Five search tricks to get better results on Google

The Star, Sunday, 27 Dec 2020

When it comes to finding exactly what you’re looking for on the multiverse of websites out there, it’s all about little things called operators.

If you ever have to go beyond page one of Google’s search results, then it’s time to crack open the special toolbox for better online searches. These tweaks to your search will help the search engine better understand what you’re looking for.

1: Universal Google searches, not country-specific ones

Before you start using operators, you need to make sure you’re getting results from the right region. That’s because whenever you carry out a search with, you’re automatically taken to the search results for the country you’re searching from.

But sometimes you may want to carry out a wider search to get results that aren’t narrowed down by your location.

Of course, there’s a way to do this. The trick is to enter in the address line. The “ncr” after the domain stands for “no country redirect.”

However, you’ll only get neutral search results if you’re not logged into your Google account. If you don’t want to log out, you can open another browser or else open a new tab in private mode in browsers like Firefox, Chrome or Opera.

2: Minus – say what you don’t want

The minus symbol followed immediately by a certain word will help you exclude search results you don’t want. If you type in “Spaghetti Carbonara -cream” you’ll get links to Carbonara recipes that don’t have cream in them.

Combining a variety of these operators will also allow you to do things like search a website for any mention of precisely your name, and not another name with a similar spelling.

There are many of these handy search parameters and they can be found on the support pages of search engines such as Google and Bing.

3: Quote marks – just search this exact phrase

Asterisks and quote marks around the search words are our way of telling a search engine to only search for things with exactly this exact phrase.

A search, for example, for “Portland, Oregon” will help you find results about only that city and no other city called Portland. Otherwise, search engines will usually interpret the spaces between the search terms as “and”.

4: Filetype – Only search in these kinds of files

If you want the search to be for a certain file format, you can work with the filetype command.

For example, if you add the filetype:pdf after the search term, the search engine will only display PDF documents in which the search terms occur. This can look like this in the search window: travel checklist filetype:pdf.

5: Site – Search just this website

Your searches don’t always have to be across the whole Internet. If you only want to search a specific website, simply precede the search term with site:[website domain] without the www.

Something like “ Malaysia” will return all results on British government websites where Malaysia is mentioned. – dpa

Google’s top trending US search terms of 2020: ‘election results’ and ‘coronavirus’

Richard Nieva

It’s been an unprecedented year. The world faced a deadly pandemic and the US held its most contentious election in recent history. Those things dominated our focus as we searched the internet in 2020. 

Google on Wednesday released its list of top trending search terms for this year. On top was the phrase “election results.” Coming in at No. 2 was coronavirus. Rounding out the top 3 was Kobe Bryant, the NBA legend who died in a helicopter crash in January. In Google parlance, “top trending” means the terms had the highest spike in traffic over a certain period of time this year compared with last year.

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Google is the world’s largest search engine and the most visited site on the internet, so its popular search queries give us a good look into what people were thinking about over the past year. Last year’s top search was Disney+, the streaming service that launched last November. Another top search was Nipsey Hussle, the LA rapper known for his community service who was killed last year. 

It’s no surprise that election results topped Google searches. The company partnered with the Associated Press to display tabulations in real time. The intrigue dragged on long past election night, as counting continued in the following days because of a surge of mail-in ballots. 

But while people flocked to Google search for election results, the company was criticized for letting election misinformation run rampant on YouTube, which Google owns, in the days after the contest. More than a month later, President Donald Trump still hasn’t conceded to President-elect Joe Biden. (Biden was the top trending person and politician searched on Google this year.)

The coronavirus also dominated web searches. Aside from being the top entry, “coronavirus update” and “coronavirus symptoms” were the No. 4 and 5 searches of the year. Earlier on in the pandemic, Google launched a coronavirus hub for its search engine, highlighting statistics, as well as information about testing. 

Below are the full lists:


  1. Election results

  2. Coronavirus

  3. Kobe Bryant

  4. Coronavirus update

  5. Coronavirus symptoms

  6. Zoom

  7. Who is winning the election

  8. Naya Rivera

  9. Chadwick Boseman

  10. PlayStation 5


  1. Election results

  2. Coronavirus

  3. Stimulus checks

  4. Unemployment

  5. Iran

  6. Hurricane Laura

  7. Super Tuesday

  8. Stock market

  9. Murder hornet

  10. Australia fires


  1. Joe Biden

  2. Kim Jong Un

  3. Kamala Harris

  4. Jacob Blake

  5. Ryan Newman

  6. Tom Hanks

  7. Shakira

  8. Tom Brady

  9. Kanye West

  10. Vanessa Bryant


  1. Joe Biden

  2. Kamala Harris

  3. Boris Johnson

  4. Pete Buttigieg

  5. Mike Bloomberg

  6. Andrew Cuomo

  7. Chris Christie

  8. Mike Pence

  9. Andrew Yang

  10. Mitt Romney Search Engine Announced to Take on Google Search, Founder Says Will Not Rely on Ads for Results

The search engine is reportedly built using advanced natural language processing for refined relevant search results without having to rely on advertising., a new search engine, has been announced to take on Google Search. This new search engine has been made by former Salesforce chief scientist Richard Socher. In a world where consumer search is plagued with clickbait content for monetary gains through advertising, looks to be a trusted search platform with privacy controls, legit reviews, and AI-driven comprehensive results. The search engine is reportedly built using advanced natural language processing for refined relevant search results without having to rely on advertising.

