Google-powered Searches

August 27, 2012

by Web Programmer Richard S. Joswick

Google remains the most popular search engine. This article reviews search options available to Google users. Other popular search engines, such as Bing and DuckDuckGo, offer similar functionality but will not be reviewed. Instead, the focus is on unlocking the search power behind Google.

Everyone on the Internet knows that Google searches websites. It also calculates and converts numeric values. Typing in 85 * 42 - 20 produces a web-powered calculator with the results 3550 already generated for you. Similarly, units of measurement can be easily converted. An entry of “27 C to F” produces the conversion of 80.6 Fahrenheit. Google understands just about every sensible conversion request and provides results in a clean and immediate manner.

Google optimizes search based on location. Type in ‘best restaurants’ and you’ll get a list of favorably reviewed restaurants for your current location. Google guesses your location based on invisible, behind-the-scenes information. This can be changed by clicking on the 'Change Location’ link visible in the left column on the search results page. Also, it overrides this default location if it notices location-based search terms, such as 'best restaurants france’. Nonetheless, you’ll receive results in English. Receiving an American-centric view of the best restaurants in France may not be entirely accurate. Clicking on the gear in the upper-right corner of Google will allow you to enter the Advanced Search options. This allows you to search in a variety of different ways, including language and region. Specifying language of French and a region of France hones in on what could be your next vacation destination.

Google offers additional functionality through Advanced Search, even though they’ve hidden it away over the years. Some of that functionality can be accessed from the regular search field. For example, the minus sign excludes keywords. For example, “-helicopter” would remove results with the word “helicopter.” A search for “tours Hawaii -helicopter” could help a potential tourist find tours that keep their feet on the ground.

Finally, Google has a series of site-specific keywords useful for expanding search in interesting ways. These keywords are 'site’, 'link’, and 'related’, and they all use a colon to separate the keyword from the address. 'site’ searches for hits on a specific website, 'link’ searches for hits on websites that link to another website, and 'related’ searches for sites that are similar to the specified site using criteria predetermined by Google. Some examples might be “ firefly” to search for pages on wikipedia that pertain to fireflies, “ firefly” for sites that link to wikipedia that pertain to fireflies, or “ firefly” for sites that are similar to wikipedia and also pertain to fireflies. In actuality, you might get more information about Joss Whedon’s excellent space-western TV series than the famous glow-in-the-dark breed of insects, but that’s the Internet for you.

Google also makes it easy to search for pictures. At anytime while on Google, you can hit the 'Images’ link from the black Google toolbar atop each page to do a search for Images.

It might be argued that Google tries to make one’s search results too convenient. Still, it remains a powerful tool that can perform a wide variety of functions; such as calculations, conversions, and site-specific searches. Knowing how to access Advanced Search also opens up a new range of search results that greatly expand available hits. Next time on Google, let Google do the work for you.