When I search Google with writer, the search engine returns 1.6 BILLION results. If I get more specific with creative writer, the search results are halved to just under 800 thousand. So it would seem that being more specific is one way to get better results. However, if I now enter Ontario creative writer, the opposite happens and the returned results climb to 1.7 billion—more than the original search.
If you know how to search in terms that Google understands, you can get quicker, more accurate results:
Using quotation marks is known as a string search. Quotes around a “string of words” tells Google to search titles and text for those specific terms appearing together, but not necessarily related to each other. The search is now reduced to less than 100 thousand.
Often in a search a certain result that we don’t want shows up again and again, cluttering up the search. In our Ontario “creative writer” search, the first pagesof results were are all related to jobs and hiring. If we want to exclude all job related results, we add a minus sign in front of the word job: –job or –hire The search more than halves again to less than 40 thousand…
and all the results with job or hire are gone.
When I look at the results after applying my minus signs, I notice that most of the sites are .com or .ca. If I was specifically interested in results from educational institutions, I can tell Google that adding site:.edu
You can even ask Google to search a specific URL the same way. Just leave out the http://www. part:
Search only titles/text
If I wanted to research articles that focus on a particular person, I might ask Google for results that feature that person’s name in the title: allintitle: “Gwynn Scheltema”. As well, you can search only the text, and exclude the titles, by using allintext:
Search a date range
If you want results from a particular time period, enter the dates you want with two zeros in between such as 2010..2015
Search for terms near each other
One of the most frustrating things about searching with several terms is that many results appear somewhere on the page, but bear no relation to one another. However, you can ask Google to find terms near each other by using AROUND(1) between terms.
“Gwynn Scheltema” AROUND(3) “editor” will find pages where the exact name Gwynn Scheltema appears within 3 words of the exact word “editor”.
Use an asterisk within quotes for unknown words
If you know part of a phrase only, such as lyrics or titles, use an asterisk to represent the unknown words: girl with * tattoo or *before the lord of song*
Of course, these tips only scratch the surface, but mastering them will give you more relevant results in less time. And for busy writers, that’s worth something.