Like most of the major search engines, Google assembles the pages in its search index by using special “search bot” or crawler software to scour the Web. Found pages are automatically added to Google’s ever-expanding database; when you perform a search, you’re actually searching this database of Web pages, not the Web itself.
The results of your Google searches are ranked according to Google’s trade marked PageRank technology. This technology measures how many other pages link to a particular page; the more links to a page, the higher that page ranks. In addition, PageRank assigns a higher weight to links that come from higher-ranked pages. So if a page is linked to from a number of high-ranked pages, that page will itself achieve a higher ranking.
The theory is that the more popular a page is, the higher that page’s ultimate value. While this sounds a little like a popularity contest (and it is), it’s surprising how often this approach delivers high-quality results. The number of Web pages indexed by Google is among the largest of all search engines (Google and AllTheWeb are continually jockeying for “biggest” bragging rights), which means you stand a fairly good chance of actually finding what you were searching for. And the Google search engine is relatively smart; it analyzes the keywords in your query and recognizes the type of search result you’re looking for. (For example, if you enter a person’s name and city, it knows to search its phone book—not the general Web index.)
You can Go Directly to the First Page on the List
You have another option after you enter your search query, other than clicking the Google Search button. When you click the I’m Feeling Lucky button, Google shoots you directly to the Web page that ranked at the top of your search results, no extra clicking necessary. If you trust Google to always deliver the one best answer to your query, this is a fun option to try. For the rest of us, however, it’s still best to view the rest of the search results to see what other sites might match what we’re looking for.
Google Automatically Corrects Your Spelling
That’s right—you don’t have to be a spelling bee winner to search with Google. That’s because Google has built-in automatic spelling correction. If you inadvertently misspell a search query, Google recognizes what you meant to type and provides the correct spelling for you. So go ahead and type as fast as you can. Google will correct all your spelling mistakes.
Don’t Bother with Capitalization
When you’re entering a Google query, don’t waste time pressing the Shift key on your computer keyboard. That’s because the Google search engine isn’t case sensitive. So it doesn’t matter how you capitalize the words in your query—Red Dog and red dog will both return the same results.
Search for Similar Words
Not sure you’re thinking of the right word for a query? Do you figure that some Web pages might use alternate words to describe what you’re thinking of? Then use synonyms in your searches! Google uses the tilde (~) operator to search for synonyms of a specific word.
Just enter the tilde before the keyword, like this: ~keyword.
For example, to search for words that are like the word “elderly,” enter the query ~elderly. This will find pages that include not just the word “elderly,” but also the words “senior,” “older,” and so on.
Conduct an Either/Or Search
When you enter multiple keywords in a search query, how does Google parse all those words?
It’s quite simple, really. By default, Google searches for Web pages that contain all the words you entered. That means that Google is inserting an invisible “and” between the words in your search query. For example, if you enter red Corvette as your query, Google reads this as red AND Corvette, and searches for pages that contain both the words “red” and “Corvette.” Results are likely to include pages dedicated to the Prince song, aswell as to owners of crimson cruisers. But if a page is only about ‘Vettes—and doesn’t specifically mention red ones—it won’t be listed.
The bottom line? You don’t have to enter that AND between keywords; Google does it for you. On the other hand (and here’s where the secret starts), if you want to search for pages that contain either one or another keyword (but not necessarily both), you have to give Google explicit instructions. You do this by using the special OR operator. So, to search for pages that include either of the words you enter,
you insert this OR operator between the words in your query. (Surrounded by spaces, of course.)
Using the example from the previous secret, if you want to search for pages that contain either the word “red” or the word “Corvette,” you enter the query red OR Corvette. This will return all pages that include the word “red” as well as all pages that include the word “Corvette,” no intersection necessary. So, you’ll get a lot of pages about red balloons and red robins, as well as general pages about Corvettes—as well as those pages that include both words.
Search for an Exact Phrase
Here’s one of Google’s most powerful search tools, but also one that not enough users know about. When you want to search for a particular item that you describe in multiple words, enclose the entire phrase in quotation marks. This forces Google to search for the exact phrase and thus returns more targeted results.
