How to Make Use of Google’s Advanced Search Features for Better Search Results

If you do a lot of Googling, you might find yourself running up against some limitations of the search engine. As all-powerful as it might be, sometimes it doesn’t do quite what you’re hoping for. Fortunately, you can use these advanced search features to be a little more direct with Google.

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In addition to the normal google.com search interface, Google also offers a slightly-hidden advanced search tool. Here, you can enter a wide variety of hyper-specific search terms or limit searches by attributes not available through the regular search interface. This makes running a Boolean-style search a little easier and also gives you a more direct interface if you forget your Google search bar hacks.

But what is it good for? Here are a few potential use cases to give you an idea of how powerful Google’s advanced search can be.

While you can accomplish almost all of these searches through the search bar and attendant options, using the advanced search make it’s a little easier when your Google-fu has gotten rusty.

It’s amazing that virtually all the world’s knowledge is accessible through a single website. However, it can also be frustrating when you have to look through all the world’s knowledge to find what you’re looking for. To slim down your results, you can use Google’s advanced search to roll your own version of Google Scholar.

As an example, I’m going to search for academic articles about Klein bottles, my favorite non-orientable surface.

First, I’ll type in my search term. I’ve used the field for “this exact word or phrase” to filter out results that only include one of the two words.

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Let’s limit results to English, since I’m monolingual.

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I only want academic articles, so I’ll limit my domain to “.edu”.

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Limiting our search to page titles will keep our pool small, including only results for academic papers that actually have the words “Klein bottle” in the title.

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Lastly, let’s limit our search to PDFs, since most publicly-accessible academic research is published via PDF.

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Finally, I’ll click “Advanced Search” to submit my search. The search returns a number of excellent resources I can explore.

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In addition to the Google advanced search that crawls the text-based Internet, Google provides the same set of advanced search tools for image-specific searches. They’ve also added a few useful image-specific parameters which we’ll explore below.

As an example, let’s say I’m looking for images to illustrate a blog post. For my hypothetical post, I’m trying to find a photo of a computer or tablet that isn’t a Mac.

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I know that I want a full-color image, so I’ll select that.

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I also need something that’s reasonably large, so I’ll set the size to at least 640×480.

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Using a JPG will make my life a little easier, so I’ll filter for that, too.

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I don’t want just any JPG though, I want a photo specifically.

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I also need content that I’m legally permitted to use.

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Once I have all my parameters set up, I’ll click Advanced Search to submit my search.

As you can see, it’s not perfect, but this is the fault of people keywording their images rather than Google itself. You can see a result that is obviously a Mac in the first line.

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Fortunately, my limited search has given me the perfect image within the first few results.

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While I know a good deal about computers, Adobe’s video post-production software After Effects has always given me a hard time. Unfortunately, YouTube’s native search isn’t too helpful for finding the type of tutorial video that I want. To get around this, I’ll use Google’s advanced video search tool.

I’m looking for an After Effects tutorial that will teach me how to key in a background against a green screen. I don’t want to see any reviews, and I want to search for the many words people use for “how to” online. As you can see, I’ve put “how to” in quotes to treat that phrase as a single search term.

While most popular YouTube videos are in English, I’ll specify anyway.

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I don’t want something too short or too long, so I’ll select a medium length.

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Since I have the newest version of After Effects, I don’t want a video that’s too old.

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Most of the results will be from YouTube anyway, but lets limit our search to avoid any outliers.

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Now that I’ve entered all my parameters, I’ll click Advanced Search to submit my query.

And I’ve come up with a great list of videos that will (hopefully) help me get my green screen working right.

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Whether you’re looking for text, images, or video, Google’s advanced search tools can help you find what you’re looking for more quickly.

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