Have you ever noticed how sometimes when you ask a question on Google, instead of giving you a standard list of web pages the search engine offers you a specific answer or array of images?
Try searching “1980s films” or “how tall is tom cruise”. This isn’t the search engine we grew up with! That’s because Google is working harder (and spending more) than most to enable us to find absolutely anything via its software. Specifically, the company’s mission statement is “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
Data is the name of the game, and it’s meaningless if it’s disorganized. But better organization also requires more sophisticated search techniques.
Google is working hard to figure out what you want when you type something in off the top of your head, littered with typos. The company has a whole lab set up to help computers figure out subtle differences of intention in the ambiguous language we use. For example, if you Google “panda repairs” you are more likely to get a list of local car mechanics than of bear doctors.
But the search engine also wants you to help yourself by learning how to pinpoint your search. For example, if your query is likely to be a common one, you can usually simplify your search terms to get more usable results. You could type in ‘sunset Warsaw’ instead of ‘what time does it get dark in Warsaw’ and still get an instant result without having to trawl through weather websites. You can get a similar result by typing in “calories in [food],” “time in [city]” or many other things. It’s about learning to talk to Google just as much as it is Google learning to listen.
In fact, if you’re serious about making your search results more precise, there are a handful of further shortcuts to add to your repertoire. You can search within a specific website by adding (for example) site:netcredit.com to the search field. Putting a minus symbol in front of a search term will exclude results that contain that word. For example, “panda repairs – Fiat” gets rid of all those car mechanics in your results – although it still doesn’t seem to bring up many bear doctors!
If you’re ready to take your search game to ‘boss’ level, try working your way through our new infographic guide to finding almost anything on Google. It’s full of surprisingly useful tricks that will become second nature as soon as you start using them, so you’ll always have the world’s knowledge at your fingertips.
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Coldewey, D. (2018). Google’s ‘Semantic Experiences’ let you play word games with its AI techcrunch.com
Google (2018). Our company google.com
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