For example, if you’re searching for Monty Python, you could enter monty python as your query, and you’d get acceptable results; the results will include pages that include both the words “monty” and “python.” But these results will include not only pages about the British comedy troupe, but also pages about snakes named Monty, and guys named Monty who have snakes for pets. To limit the results just to pages about the Monty Python troupe, you want to search for pages that include the two words in that precise order. So you should enter the query “monty python”—making sure to include the quotation marks.
This way if the word “monty” occurs at the top of a page and “python” occurs at the bottom, it won’t be listed in the search results. Let’s take this a step further. Want to search for the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail? Enter “monty python and the holy grail”. Your results will be much more targeted than if your query includes all these words separately without the quotation marks.
Let Google Complete the Phrase
Unlike most other search engines, Google does not support the use of wildcards to complete a keyword, nor does it use automatic stemming. Wildcards would let you search for all words that include the first part of a keyword; for example, a search for book* (with the * wildcard) would typically return results for “books,” “bookstore,” “bookkeeper,” and so on. Stemming is kind of like an automatic wildcard, where entering the keyword book would return all the aforementioned results (“books,” “bookstore,” etc.), no wildcard necessary.
Since Google doesn’t support wildcards or steaming, you have to enter all forms of any words you want to search for. Using the above example, you would have to enter the query book OR books OR bookstore OR bookkeeper to return all possible results. It’s a bit of a bother and a real weakness when you’re comparing Google to search engines with more powerful query features, such as AltaVista.
However, Google does let you use whole-word wildcards within a phrase search. That is, you can search for a complete phrase even if you’re not sure of all the words in the phrase. You let the * wildcard character stand in for those words you don’t know.
Here’s an example. Let’s say you want to search for pages that discuss Martin Luther King’s famous “I have a dream” speech, but you’re not sure whether he “has,” “had,” or “have” that dream. So you use the * wildcard to stand in for the word in question, and enter the following query: “i * a dream”. You can use multiple wildcards within a single phrase, within reason. While “** a dream” might return acceptable results, “* * * dream” is a fairly useless query.
Include Stop Words in your search
In an effort to produce more efficient searches, Google automatically disregards certain common words, called stop words, that you might include in your search queries. Including a stop word in a search normally does nothing but slow the search down, which is why Google excises them. Examples of the types of words that Google ignores are “where,” “how,” and “what,” as well as certain single letters (“a”) and digits. For example, if you enter the query how electricity works, Google ignores the “how” and searches only for “electricity” and “works.”
If you want to include specific stop words in your search, you have to instruct Google to do so. You do this by adding a plus sign (+) to your query, immediately followed (with no space) by the stop word you want to include. (Make sure you put a space before the plus sign but not afterward!) Using our example, to include the stop word “how” in your search, you’d enter the following query: +how electricity works.
Exclude Words from Your Results
Just as you can use the “plus” operator to specifically include words in your results, you can use the contrasting “minus” operator to exclude pages that include specific words. This is particularly useful if you’ve used a word in your query that has more than one meaning. For example, if you search for cloud, you could get pages about those fluffy floating things, or about a blurring or obscuring (of vision, of minds, etc.). If you don’t want your results to include clouds of the meteorological variety, enter a query that looks like this: cloud-cumulus. If you want to search for bass—thesinger, not the fish—you’d enter bass –fish. And so on.
Narrow Your Search to a Specific Domain or Web Site
Maybe you want to search only those sites within a specific top-level Web domain, such as .com or .org or .edu—or, perhaps, within a specific country’s domain, such as .uk (United Kingdom) or .ca (Canada). Google lets you do this by using the site: operator. Just enter the operator followed by the domain name, like this: site:.domain.
