WHEN IT COMES TO RESEARCH, NOTHING COMPARES TO THE POWER OF A SEARCH ENGINE.
Within that search box lies an index of billions of web pages all waiting to help you find information or be entertained.
However, getting to the pages most helpful to you is often a bit more of a process.
To help with that, I’ve created this guide to show you exactly how to use Boolean Operators to find exactly what you’re looking for.
Let’s get started!
First, what is a Boolean Operator?
A Boolean Operator is simply the words “AND”, “OR,” and “NOT.” Using these words in your search queries, especially when combined with other Google search operators, will save you a tremendous amount of time and yield more relevant results.
The word AND is the default Boolean operator when searching on Google. In other words, you don’t have to use AND if you’re entering a normal search query.
For example, if you search “Columbus Weather”, Google automatically inserts AND between Columbus and Weather and will bring up search results for web pages it ranks for both words.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Boolean operators require ALL CAPS to work properly
The next Boolean operator is OR. Using OR between your search terms will instruct Google to not use it’s default AND operator and instead bring up web pages that have either one or the other search terms. It’s like telling Google, show me this or that, not necessarily both.
For example, if I were to search Alligators OR Crocodiles, Google would show me search results pages (SERPS) that include either alligators or crocodiles, but not necessarily both.
Finally, there’s the -minus operator. This is the NOT Boolean operator. This operator is useful if you want to find information on a particular topic without another keyword that might be usually related.
For example, where I live, in Columbus, if you type Ohio State into the search box, you’re very likely to receive a number of web pages show up with the phrase Ohio State Buckeyes. To eliminate the possibility of Buckeyes showing up and generate more useful results, I would type Ohio State -Buckeyes. This would generate pages that have Ohio State, but excluding the keyword Buckeyes.
A more advanced example: type “chocolate chip cookies” OR “sugar cookies” -recipe into the search bar and you will get search results that include either keyword phrase chocolate chip cookies or sugar cookies but not recipes.
In the example below, you can see that the first few results on Google are a lingerie store called Sugar Cookies, a map listing for the same store, an IMDB listing for a movie called Sugar Cookies, and an online store to purchase gluten free chocolate chip cookies. What do you not see? Recipes.
On to more advanced search queries…
Using “Quoted Words or Phrases.”
In the above example, you’ll notice I put quotation marks around “chocolate chip cookies” and sugar cookies.” This is because I’m telling Google to bring me back results that include those exact keyword phrases with the words in that exact order.
This is useful when you are searching for something very specific and only want results with your exact wording, or identifying long-tail keywords. Long-tail keywords are keyword phrases that have more than three keywords in the search string.
See below for an example of a results page for “2016 Florida Gators Football Roster.”
As you can see, each of the results contains the words “2016 Florida Gators Football Roster” in that exact order.
Anoter helpful operator is the *Wildcard operator. This your way of asking Google to fill in the blank for you. If you’re not sure about exactly what is is you want to search, place an asterik (*) before or after a word in your search query. It’s also helpful to get different opinions on a given topic if you’re conducting research.
For example, you could search, “hiring the best * developers” and get a page of results about hiring the best of several diffent kinds of developers (see example below):
As you can see from the above screenshot, we now have articles on hiring the best software, app, SharePoint, and Java developers.
If you wanted to refine your search even further, you could type: “hiring the best * developers” -software and get results similar to the above but without any pages relating to hiring the best software developers since we used the NOT operator in conjunction with the Wildcard operator.
Below, I’ve listed some additional advanced search operators that I’ve found to be most helpful.
The Filetype operator. Especially useful when you’re searching for just a particular kind of filetype.
For instance, PDF documents are often the preferred filetype for white papers, ebooks, research papers, etc.
If you’re researching the Civil War, for example, you could search filetype:pdf “civil war” and get back search results that contain the phrase civil war and are PDF documents.
If you look over the listed results, you get a variety of PDF documents related to the Civil War.
Define operator: The define operator does exactly what it sounds like it does, define a word. Not sure what something is, or means?
Type define in front of your search query. For example, typing define digital marketing will bring up numerous definitions that Google finds most relevant for the phrase Digital Marketing.
Related operator: The related operator simply asks Google to find other web pages (or websites) that are related to whatever URL you indicate in your search query.
For instance, if you’re looking for websites related to WebMd, type related:http://www.webmd.com into the search box and you’ll get the following results page:
As you can, Google does an excellent job of finding related websites. Here we have everything from the Mayo Clinic to Healthline and Medscape.
Use the related operator when you have a website in mind that you feel will bring you useful information and want to look over what other options might be out there to provide additional resources.
The Site Operator is another favorite that allows you to confine your serach to just information on a particular domain.
For instance, let’s say you want to find results for the keyword phrase “San Diego Real Estate” but only on Twitter.
Type site:twitter.com “San Diego real estate” into the search bar and you’ll get the following results:
Again, using advanced search operators has provided exactly what we’re looking for. All of our results include pages about San Diego Real Estate on Twitter only.
Using Boolean Operators and Google Advanced search operators cuts through the clutter, saves time and increases productivity.
I think at this point you can confidently refer to yourself as a Search Master and go out and impress your colleagues with your advanced knowledge.
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Good luck and happy searching!