The website is live, but is currently taking registrations for early access. The site says offers privacy controls to let users customise their browsing experience. The company says it ‘never sells your data to advertisers or follows you around the rest of the Internet.’ also takes into account your values, helps you give back and support the right causes with the right tools, and makes it easier for you to search and shop according to your values. The site claims to offer trustworthy reviews from real users and experts, letting you know both the pros and cons of a product. claims to also offers faster results, with priority given to real results over paid content and ads.

Socher spoke to TechCrunch about He said, “We are building You can already go to it today. And it’s a trusted search engine. We want to work on having more click trust and less clickbait on the internet.” Socher goes on to add that was conceived over the need to offer relevant and accurate search results a priority from the vortex of information that is available online. The need for user data privacy is also increasing and has been of significant importance in 2020 as more of the world moved towards the Internet.

The former Salesforce employee asserts, “The biggest impact thing we can do in our lives right now is to build a trusted search engine with AI and natural language processing superpowers to help everyone with the various complex decisions of their lives, starting with complex product purchases, but also being general from the get-go as well.” The principal differentiator from Google Search will be that will not rely on advertising or what it knows about the user to throw results.


OSINT training programmes and workshops

Following the success of our Open Source Intelligence Pathfinder range of training programmes, we have now planned one full OSINT Pathfinder training programme almost each month in 2021.

The schedule looks as follows:

OSINT Pathfinder XXX 12-14 january 2020 Venue: Novotel The Hague city center
OSINT Pathfinder XXXI 16-18 February 2020 Venue: Novotel The Hague city center



6 Google search alternatives that respect your privacy

Kim Komando  |  Special to USA TODAY        November 2020

Between Google Search, Gmail, Google Maps, and all the rest, the tech giant knows a ton about you. Let’s not forget about YouTube, the second-largest search site behind Google.

I recently showed you how you could take control of what appears when you search for yourself. Once you find what’s publicly available about you, take steps to delete anything that doesn’t sit well with you, from images of your home to personal photos. Here’s my guide to doing an exhaustive search:

All this tracking and information gathering might have you looking for solid alternatives to Google. If you’re ready to make a change, try a few out and see what you like.

1. StartPage

StartPage calls itself “the world’s most private search engine.” The Netherlands-based company recognizes that when it comes to search, it’s hard to beat Google. That’s why they use the power of Google without passing along user tracking.

StartPage pays Google for the use of its search algorithm but strips out the tracking and advertising that usually comes along with it. You get a Google-like experience, along with the promise that your data will never be stored, tracked, or sold.

Test it out at You can also set StartPage as your browser’s default search engine.

NOT JUST SEARCH: Want to ditch Google Chrome and Gmail, too? Here are some great alternative browsers, email services, maps apps and more.

2. Ecosia

Ecosia takes an entirely different approach. It’s a traditional search engine, ads and all, but the money raised is used to make the world a greener place. When you search on Ecosia, you’re helping to plant trees all around the world.

A nice bonus if you’re privacy-conscious: Ecosia doesn’t sell your data, searches are encrypted, and search data is anonymized within a week. They do collect “a small amount of data” by default, but you can opt-out.

Search on or you can add an extension to your computer or mobile browser.

3. Dogpile

While Google uses an algorithm to sort through billions of webpages, Dogpile instead fetches results from the major search engines. Google, Yahoo, Bing, and the rest have their ways of sorting through results, and Dogpile analyzes them all to help you find what you’re seeking.

Try it out at Type in what you want to search and hit “Go Fetch!”

4. DuckDuckGo

This search site is the likely most well-known privacy-focused one of the bunch. DuckDuckGo doesn’t track users, so it’s not clear exactly how many people use it. However, the CEO estimates about 25 million users.

Why does it stand out? DuckDuckGo doesn’t track you the way Google does, it doesn’t allow targeted advertising, research results are not based on your search history, and you’ll see fewer ads based on your search.

It’s easy to use and install, too, with an extension that plugs in with all the major browsers. You can also search at

5. Kiddle

If you have little ones at home, consider Kiddle. It’s not affiliated with Google, but Google Safe Search powers it.