For example, to search only those sites within the .edu domain, you’d enter site:.edu. To search only Canadian sites, enter site:.ca. Remember to put the “dot” before the domain. The site: operator can also be used to restrict your search to a specific Web site. In this instance, you enter the entire top-level URL, like this: site:www.website.domain. For example, to search only within my personal Molehill
Group Web site ( www.molehillgroup.com ), enter site:www.molehillgroup.com. To search only within Microsoft’s Web site (www.microsoft.com ), enter site:www.microsoft.com. Your results will include only pages listed within the specified Web site.
Narrow Your Search to Words inthe Page’s Title, URL, Body Text,or Link Text
Google offers two methods for restricting your search to the titles of Web pages, ignoring the pages’ body text. If your query contains a single word, use the intitle: operator. If your query contains multiple words, use the allintitle: operator. We’ll look at some examples. If you want to look for pages with the word “Toyota” in the title, use the intitle: operator and enter this query: intitle:toyota. If you want to look for pages with both the words “Toyota” and “Camry” in the title, use the allintitle: operator and enter this query: allintitle: toyota camry. Notice that when you use the allintitle: operator, all the keywords after the operator are searched for; you separate the keywords with spaces.
Similar to the intitle: and allintitle: operators are the inurl: and allinurl: operators. These operators let you restrict your search to words that appear in Web
page addresses, or URLs. You use these operators in the same fashion: inurl: to search for single words and allinurl: to search for multiple words. It’s more likely that you’ll want to search the body text of Web pages. You can restrict your search to body text only (excluding the page title, URL, and link text), by using the intext: and allintext: operators. The syntax is the same as the previous operators; use intext: to search for single words and allintext: to search for multiple words.
There’s one more operator similar to the previous batch: inanchor: lets you restrict your search to words in the link, or anchor, text on a Web page. This is the text that accompanies a hypertext link—the underlined text on the page. For example, to search for links that reference the word “dinosaur,” you’d enter inanchor:dinosaur.
Travel Back in Time for Your Search
When you conduct your search, do you have in mind a particular page or article that you remember reading a year or so ago? Then what you want is a time machine—one that can take you back to search the Web as it existed at a particular point in time. Google can be that time machine.
Google lets you limit your search results to Web pages created within a particular date range. This way you can eliminate newer (or older) pages from your results, and glimpse a snapshot of the Web the way it once was. There are two ways to restrict your Google search to a specific date range. The first is the least practical, but it’s worth discussing anyway. When you use the daterange: operator, Google restricts its search to Web pages that match the dates you enter. Know, however, that Google dates the pages in its index based on when it indexed them—not when the pages were actually created. So if a page was created sometime back in 1999 but Google didn’t get around to indexing it until June 15, 2003, it will be dated June 15, 2003. It’s an imperfect way to approach this issue, but it’s the only one that Google offers.
Resurrect Dead Pages
What do you do if you click to a Web page in the search results list, but that page no longer exists? (It happens; thousands of older Web pages go deadevery day.) You may still be in luck, because Google saves a copy of each page that it indexes as it existed at the time it was indexed. So even if a page is dead and gone, you may still be able to view the cached (saved) version of that page
on Google’s server.
To display a specific cached page, use the cache: operator, like this: cache:URL. For example, to display the cached version of my Molehill Group home page, enter cache:www.molehillgroup.com.
List Pages That Link to a Specific Page
Want to know which other Web pages are linked to a specific page? Because Google works by tracking page links, this is easy to find out. All you have to do is use the link: operator, like this: link:URL. For example, to see the thousands of pages that link to Microsoft’s Web site, enter link:www.microsoft.com.
List Similar Pages
Have you ever found a Web page you really like, and then wondered if there were any more like it on the Web? Wonder no more; you can use Google’s related: operator to display pages that are in some way similar to the specified page. For example, if you really like the news stories on the CNN Web site( www.cnn.com ), you can find similar pages by entering related:www.cnn.com.
Find Out More about a Specific Page
Google collects a variety of information about the Web pages it indexes. In particular, Google can tell you which pages link to that page (see thelink: operator, above), which pages are similar to that page (the related: operator), and which pages contain that page’s URL. To get links to all this information on a single page, use Google’s info: operator.
