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 Google.com, 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 google.com/ncr 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 “site:gov.uk Malaysia” will return all results on British government websites where Malaysia is mentioned. – dpa