Mastering Google Search (A Beginner's Guide)

Word cloudSome of my friends often wonder how I manage to know about almost anything under the sun when sitting in front of my laptop. When I told them that I use the Google search engine to mine out relevant information, they just couldn't believe it. The reason was simple. Each one of them uses the same and still struggle to come up with the needed search results. In simple words, two people using Google search can end up with different information when searching for the same data. This popular search engine is immensely powerful and all you need is to learn how to use it like a ninja. Once you get hold of it, you can find out almost any information through it. We're going to learn some of the best and easy-to-learn tricks to get more out of our Google search results. This will enable you to solve day-to-day problems. You'll be surprised to know that it's more than just a search engine. So, let's get started and brush up some of the best Google search techniques. Open a new tab in your browser and let the beast come out.

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1. Elementary Search Tips

While searching on Google, one must be familiar with the core search operators that enables you to easily enhance and filter the results. These operators are simple-to-use and one can master them within minutes. We'll start with some examples to help you quickly grab the usage of these operators.

Common symbols - We'll start with the most widely used symbols power users often include within search queries. These symbols augment the query and help in getting a more relevant result set. So here we go to check all these symbols one by one.

  1. Plus symbol (+) : I often use this operator to find out if a specific topic has already been covered by a specific website. It do it as follows: + keyword

    This returns me a result page where each page link is listed having the keyword within its content.
  2. Ampersand symbol (@) : This second one is quite simple and obvious. Simply prefix ampersand symbol in front of a name (without spaces) or a brand, and you'll get the associated social media tags related to that entity. for example:


    Try it with your name or your favorite brand and you'll start getting social sites pages where your name or the brand name has been tagged in some way or the other.
  3. Dollar symbol ($) : This handy symbol is often used to find products having a price tag with the maximum range specified in the query. It's used in the following way:

    Nikon $600

    The following query will prioritize listing of all Nikon cameras (both sponsored and organic results) which are less than or equal to $600.
  4. Hash symbol (#) : It's more or less similar to the ampersand symbol used earlier. Using this symbol displays results from social media sites using that specific hashtag. Use it like this:


    The query tries to fetch the latest trending result sets for that specific hashtag giving you the most recent information about the same.
  5. Dash symbol (-) : This is a powerful exclusion operator I often use to filter my result sets. If you want to filter out unnecessary junk from a large result set, use this symbol as follows.

    Nestle -noodle

    The query shown above will display different products made by Nestle except noodles. You can use your imagination to use this symbol in an intuitive way for better results.
  6. Double quote symbol (") : This is an exact match symbol to find out matching phrases or sentences you're looking for. For example:

    "the quick brown fox" "pros and cons"

    The first query shown above will display any web page containing the phrase in its entirety with the exact match. The second query will list only those pages from Yahoo! website which has the phrase 'pros and cons' within their content.
  7. Asterisk symbol (*) : The asterisk symbol is a wildcard that matches any (unknown) terms or phrases that may appear within the parent query string. Use it like this:

    "how to * while * alone"

    This query will match any keyword or phrase making literally infinite combinations of the same sentence. For example, it will match both 'how to sleep while traveling alone' and 'how to run while descending alone'.
  8. Double dots symbol (..) : This handy symbol is used to specify numerical ranges. I often use it while searching for products that fits my budget. Use it as follows:

    laptop $550..$900

    Use the query shown above to find laptops ranging from $550 to $900. You can use it for almost any product. Try to use generic name of the product to get options from all the popular brands.

Search operators - For user's convenience, Google offers some very useful search operators to easily mine information from within websites. You can use them to find information about your competition. Following is the list of these search operators.
  1. site: operator - This one is the most widely used search operators. As you may have guessed, it has everything to do with a website, in question. If you want to include or exclude results from a specific website, use it. For example:


    This query is going to show web pages including the keyword 'Windows' but will filter out (due to dash symbol) all results from Microsoft's site.
  2. link: operator - This operator provides you with a quick snapshot of websites linking to a specific site. You can quickly use it to find which websites are linking to your own domain name. Use it like this:

    Use this query to find out websites linking to Yahoo! primary website. Remember, it is just an indication of linking websites and one must not use it for SEO purposes.
  3. related: operator - This is yet another handy search operator used to find similar websites in terms of content and topics they cover. For example:

    This query is going to list websites who broadly cover web development, front-end development, and related topics. In simple words, their content will closely match with Smashing Magazine's website.
  4. OR operator - This operator can help craft complex queries with ease. It returns the result set if one of the search conditions holds true. For example:

    fermentation OR "dried yeast"

    This query will list those web pages which either has the keyword 'fermentation' or include the phrase 'dried yeast' within their content.
  5. info: operator - This search operator combines the power of several operators. You can use it to quickly find important information about a website. For example:

    This search operator will give you quick links for fetching cached version of the website, sites linking in, sites using Yahoo keyword, and much more information about Yahoo! website.
  6. cache: operator - Webmasters often use this search operator to view the cached version of the website. Its use is very simple as shown below.