Use Google’s Advanced Search Page
Not comfortable learning all those complicated search operators, but still want to fine-tune your search beyond the basic keyword query? Then here’s a secret for you—almost all of this fine-tuning can be done from the simple pull-down menus and checkboxes on Google’s Advanced Search page. You can access the Advanced Search page by clicking the Advanced Search link on Google’s home page. Advanced Search page contains a number of options you can use to fine-tune your searches, without having to learn all those advanced operators. All you have to do is make the appropriate selections on the page and Google will do all the fine-tuning for you.
Search within Your Search Results
If Google gives you too many results to deal with, you can winnow down the results by conducting a further search within the original search results. To narrow an existing search, all you need to do is add more words to the end of your original search query. Just move your cursor to the search box—which contains the keywords of your current query—and tack on more words to fine-tune your search. Click the Google Search button again and the next page of search results should be more targeted.
Make Google Safe for Kids
There’s a lot of unsavory content on the Internet. When you perform a Google search, some of these undesirable pages can end up in your search results— which is not a great thing if it’s your kids who are doing the searching.
Fortunately, Google offers a content filter that you can apply to your Google searches. Google’s SafeSearch filter screens the Google index for sites that contain adult information and then eliminates those pages from your search results. Google uses proprietary technology to check keywords, phrases, URLs, and Google Directory categories against a list of objectionable words and topics. When you activate SafeSearch, you’re blocked from viewing results that contain these undesirable words and topics. You activate the SafeSearch filter from Google’s Preferences page. You have three choices:
>Moderate filtering: Blocks objectionable images from Google Image Search results; it doesn’t block any pages based on the objectionable text. This is the default configuration.
> Strict filtering: Blocks both objectionable words and images—and also includes a stricter image filter than the moderate filtering option.
> Do not filter my search results: This turns off the SafeSearch filter.
Search for Pictures
If you’re looking for pictures on the Web, you can try a standard Google search and see what comes up. (Tip: try including the words “picture” or “photograph” in your query.) However, better results can be obtained by performing a search of a dedicated index of images—which is where Google Image Search comes in.
Google Image Search is an index of pictures. It doesn’t index the text on a Web page, only photographs, drawings, logos, and other graphics. Of course, Google uses words to index these images—how else could you search for them? So, when you conduct an image search, you have to enter one or more words to describe the picture you’re looking for. Google has categorized the images in its index by description, so asmuch as words can describe a picture, you’ll be able to search the index for what you want.
Using Google Image Search
You access Google Image Search by clicking the Images tab on the Google home page or by going directly to images.google.com. The Image Search home page looks a lot like the regular Google home page. It works the same way, too. Just enter your query into the search box and then click the Google Search button.
The Image Search results page, however, looks a bit different from the normal Google search results. As shown in Figure 6-10, pictures that match your query are displayed as thumbnails; click the thumbnail to go to the page where the picture is displayed.
Uncover Even More in Google Labs
Believe it or not, Google has even more search projects in the works. The latest cutting-edge research can be found at Google Labs (labs.google.com ), which is where Google’s search experts concoct all manner of search projects. Google Labs is where the next Google features are often found.
As this book is being written, Google Labs has eight projects in the works.
These projects include:
– Google Compute: Uses your PC’s idle processing power for peer-to-peer computing projects
– Google Deskbar: Lets you search Google from the Windows taskbar
-Google Glossary: Displays definitions for words you enter
-Google Keyboard Shortcuts: Lets you navigate your search results with your keyboard, no mouse necessary
– Google News Alerts: Sends e-mail alerts to your desktop when new stories appear online
-Google Search by Location: Lets you restrict your search to a specific geographic area
-Google Sets: Creates a set of related items based on a list of words you enter
-Google Viewer: Displays your search results as images in a kind of scrolling slide show
-Google Voice Search: Enables Google searching by Webphone
-Google Webquotes: Displays quotes about the pages in your search results
Go to the Google Labs page to learn more—and to test these and other new projects!
I hope this article gives you the best of information on Google Search. Don’t hesitate in writing for more. Thanx
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