The visual search engine promises a safe web environment for kids, with big thumbnail images and bigger text for easy reading. The first few results of any given search are pages specifically written for children and approved by Kiddle editors. The next few results are safe but may not be explicitly written for little ones.

Kiddle has some fun extras like a 700,000 article encyclopedia with searchable topics ranging from the sciences to the arts.

The search engine doesn’t collect any personally identifiable information, and its logs are deleted every 24 hours. There are ads, though.

Try it out at

6. Wolfram Alpha

Think of Wolfram Alpha as a genius in your browser. You type something you want to know or calculate, and it goes to work finding you an expert-level answer. How? A combination of algorithms, AI tech, and an extensive database.

This site isn’t the place to go if you want to find a plumber or restaurant reviews. But if you need an answer to a math problem, want trustworthy information on world history or events, or need to do personal finance or household math, give it a shot.

Can WolframAlpha answer your question? Search at to find out.

Privacy bonus: Wipe out your Google history

If you haven’t reviewed your Google privacy settings in a while, now’s the time to do it. I bet you’ll be shocked by all the searches, locations, and voice messages on file.

Online research: How students can do this better


Searching online has many educational benefits. For instance, one study found students who used advanced online search strategies also had higher grades at university.

But spending more time online does not guarantee better online skills. Instead, a student’s ability to successfully search online increases with guidance and explicit instruction.

Young people tend to assume they are already competent searchers. Their teachers and parents often assume this too. This assumption, and the misguided belief that searching always results in learning, means much classroom practice focuses on searching to learn, rarely on learning to search.

Many teachers don’t explictly teach students how to search online. Instead, students often teach themselves and are reluctant to ask for assistance. This does not result in students obtaining the skills they need.

More about

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For six years, I studied how young Australians use search engines. Both school students and home-schoolers (the nation’s fastest-growing educational cohort) showed some traits of online searching that aren’t beneficial. For instance, both groups spent greater time on irrelevant websites than relevant ones and regularly quit searches before finding their desired information.

Here are three things young people should keep in mind to get the full benefits of searching online.

1. Search for more than just isolated facts

Young people should explore, synthesise and question information on the internet, rather than just locating one thing and moving on.

More about

What to expect in 2021: 5 hardest degrees in the UK

Search engines offer endless educational opportunities but many students typically only search for isolated facts. This means they are no better off than they were 40 years ago with a print encyclopedia.

It’s important for searchers to use different keywords and queries, multiple sites and search tabs (such as news and images).

Part of my (as yet unpublished) PhD research involved observing young people and their parents using a search engine for 20 minutes. In one (typical) observation, a home-school family type “How many endangered Sumatran Tigers are there” into Google. They enter a single website where they read a single sentence.

The parent writes this “answer” down and they begin the next (unrelated) topic – growing seeds.

The student could have learned much more had they also searched for

  • where Sumatra is
  • why the tigers are endangered
  • how people can help them.

I searched Google using the keywords “Sumatran tigers” in quotation marks instead. The returned results offered me the ability to view National Geographic footage of the tigers and to chat live with an expert from the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) about them.

Clicking the “news” tab with this same query provided current media stories, including on two tigers coming to an Australian wildlife park and on the effect of palm oil on the species. Small changes to search techniques can make a big difference to the educational benefits made available online.


More can be learnt about Sumatran tigers with better search techniques. Source: Shutterstock

2. Slow down

All too often we presume search can be a fast process. The home-school families in my study spent 90 seconds or less, on average, viewing each website and searched a new topic every four minutes.

Searching so quickly can mean students don’t write effective search queries or get the information they need. They may also not have enough time to consider search results and evaluate websites for accuracy and relevance.

My research confirmed young searchers frequently click on only the most prominent links and first websites returned, possibly trying to save time. This is problematic given the commercial environment where such positions can be bought and given children tend to take the accuracy of everything online for granted.

Fast search is not always problematic. Quickly locating facts means students can spend time on more challenging educational follow-up tasks – like analysing or categorising the facts. But this is only true if they first persist until they find the right information.

3. You’re in charge of the search, not Google

Young searchers frequently rely on search tools like Google’s “Did you mean” function.

While students feel confident as searchers, my PhD research found they were more confident in Google itself. One Year Eight student explained: “I’m used to Google making the changes to look for me”.

Such attitudes can mean students dismiss relevant keywords by automatically agreeing with the (sometimes incorrect) auto-correct or going on irrelevant tangents unknowingly.

Teaching students to choose websites based on domain name extensions can also help ensure they are in charge, not the search engine. The easily purchasable “.com”, for example, denotes a commercial site while information on websites with a “.gov”(government) or “.edu” (education) domain name extension better assure quality information.

