A product so ubiquitous that it spawned its own verb. Google accounts for 86 percent of the world's web searches, and thanks to the proliferation of smartphones, anyone can search for anything from anywhere—all you need is an internet connection. That means Google serves several billion searches a day.
It's easy to take for granted what a modern web search can do for you, but it's truly amazing how seamless Google has made the internet. Google can tell you the weather, translate languages, define words, give you directions, and do so much more. When was the last time you argued with friends over something and didn't check Google for the answer?
Even if you use Google multiple times a day, there's probably a lot you don't know about the search engine. If you've ever struggled to get the results you want, or just want to know a few inside tricks, the tips below will improve your Googling skills.
Use Google Search Modifiers
Google's search algorithm is remarkably adept at returning the information you are looking for—even when you aren't exactly sure yourself. But for those times when Google doesn't seem to be giving you exactly what you need, there are a few ways you can refine your search results.
Exclude terms with a minus (-) symbol: Want to exclude certain terms from your search results? Use the minus symbol to exclude all the terms you don't want, e.g. best apps -android for results that omit roundups of top Android apps.
Use quotations to search for the exact order: If you search for Patrick Stewart young, you will get results that have all those words, but not necessarily in the order you search. By adding quotations and searching "Patrick Stewart young" you will get only results that include all those words in that order.
Find one result or the other: If you're looking for results that are about one topic or another, but nothing else, use the OR modifier to get more accurate results. For example, searching apple microsoft will surface results relating to either term, but searching "apple OR microsoft" provides you with separate links about Apple and links about Microsoft.
Learn Google's Search Operators
Search operators change where Google searches. Instead of crawling the web at large, you'll find results from specific websites, web headings, and file types.
A single website: If you want results from one specific website, use site: followed directly by the site URL you wish to use. You must include the site's domain, e.g. Google Photos tips site:pcmag.com, and not Google Photos tips site:pcmag.
Search titles only: Use the search intitle: to look for words in the webpage title. For example Microsoft Bing intitle:bad will only return results about Microsoft Bing that have "bad" in the title. Conversely, allintitle: will only return links with multiple words in the title, i.e. allintitle: Google is faster than Bing.
Search text only: intext: or allintext: allows you to only search in the text of a site, as opposed to the title and URL, which the search algorithm usually takes into consideration.
Search File Types: If you're looking for a specific kind of file on the internet, use filetype: to search only for uploaded files that match your query. For example, use filetype:pdf to find a PDF or filetype:doc to locate a Microsoft Office document. You can find a comprehensive list of (occasionally obscure) searchable file types here.
Search Related Websites: Search for similar websites by using the related: qualifier to show related results. Searching related:amazon.com brings up results including Walmart and Overstock. Searching related:google.com shows Yahoo and Bing.
For a comprehensive set of search modifiers and qualifiers, check out this guide.
Set Google Search Result Time Restraints
Looking for only the latest news about a subject or trying to find information relevant to a specific time frame? Use Google's search tools on desktop and mobile to filter your search results. After you conduct a search, click Tools on the top right and select Any time to open a drop-down menu to narrow results to hours, week, months, or a custom date range.
Perform an Advanced Google Image Search
You can use many of the aforementioned search refiners in Google image searches. However, you can get even more in-depth image searches by clicking over to Google's advanced image search page, which allows you to search by image size, region, file type, and even for specific colors.
Perform a Reverse Image Search
Google supports "backward" image searches on most browsers. This function allows you to upload an image file and find information on that image. For example, if you uploaded a picture of the Eiffel Tower, Google will recognize it and give you information on the Paris monument. It also works with faces, and can direct you to websites where the image appears, identify a work of art, or show you images that are "visually similar."
Go to Google Images, where you can drag and drop an image into the image search bar, or click the camera icon to upload an image or enter an image's URL. (Here's how to do a reverse image search on your phone.)
Do Math in Your Google Search Box
Whether you want to figure out a tip on a meal, or create a complex geographical rendering, Google search has you covered.
You can do basic calculations directly in the search bar. For example, searching 34+7 will prompt a calculator below the bar with the correct answer already filled in. You can also search 3 times 7 or 20% of $67.42 and receive the answer.
Super math nerds can create interactive 3D virtual objects (on desktop browsers that support WebGL) by plugging in an equation that uses "x" and "y" as free variables. Or plug in different numbers along with some cos(x)s, sin(y)s, and tan(x)s and see what renders.
If these more advanced math functions are something you can use for your everyday activities, Google has an in-depth, mathlete-level explainer here.
Use Google Search as a Converter
Google will help you convert just about anything. You can search 38 Celsius in Fahrenheit, 10 ounces in pounds, and even 17.5 millimeters in light years. Not only will Google provide you with the answer, it will also provide an interactive conversion calculator for further converting.
