A few tricks for searching the Internet

Filed under: #instructions

Just helped someone with an Internet search again and I figured out now might be a good time to write down a few pointers as there's always someone who doesn't know.

So, here are some tricks that not everyone might be aware of yet (and be sure to read my rant at the end before you get angry with me if it doesn't work):

Type in your query like this:

blueberry cake recipe

This seems nothing extraordinary but here is one thing to be aware of anyway:

Modern search engines will typically apply a process I refer to as fuzzing[0]. This means that while older search engines – including older versions of todays search engines – would only include results that included both blueberry and cake and recipe in the text, todays search engines will typically guess that you might also be interested in blueberry pie recipes as well. Sometimes this is good, other times annoying, which brings me to my next topic:

Using quotes to get exact hits

Type in your query line this, note the doublequotes (“) before and after the query:

“blueberry cake recipe”

This should [1] give you only results that contains the exact phrase blueberry cake recipe. You can also[2] use it to search for a single unusual or misspelled word, for example you can search for “mispeled” if you want to see some websites where that particular word is misspelled.

Using the verbatim option to get exact hits

Google has a verbatim option in the settings above the search field on desktop browsers. It should[3] instruct Google to use your words verbatim.

Using – to avoid results containg specific words

Type in your query and add – in front of words you don't want to see in your results:

blueberry cake recipe -cinnamon

This should give you a list of results that contain both blueberry and cake and recipe but not cinnamon.

Using site: to search within a site

If you want to find a certain result on a certain web site you can try the site: operator:

blueberry cake recipe site:itland.no

This should only return pages containing the words blueberry cake receipt (or similar) from itland.no.

Using inurl: to search for words within the url (the complete page address as opposed to just the domain)

We are now approaching the edge of my knowledge (I have a couple more tricks up my sleeve, but I'm not prepared to tell them right now).

But here is a last one for today, the inurl operator, it can be used like this:

blueberry cake recipe inurl:pdf

Which should4 return only pages containing all the words blueberry cake recipe that also has the word pdf in the page address somewhere.

A short rant

Google isn't what it used to be. Personally I have switched to duckduckgo.com (yes, a funny name but that seems to be common for successful search engines [4] [5]. Duckduckgo is about as good as Google is now, a lot thanks to Googles efforts over the last decade to nerf their product in an effort to make it usable by monkeys, dogs and cats (just think about the new markets you can cover with ads if you can get cats and dogs to order their own food!)

Since the two are now more or less equal I opted for the one that doesn't track me and serve me wildly irrelevant ads at the same time (for ten years now the most relevant ads Google has found for me has been for more and more stupid dating sites. I'll mention it here again – for the record – that I am already happily married and have small kids at home.)

And, should it be a search I'm sure Google would do better I can always append an !g to the end of my query in Duckduckgo to be redirected to Google search.

[0]: I don't work with search engines and I can't remember where I learned this term.

[1] [2] [3]: You cannot depend on it anymore, mainstream search engines will frequently ignore your double quotes to give you more results.