Refining Your Searches – Becoming a Google Expert

The internet contains the sum total of all human knowledge. It is available to anyone who wishes to use it. But in order to get that information, it is more than likely you will have to go through a gate keeper to obtain the knowledge you seek. That gate keeper is the search engine Google.

If you use a search engine to find information you are probably using Google. Even if you are not on Google and using a search engine of another name, there is a good change that the search engine is powered by Google or using its data.

Google has over a trillion URLs in its index. That’s a lot of info.

But the main problem with using any form of search engine has always been knowing what the question is, and how to ask it.

If you search and that search delivers millions of search results, your search question (query) is too broad.

Instead of sifting through pages and pages of non-relevant search results, try refining your search with these power user tips:

Multiple words:

Use more than one word. An example, searching for California death row inmates list would deliver a much more directed result than just simply inmates. Start with the smallest group of applicable terms and expand out if the results are too broad. Add more words and operators to the query.


Don’t put accents into search words if you don’t think they’ll appear in the documents you’re looking for. Do searches with and without the accent to ensure you get all the results you are looking for.

Stop Words:

In computing, stop words are common words that search engines filter out to improve performance. Examples would be, the, and, what, why, whenever. Google usually omits these word unless it suspects some special case scenario like a book title.


Don’t compose a query in the form of a question. Questions will contain stop words that probably won’t appear in the content of the documents you are searching for. As a result, you will exclude a large number of possible search results.

Case insensitivity:

Searches are pretty much case insensitive. One special case is when using a Boolean operator such as AND or OR in a search. They should be capitalized. Refer to the Boolean tip for more info.

Boolean logic:

Use OR and (minus) operators to fine-tune your search. OR should be capitalized to let Google know you are using it as a keyword and not as part of the search phrase. The – (minus sign) is an exclusion operator. Using the query “dodge automobiles” -charger will produce results that do not include the Dodge Charger.

Exact phrases:

Put quotes around phrases to ensure that Google will match those words only if they occur in the document content. For example Old Man River will result in a much larger return than using quotes for “Old Man River”.

Multiple Phrases:

You can include multiple phrases in the same query. “Golden Age” composers “Hollywood” would result in a more refined results page.

Word order:

Arrange your words in the order you think they would appear in the documents you’re looking for.

Singular versus plural:

Will the documents you are looking for more than likely contain words in the singular form or plural form?


* can substitute for a whole word (not a word part) in a multiword search. It can be used to substitute an unknown word or name, or a word with multiple spellings. Examples might be * jets which would produce New York Jets, Commercial Jets, Private Jets, etc…

Number range:

Using .. between numbers will match numbers within that range. Example national election results 2012..2016 will return a range of results occurring between 2012 and 2016. 10.. will return a range of information greater than or equal to 10.


It gets ignored unless it is a hyphen. Hyphens indicate a strong bond between two words. Apostophes are also an exception.


Using a tilde (~)  in your search query will expand the search to incorporate synonyms of the search term.