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How to Use Google More Effectively

Boolean operators, site searches, & country internet codes are just a few of the things we cover to help improve your searches.

Google Advanced Search

First, you need to know how to locate the Advanced Search screen. Navigate to the bottom of the main Google screen and click "settings." When you do a menu will pop up, select "Advanced search."

 Google home page with the settings window open and advanced search highlighted

There are two main sections of the advanced search page; the search areas and the limiters.

The search area is the top half and looks like this:

Google advanced search page

It is worth noting that all of the features in this area can be done directly from the regular Google search box. For more information about this, please click the "Search Tips" tab on the left-hand side of the screen. 


The bottom portion of the advanced search screen can be utilized to limit your searches in a variety of different ways, as illustrated below. 

Google advanced search limiter options

To learn more about each of the limiters used to narrow your search click the "Narrowing Your Results" sub-tab on the left side of this page, or, click the link below.

When searching for exact phrases put quotation marks around the terms. This tells Google that you are searching for those two or more words together rather than anywhere in the document or website. 

Google phrase search for "New England"

In this case, we searched for a place "New England," but this can be used for any phrase, whether it be a direct quote ("to be or not to be"), or a specific type of something ("electrical engineering").

To see how to do this in the regular Google search bar click the "Search Tips" tab on the left.

If you are searching for something that multiple meanings it is a good idea to use the exclude words function to narrow your results. Simply type what you are looking for in the "all of these words" box and then place the term(s) you do not want to search in the "none of these words" box. In the example below we are looking for the word bass, but not as it pertains to fishing.

Google advanced search excluding words

To see how to do this in the regular Google search bar, click the "Search Tips" tab on the left.

If you are searching for one specific term and another variable term, then you can do a search for multiple words by using the word "OR". To do this, type the primary term in the "all of these words box" and put the variable terms in the "any of these words" box, be sure to separate them using OR. 

Google advanced search using multiple words

The above example would return results about a vacation in either London or Paris. 

To see how to do this in the regular Google search bar, click the "Search Tips" tab on the left.

If you are searching for information that would include a numerical range you can use the "numbers ranging from" box to narrow your search. Type the primary thing you are looking for in the "all of these words" box, and then insert your unit of measurement in the "numbers ranging from" box. This can include nearly any type of measurement (lbs, kgs, miles, years, etc...).

Google advanced search for Frida Kahlo from the 1930s-1940s.

In the example above, we are searching for information on the artist Frida Kahlo from the time period of 1930 to 1940. 

To see how to do this in the regular Google search bar, click the "Search Tips" tab on the left.

Ways to Narrow Your Results

Google searches typically only return results that are in the primary language selected by the user. In the United States, Google defaults to English. You can use the language selector to narrow your results to materials that are in a selected language. Simply click the drop-down menu and select your preferred language. 

Google narrowing results, language

Another way to narrow your results is to select a region. If you were searching for information on the history of coffee you could simply type "history" and "coffee" into the search bar and you would immediately return a large number of results. However, if you were searching for the history of coffee in a certain region then you may wish to utilize the region tool. 

There are two ways to use the region tool, both are illustrated below. 

Advanced search for coffee history in the DR Advanced search for coffee history in the DR and using the country code (.do)

The left side example will return results about the history of coffee that are from (or related to) websites coming out of the Dominican Republic. The right side incorporates the usage of the country code into the same search. This means that the results that are returned will also be about the history of coffee that are from (or related to) websites coming out of the Dominican Republic, but they are the results that would be returned had you actually done a Google search in the Dominican Republic itself. 

To learn more about country codes and how to use them click the "Using Country Codes" tab to the left, or follow the link below. For more information about narrowing your results using the site or domain feature, click the "site or domain" tab in this box. 

Another effective tool for narrowing your results is the "last update" selector. This allows you to see the most recent information faster than if you did a simple search. This is especially useful when you are looking for a topic that is currently in the news. 

Type your search terms in the main search bar and then select one of the options from the drop-down menu (left side image). It is worth noting that you can do this from the main Google search bar as well. Simply type your search terms in, click search, click tools, and select an option from the "any time" menu (right side image).  

Google advances search for coffee history using the last update featureGoogle search for coffee history using the last update feature through the main website.

If you are searching for information from a particular website, or type of website, it is a good idea to do a site or domain search. Once you've selected your search terms,  type the website or domain name in the box labeled "site or domain."

Google advanced search for coffee history with limiter set to .gov sitesResults of Google advanced search for coffee history with limiter set to .gov sites

In the example above, we are searching government websites (.gov) for information on the history of coffee. You will notice that since we searched for "site:.gov" we only receive results from government websites (right side image). 


Google advanced search for coffee history with limiter set to theguardian.com  Results of Google advanced search for coffee history with limiter set to theguardian.com

In this example, we are searching a specific website (theguardian.com) for information on the history of coffee. Since we are searching a news website we will receive articles that were written for/published by The Guardian. It is important to note that when you are narrowing your results to search a particular website that you put both the domain name (theguardian) and the extension (.com). It does not make a difference if you include the www. at the beginning of your site search. 


It is worth noting that you can do both of these types of searches directly from the Google search bar. For more information on site searches, navigate to the "Site Searches" tab on the left side of the screen. 

If you are looking for something that you can't quite recall but you remember a portion of it, then try using the "terms appearing" limiter. This works great when you can remember a few of the keywords of a title, but not the whole thing. Simply type what you remember into the search bar and then select the appropriate option from the "terms appearing" menu. 

Google advanced search with terms apearing limiter  Google advanced search for coffee history terms appearing in the title

In the image on the right side, you will notice that we searched for the terms "history" and "coffee" in the title of the page. This will only return results with those two terms in the page's title. 

It is worth noting that you could use any of these limiters from the main Google search bar. To do so, you would type the following before your terms:

allintitle:       This searches for the terms in the title of a page.
allintext:       This searches for the terms in the text, or body of a page.
allinurl:         This searches for the terms in the URL of a page.
allinanchor:  This searches for the terms in any of the links from a page. 

Depending on the terms you are searching you may encounter potentially inappropriate results. By using the "SafeSearch" limiter you are able to filter out the majority of inappropriate, or explicit, results. ‚Äč

Google advanced search for coffee history using the safe search limiter.

Another useful way to limit your search results is by selecting a file type. This can be very helpful when you're looking for a certain type of file, such as a spreadsheet (.xls) or Word document (.doc). Additionally, if you recall a few words of the title of something you were looking for, but are positive you were looking at a PDF, then you can search for that specific type of file and drastically reduce your search results. 

Google advanced search limited by filetype of PDF  

In the above example, you will notice that we only return results that are in PDF format when using this limiter. 

It is also worth noting that you can use this type of limiter from the primary Google search bar by typing "filetype:pdf" before or after your search terms. This works for all of the following file types: pdf, ps, dwf, kml, kmz, xls, ppt, doc, rtf, & swf.

the last limiter option on the Google advanced search is to limit your search results by usage rights. This will allow you to select materials that have a variety of licenses. You may not find this as useful for narrowing down websites or webpages, but it is especially helpful when looking at images. 

Goolge advanced search for coffee history limited by usage rightsGoolge advanced search for coffee history limited by usage rights image results

To learn more about different types of image licenses, how to search for images on the web, and how to appropriately cite or attribute images please click the link below to check out the Finding & Using Images Online research guide. 


To cite this LibGuide use the following templates:

APA: Northern Essex Community College Library. (Date updated). Title of page. Title of LibGuide. URL

MLA: Northern Essex Community College Library. "Title of Page." Title of LibGuide, Date updated, URL.