Internet Search Tips

I can’t count how many times I am working with a coaching client on the phone and they ask me a question that I don’t have the answer off of the top of my head for. While talking, I quickly do an Internet search and give the client the right answer.

Yet, the client couldn’t find the answer themselves when they searched. What is the difference? Does Garland have some amazing search tool that is even better than Google?

I wish! Then I could easily sell access to it and make a bundle. ­čÖé

No, the difference is in how I use Internet search. I use the same Google and other internet search tools everyone else does.

It surprises me how few people really know how to search effectively on the Internet. They spend a LOT of time looking for answers. Each Internet search can provide millions of results and it is frustrating to try to wade through all the pages to find the one page that has the answers you want.

For years, I have worked to find the best ways to get the best Internet search results. Here are my Internet search tips for how to save time and get better results with Internet searching and research.

Internet Search Tips #1:

Carefully Word Your Internet Search Phrase

Google and other search tools are getting better at understanding what you are looking for as long as you give them more information.

For example, if you type in “speakers” Google doesn’t know if you want car speakers, home audio speakers or a motivational speaker for your upcoming conference.

You need to give Google more information to work with.

For example, here are the search results when I search for “word mail merge”

internet search word mail merge

As you can see, it pulls up a range of results, including instructions for Word 2010, 2007 and even 2002!

I find that searching with whole sentences with as much info as possible gives different results.

Now see what happens when I search for “how to do a mail merge in word 2013”

internet search how to do a mail merge in word 2013

Pretty well every result in the second example is specifically for Microsoft Word 2013 – the version I am using.

So now I don’t have to sort through a bunch of pages, looking for the ones that are relevant for my version.

So the first key is to make your search question more precise by adding more words. Consider adding brand and model numbers if you are searching for help or information about a certain model.

Add type (portable speaker, car speakers, home audio speakers, outdoor speakers), etc.

Tip 2: Use Quotation Marks

Very few people know that adding quotation marks around a key work changes the search results. For example when you search for celtic music collection you will get all results that contain any of these 3 words. (3.4 million when I tried it)

But if you search “celtic music collection” with quotation marks, the top results will have those words in that exact order and the results are more targeted and the total number of results is much less. (53,600 at the time I wrote this)

Tip 3: Narrow Internet Search Timeframe:

To get the latest articles on a topic, narrow the search down to the last year or last 6 months.

For example, if you are wanting to choose new software for a task, a software review from 2010 is no longer that relevant because the software will have changed and more competitors will have arisen.

In this screenshot, you will notice I clicked on “Search tools” and then clicked on “Past year” to show results for contact management software articles and pages only from the last year.

internet search restricted by date


Tip 4: Qualifier Words

I use “qualifier” words to better describe what I am looking for. Here are some examples.

  • “How To”: I add “how to” to my searches whenever I am looking for how to do something. When a client gifted me with 2 sockeye salmon, I had no idea how to clean them as I hadn’t cleaned a fish in over 20 years! But a “how to clean a sockeye salmon” search quickly found a very easy to follow YouTube video that saved the day. (The chowder was delicious)
  • “Review”: I always use the word “review” on the end of words when I want to know what others think. For example, if I might type “shaving cream review” or “time tracking software review.” This is great for when I am checking out software, products, books, music, movies, etc.
    “Alternative to”: I use this when I am tried a tool or software and found it wanting and want an alternative one that might do the job. For example, I searched for┬á “alternative to Hootsuite” when I was looking for a better social media posting tool.

Tip #5: Try Synonyms

If you aren’t getting the results you need, try other words that mean the same thing that might get better results. Use a thesaurus like and enter the word you want. Then scan the alternative words that mean the same thing and try a few of them in your search.

For example, if you need a writer and you type “writer” in the thesaurus, it provides alternatives like:

  • Author
  • Biographer
  • Columnist
  • Editor
  • Journalist
  • Novelist
  • Poet
  • Reporter
  • Screenwriter
  • Ghostwriter
  • Wordsmith and many others.

So now you can better choose the type of writing you need and refine your search.

Tip #6: Chrome Omnibox Searches

The Chrome web browser omnibox┬á lets you set default search queries by right clicking on the address bar and choosing “Edit Search Engines.”

Here are two examples I have set up that I use often:

  1. YouTube: You can search YouTube videos right from the Chrome address/search bar without even going to YouTube. Just type in then the keyword and it will search that site.
  2. Amazon: Amazon works the same way. Just type then the keyword and your search is done.

Other ideas? Try Wikipedia, major news sites, eBay or any other site you use regularly.

Tip #7: Search Within Sites Using Google

Even if you don’t use Chrome, you can still use Google to search within any web site. For example if I go to Google and type shaving it will find me all the articles/stories on the BBC web site that mention shaving.

Tip #8: Google Special Search Features

Here are some Google special search functions you may not be using:

  1. Conversions: I use this feature a lot since I work in multiple currencies when quoting projects online. I can just type convert 475 CAD to pounds to convert Canadian dollars to £ or convert 475 CAD to US to get the amount in US dollars. Also works great to convert metric to imperial and vice versa.
  2. Define: If you want the definition of a word, just type “define” and then the word in Google such as “define flint knapping”. Google will bring up dictionary, Wikipedia and other sites that define the word or phrase for you.
  3. Weather: You can get the weather for any location fast by typing “weather” then the city such as “weather vancouver”
  4. Calculations: Google can take the place of your calculator. Just type in a formula such as 15*24 or 75+89 and Google will immediately calculate it and bring up a calculator.

Tip #9: Outsource Research

While these tips will help you search more productively, long extensive searches may be best done by someone else.

Instead of spending hours or days looking for the best software or another type of research project, why not outsource the work?

There are lots of people online willing to do research for you in some cases for as little as $5. You could have people do:

  • Keyword research for SEO
  • Find the best hotels and attractions for your upcoming travel
  • An analysis of software that can solve your problems, and much more

You can find researchers through web sites like:

  • Fiverr
  • oDesk

Better Search Skills Boost Productivity

Better Internet research skills save time and gives you the information you need for better decision making. Take the time to master or outsource these Internet search tips and skills to make your day more productive.

Questions about these Internet search tips or want some coaching on how better to find what you need online? Just contact me.