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Tips for better internet searches

While Google is straightforward to use, it's worth knowing that most Google users can become super searchers.

I teach classes on how to search with Google, and here are five of the top ideas that make people faster searchers and able to discover things they never knew existed.

1. Find a word

Ever do a search and then discover that you're on a long web page with no idea where your search terms are?

This happens fairly often, and an important skill is finding your word.

As it happens, your internet browser has this ability already built-in. Locate the Edit pulldown menu in the browser window. Open and find the submenu item labelled Find. If you click on that, you'll see a small window that let's you search for any word on the page.

This is a lifesaver when you're searching for a particular word and it's found only on the 10th screen down.

2. Google Toolbar

Google offers a free toolbar for all internet browsers. It lets you do a plethora of things to help you search, including bookmarking webpages, translating terms, spell-checking and instant searching on other Google properties (Google Books, Google Maps etc)

But the one Toolbar feature that is very useful to power users is the highlight button.

If you do a search on Google and end up on a page (say, the Wikipedia page about pukeko), when you click on the highlighter button, it will highlight all the appearances of your search terms on that page.

So if you've searched for pukeko and gone to the Wikipedia page, clicking the highlighter will highlight all three of those words in different, highly visible colours. This is a real timesaver for pages with small fonts or long, complex articles.

3. Search properties

Did you know that Google searches news archives going back to the mid 1800s?

And you can use Google to search for scanned copies of books and magazines (, financial information about companies you care about (, scholarly articles from scientific journals and conferences (, and blogs (

What's more, Google Translate can transliterate words from English to Hindi and back, as well as Spanish, French, German, Chinese and so on. You can also use this service to translate entire documents or web pages to/from different languages.

While the translations aren't quite as good as the best human translators, if your working knowledge of Swedish is as low as mine, Google Translate will be a powerful tool. (

Ad Feedback 4. Get to the point

A common mistake beginner searchers make is to use too many words in their query. If you're still searching for the purple moorhen, a poor query is one that uses too many words that aren't really relevant to the topic. For example, "purple bird I saw at the Victoria Park last Tuesday afternoon" is not a good query.

The key thing you want to search out is the bird. All the extra words about "I saw at" or "last Tuesday afternoon" aren't relevant. Worse than that, those extra words decrease the accuracy of the search results. Keep your search queries crisp and to the point.

5. Advanced searching

All of the Google search properties have an Advanced Search feature for searchers who want more control.

Look for the blue Advanced Search text to the right of the search button on all of the Google search pages. You'll find Advanced Search for regular web search, image search, map search and so on.

With Advanced Search you can easily search for web pages that are ONLY in a particular language, or that come from a particular site. This is a powerful tool to help you focus in on just the results you want, from the time you want, from the websites you prefer.

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