    This query will fetch the latest cached version of the website which was saved when last time Google's crawler visited and indexed the site.
  7. inpostauthor: operator - It's one of my favorite search operators that list posts written by an author. All you have to provide is the author name. For example:

    inpostauthor:matt cutts

    This query will display all the posts written by the author regardless of the domain name they exist on. Do once try it with your own name.
  8. inurl: operator - Webmasters can use this handy search operator to find indexed URLs containing specific words or phrases. Use it as follows:

    inurl:SEO guide

    This query will list all the web pages having either 'SEO' or 'guide' included in their URL. It's a handy way to filter out URLs related to a specific subject.
  9. inanchor: operator - As the name suggests, this search operator filters out those web pages which have at least one hyperlink having anchor text containing the queried word or phrase. Use it like this:


    This query will list all the web pages which contain at least one link containing the word 'crib'. You can also specify a phrase instead of just a word. How to do that? I leave it as an exercise for you.
  10. intitle: operator - And last but not the least, this useful search operator mines out all the web pages having a word or phrase in the page title. For example:

    intitle:"Beginner's Guide"

    We've used an exact match query for finding out all the web pages having that specific phrase in their page title.

2. Accessing Maps

If you're a frequent traveler, use this basic map display facility to get a macro view of the area. If you want detailed guidance, of course, you should switch to Google Maps. To display a map of a country, city, or an area within a city, use the following query structure.

map:Brooklyn, New York

This query will display the following result.

Map of Brooklyn in New York You can even display a map of a locality, suburb or a colony within a city to get a more exploded view with more details.

3. Fetching Stock & Share Details

If you're a financial analyst, use this powerful operator to instantly fetch stock details of a company. Use this operator as follows.


This query will display the following result.

Stock details of Facebook You can see that apart from displaying stock details on the left, one also get summarized company information on the right side.

4. Get Weather Details

If you're traveling to a different city, use this handy search operator to get the weather details for up to one week. I use it on a regular basis and find the results pretty accurate. Use it like this:


Simply specify the city name after the 'weather:' operator and you'll get the following result.

Weather details of Paris The weather details include temperature, humidity, precipitation, the wind direction, and overcast conditions for up to one week.

5. Improve Your Vocabulary

This is yet another search operator I use on almost a daily basis. It can help you enrich your vocabulary by many folds. The operator defines or explains the grammatical context of an English word. For example:


This query will give the following result.

Definition of fire Students and people whose native language is different can use this operator to enhance their vocal and writing skills.

6. Try Currency Conversion

Yes, you can use Google search engine as a currency converter too. Simply provide both the currency abbreviations to open the relevant currency converter. For example:


This query will open a converter to show how many US dollars' equals to British pounds. Once opened, you can enter a custom amount to get the converted sum using the current exchange rate as shown below.

Current converter on Google search engine This flexible and handy converter can help you calculate different currencies from around the globe. All you need is to know the currency abbreviation.

7. Use Calculator on Google Search Engine

You've read it right. Google also offers a powerful calculator to do both basic and advanced mathematical calculations without leaving the search engine interface. Simply type in a mathematical calculation in the search box to open the calculator. For example:

55 * 45

This statement will open a calculator as shown below.

Calculator on Google search engine Once opened, you can click the buttons of the calculator to do unlimited number of mathematical calculations.

8. Get Information About Movie Shows

It's weekend time and you want to watch one of your favorite movies currently running in a theater in your city. How to get the details for the same? Well, use the following search operator as shown below.


The operator is followed by the movie name. It gives the following results.

Theater timings for movie Spectre As you can see, apart from getting the current theater details for the current city, a user can also change the location to find the timings for his preferred city.

9. Search for Different File Types

And lastly, I'd like to list a very handy search operator that allows you to find out different types of files consisting of your search phrase. To understand it better, take a look at the query below.

SEO filetype:pdf
SEO ext:pdf

This query lists all the indexed PDF files which are about SEO or contain the word 'SEO'. It's handy for finding out files types associated with a specific subject or domain. You can use both 'filetype:' and 'ext:' search operators for specifying the type of file you're looking for.

Wrapping It Up

If used smartly, Google search engine is one of the most powerful tools available online for increasing your knowledge and wisdom without putting any strain on your gray cells. Try out all these operators and learn how to combine them to form complex queries to further enhance your search queries.

If you're familiar with more interesting Google search tips, feel free to share them with us for the benefit of the community.