Considering that the Internet is the world’s largest repository of digital files, perhaps it isn’t surprising to have trouble finding what you’re looking for. Because there’s so much information on the Internet, search engine programming has developed a number of operations, or tips, to help you improve your search results. Assuming that everyone reading this knows the basics about searching on the Internet, let’s look at a few of these tips.

Common word inclusion (+)
Google typically ignores common words when conducting a search, words such as “where” and “how”, as well as, certain single digits and single letters. If a common word is essential to getting the results you want, use the + sign in front of it (include a space before the + sign).

Phrase search: (“ “)
Double quotations around a phrase will force Google to return only those pages containing that exact phrase. This can help reduce the number of irrelevant hits. However, by insisting on this exact phrasing, it is possible to miss out on good results that may vary slightly from this phrasing.

The asterisk (*)
The asterisk is a very versatile and useful operator. If included in a query, the * acts as a placeholder for unknown term(s) and then Google finds the best matches. For example, the search [Google *] will give you results about many of Google’s products, or in the search phrase such as [sam katz said * about *] will provide you stories about what Winnipeg Mayor Katz said on any number of issues. An asterisk after a term, such as [sound *] will correspond to terms such as sounding, soundproof, sounded, and so on.

The query [link:] will list web pages that have links to your web site, i.e., will display all web sites that have a link to our site. This function is a useful research tool that can potentially identify interest groups or businesses associated with the web site that was queried.

The OR operator
Using the OR operator, broadens your search capabilities to specifically allow either one of several word options in a search (OR must be in upper case letters). For example, if you want to find information on municipal business taxes from one year to the next, you could search [Winnipeg business tax 2009 OR 2010] (with the OR) will provide results about either one of these years; [Winnipeg business tax 2009 2010] (without the OR) will show pages that include both years on the same page.

Excluding terms (-)
Attaching a hyphen immediately before a word indicates that you do not want pages that contain this word to appear in your results. The minus sign should appear immediately before the word and should be preceded with a space. For example, in the query [anti-virus software], the minus sign is used as a hyphen and will not be interpreted as an exclusion symbol; in the query [anti-virus –software] Google will search for the words ‘anti-virus’ but exclude references to software. You can exclude as many words as you want by using the – sign in front of each of them.

These are just a few of the most commonly used tips used to refine Internet searches. We’ll continue to discuss ways in which the power of the Internet can be maximized to your benefit, so continue to check out our newsletters.