terms.
2. Search Hashtags
In today’s constantly-connected world, a lot of information lives on social media platforms. However, those can be cumbersome to search.
Fortunately, Google allows you to search directly for hashtags. To do so, simply type the hashtag you want to search into the search bar, including the pound sign.
For example, if you were looking for social media content related to leadership, you’d enter in the following:
That will turn up social posts that include your relevant hashtag.
Of course, you could also use the first trick to search a specific social media site (i.e. site:twitter.com) for the type of content that you’re looking for.
3. Find Sites Related to the Ones You Already Love
You already have some websites that you know, love, and visit often. Wouldn’t it be awesome if you could find other sites that are similar and worth checking out?
Good news: You can!
To find related sites, simply enter the term “related:” at the front of your search, followed by the site you already know and love (remember, no spaces between the colon and your search term!).
Let’s say that you’re always visiting The Atlantic for your news, and you want to find some outlets that are equally as awesome. Enter the following into your search bar:
You’ll be met with a listing of publications that are similar to The Atlantic, so you can find even more outlets and content that meet your needs and resonate well with you.
4. Exclude Words From Your Search
You know exactly what you want to search for—but, you also know it’s something that could easily mislead Google into turning up a bunch of results that don’t exactly fit the bill.
Maybe you want to find more information about how to effectively track your time—without being presented with a bunch of different tools and software options (which you know is bound to happen).
Google makes it easy for you to completely exclude terms from your search. So, if you truly only wanted information about time tracking—and not promotions for different tool options—you could eliminate terms like “tool” and “software” from your search.
To do so, you use the minus sign in front of whatever words you don’t want to be included. That means your search would look something like:
time tracking tips -tools -software
This trick is especially helpful when you’re searching a word that has multiple meanings—such as words that are also names of movies and books, for example.
5. Use a Wildcard
Nobody’s perfect, which means sometimes we have a generic idea of what we want to search for—but not the whole picture.
Here’s a common example: You heard a song that you liked, but you were only able to catch a couple words of the lyrics. You want to search the name of the song, but you can’t enter any part of the lyrics in their entirety.
Using a wildcard (which is just an asterisk) serves as a placeholder. Basically, it tells Google that you know there should be more words there—you just don’t know what they are.
So, if you had a few words of the lyrics, you could search those using the asterisk where you know you have some gaps:
the wheels * and round lyrics
Google will take that information to turn up results that match exactly what you were looking for—despite the fact that you were missing a few crucial words.
Take note that this trick doesn’t only work for song lyrics. You can use the asterisk in any case where you’re operating without some crucial information.
6. Search for an Exact Phrase
This is the opposite side of the spectrum from the tip we just discussed: You know exactly what you’re searching for, and you only want Google to return results that match your search terms exactly as they appear.
In that case, you can tell Google to only search for that exact term by putting it in quotation marks.
Let’s say that you’re planning a retreat for your team in California, and you want to find ideas for activities that you could do in that area (and not necessarily everywhere else).
To turn up that content specifically, you’d search for something like:
“team building California”
Those quotation marks tell Google to find results that contain that exact phrase, so you’re met with ideas that are perfectly tailored to what you’re looking for.
7. Reverse Search an Image
Sometimes what you’re searching for doesn’t involve text at all. Instead, you only have an image that you’re trying to learn more about.
Google allows you to search using an image almost as easily as using text.
Click the tab to search specifically for images, and you’ll see a camera icon appear within the search bar. When you click that camera, you have the option to either upload an image or paste the URL for an image.
Click to search, and Google will analyze the image you submitted and then turn up results that include or are similar to the image you searched for.
8. Search for a Specific File Type
Maybe you aren’t trying to find a website at all, but instead a PDF of a report that you need to reference for a project you’re working on.
You’ve tried searching by the title and other keywords, but your results keep getting cluttered with various web pages and other items that aren’t the PDF you’re searching for.
You can refine your search even further by searching only for the specific file type you’re looking for (in this case, a PDF). To do so, you use the following search operator:
Follow that search operator up with the keywords for the specific type of PDF document you’re trying to find. Google will turn up only results that end with that specific file type.
NOTE: This doesn’t just work with PDFs! You can enter any file type directly after the search operator (again, with no spaces).
Become a Google Search Master
There’s tons of information out there. That’s a great thing—but, it can also make searching for what you need somewhat challenging. It’s easy to become overwhelmed with irrelevant results, instead of directly-related sites and listings.
Fortunately, there are some different tips and tricks you can implement to refine your searches and get closer to the information you actually need. These include (but, of course, aren’t limited to):
- Using “site:” to search one website in particular
- Using # before your search term to search hashtags
- Using “related:” to find sites that are similar to ones you already love
- Using “-” to exclude specific terms from your search
- Using “*” as a placeholder for missing information
- Using quotation marks to search for an exact phrase
- Using Google’s image search function to search using an image, rather than text
- Using “filetype:” to turn up results that are only a specific file type
That certainly isn’t a comprehensive list of all of the tips you can use to improve your searches, but they’ll definitely help get you started. After a little bit of practice, you’ll be able to find exactly what you need—without endless scrolling.