Search engines have great potential to provide new educational benefits, but we should be cautious of presuming this potential is actually a guarantee.The Conversation

By Renee Morrison, Lecturer in Curriculum Studies, University of Tasmania


Google fined £91m over ad-tracking cookies

Google has been fined 100 million euros (£91m) in France for breaking the country’s rules on online advertising trackers known as cookies.

It is the largest fine ever issued by the French data privacy watchdog CNIL.

US retail giant Amazon was also fined 35 million euros for breaking the rules.

CNIL said Google and Amazon’s French websites had not sought visitors’ consent before advertising cookies were saved on their computers.

Google and Amazon also failed to provide clear information about how the online trackers would be used, and how visitors to the French websites could refuse the cookies, the regulator said.

It has given the tech giants three months to change the information banners displayed on their websites.

If they do not comply, they will be fined a further 100,000 euros per day until the changes are made.

In a statement published by Reuters, Google said: “We stand by our record of providing upfront information and clear controls, strong internal data governance, secure infrastructure, and above all, helpful products.

“Today’s decision under French ePrivacy laws overlooks these efforts and doesn’t account for the fact that French rules and regulatory guidance are uncertain and constantly evolving.”


Tech Tent: Breaking up Facebook

Rory Cellan-Jones
Technology correspondent
@BBCRoryCJon Twitter

Mark Zuckerberg holds the logos of Whatsapp and Instagram in his raised hands in this photo illustrationimage copyrightGetty Images

In a landmark lawsuit, US regulators have accused Facebook of buying up rivals in order to stifle competition.

They have made it clear they will seek a drastic remedy – the sale of Instagram and WhatsApp. On this week’s Tech Tent we ask whether it is really likely that the social media giant’s empire will be dismantled.

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New York Attorney General Letitia James could hardly have been clearer in her denunciation as she outlined the case she and more than 45 other state and federal regulators are bringing against Facebook.

“For nearly a decade, Facebook has used its dominance and monopoly power to crush smaller rivals, and snuff out competition, all at the expense of everyday users,” she said.


‘A key moment’


Among the remedies the regulators are seeking from the courts for what they describe as Facebook’s “buy or bury” strategy towards potential rivals are “the divestiture or restructuring of illegally acquired companies”.

And that could mean selling off Instagram, bought for $1bn in 2012 when it had just 13 employees, and WhatsApp, for which it paid $16bn – which seemed an outlandish price in 2014.

Since that purchase, the price of Facebook shares has risen more than fourfold, and the company is now worth nearly $800bn.

“This is a key moment,” Damian Collins, the British MP who chaired a parliamentary inquiry severely critical of Facebook, tells Tech Tent.

“It was always going to take leadership by the authorities in America to bring the anti-trust case against Facebook and to make the case for some form of separation of the different businesses.”

Mr Collins believes some of the documents uncovered during his select committee inquiry provided evidence reinforcing the US regulators’ case.

“What these documents showed was how Facebook used its market power to put pressure on other companies to do deals on data that favoured Facebook; to give privileged access to data to companies that were important to Facebook and spent a lot of money with them; how it used data to analyse the apps people use, so it could determine which apps were potentially a threat.”

But Facebook has made it clear it will mount a fierce legal battle against any moves to break it up.

Because its purchases of WhatsApp and Instagram were not blocked by regulators at the time it’s accusing the government of wanting “a do-over”, which will harm the broader business community.

And one leading expert on competition regulation tells Tech Tent he thinks Facebook will probably avoid a break-up.


‘Politics, not law’


“The US Supreme Court has been very sceptical about monopoly cases,” says John Fingleton, former head of the UK’s Office of Fair Trading. He watched the regulators outlining their case with some scepticism.

“Saying that they want to break up the business before they get through the court process seemed to me to be more about the politics of it than about the economics and the law.”

Still, both John Fingleton and Damian Collins believe that a long legal battle will have an impact on the way Facebook and others do business. The MP hopes the social media giant will now be unable to buy or squash smaller rivals and that will mean more innovation.

And the competition expert says the case shows a major shift in US competition policy, which has previously focused solely on the immediate impact on consumers in the form of higher prices.

“In the last 30 or 40 years,” says Mr Fingleton, “we’ve seen competition has been about protecting consumers, not protecting competitors. But a lot of the cases one sees more recently have much more of a flavour of protecting competitors.”

Perhaps what happened in a previous clash between a US tech giant and the regulators is a foretaste of what will happen to Facebook.

Microsoft spent many years fighting the US Department of Justice which wanted to break it up.

It avoided that outcome, but the world moved on and the software giant, no longer seen as an anti-competitive menace, is thriving without attracting much attention from the regulators.

Facebook may hope that history repeats itself.