Additionally, you can find up-to-date currency conversion rates with just a few keystrokes without needing to know the official currency symbol ($, €, etc.) or ISO designator (i.e. USD for the US dollar or GBP for the British pound). Google's algorithm is able to discern sentence-style queries to provide an answer, interactive chart, and a calculator for further conversions.
For example, a search for 38 dollars in Iceland returns the answer that (as of Sept. 11, 2020) $38 was equal to 5,176.36 Icelandic króna. You can even search 1 bitcoin in dollars to find out it is worth $10,312.20.
Define Words in Google Search
Ask Google search to define unfamiliar words (or two-word phrases) just by typing the word and define/definition. This will prompt Google to return a card with the definition, pronunciation, and—when available—a detailed etymology. Sometimes Google will define the word inside the autocomplete box before you press Search.
Track Packages in Google Search
You can track (most) packages in your search bar. Just paste the tracking number into search and Google will recognize it and provide a link to the tracking page.
Google Voice Search
To search by voice in your desktop browser, click the little microphone in the search box. This feature works much better on mobile devices, where the "OK, Google" trigger is more intuitive. If you ask basic questions, Google Assistant will even answer for you. This function is only supported in the Chrome browser at this time.
Search for the Time
Calculating time difference is hard, so why not let Google do the work for you? Type time [any location], which could be the name of a country, city or (if it's in the US) a ZIP code, to return a card with the up-to-date local time of your search. It beats having to manually figure out how many hours ahead or behind you are.
Search for Sunrise and Sunset
Want to know when the sun will rise or set in your neck of the woods? Search sunrise or sunset. You can also search for the sunrise/set times for other locations, as well.
Search for the Weather
You can find out the weather in your area by simply searching weather—Google Autocomplete will even give you today's current forecast as you type. Conduct a search and Google will present an interactive card with weather information courtesy of The Weather Channel.
By default, a search for weather will prompt an info card for the location of your IP address. However, you can also search weather [any location] to get the weather report for just about anywhere in the world, e.g. weather Toledo, OH or weather Kabul Afghanistan.
Real-Time Stock Quotes
Type in any publicly traded company's ticker symbol and Google will present real-time price information on that company, e.g. GOOG (for Alphabet), AAPL (for Apple), or AMZN (for Amazon). Most of the larger exchanges are in real time, though Google offers a comprehensive disclaimer for which exchanges are on a delay.
Check Flight Times
People may be flying less these days, but if you're headed to the airport or picking up a loved one, type in a flight number and Google will return a card with up-to-date times and terminal/gate information. If you're looking to book a flight, check out Google Flights to find the cheapest flights online.
Find Local Attractions
If you're thinking about taking a trip, Google can help you find some interesting sights to see. Google any city or country you're thinking about visiting, and Google should include a series of Top Sights cards near the top of the search results. If you're searching for a city, click "More things to do." If you're searching for a country, click the travel guide button that Google provides.
You will be taken to Google's travel page for that city or country, allowing you to see places to visit, popular food to try, suggested trips, and relevant travel articles. Additional tabs allow you to see flights, hotels, and rentals.
Shop With Google
If you hate shopping and searching through several different websites to find what you need, use Google instead. Type in your search and click the Shopping tab to find images of what you want from different stores across the internet. Filter results further, if necessary, and when you're ready to make a purchase, click a listing to be taken directly to the store's webpage.
Track Google Results With Google Trends
Ever wonder what other people are searching for? Google Trends allows anyone to see trending Google results and compare search terms. While it's primarily used by professionals, it can also be fun to see what topics are the most popular in your area. View search data, compare trending topics, view visualization maps, explore trending topics, review results from past years, and subscribe to specific search results.
Play Games in Google Search
Google has a host of built-in games and tools you can access by Googling them, including Pac-Man, tic tac toe, Solitaire, Minesweeper, and Snake. Search flip a coin and Google will do it for you; same thing with a die or spinner. Google also has a built-in calculator, metronome, breathing exercise, and a color picker that provides the Hex Code and Decimal Code for any shade.
Filter Explicit Content
Have a kid using the computer? Protect them from explicit content with Google's SafeSearch feature. By opening Settings and selecting Turn on SafeSearch, you can filter out any explicit links, images, or video that may be deemed inappropriate for an all-ages audience. While Google admits it is not a 100 percent fix, it's a good start. (For a more robust solution, check out our picks for the Best Parental Control Software.)
Let Google Search for You
With Google Alerts, you can create custom alerts that will notify you any time a new page is published containing your selected keywords. Create an Alert by first selecting an email address where these results will be sent, then add topics to track. Type in what you're looking for and Google will show you what the alert will look like with existing stories already indexed by the search engine. Choose how often you receive an update, the sources included, and a few other limitations.
I'm Feeling Something Else
Remember Google's "I'm Feeling Lucky" button? Type in a search term and click I'm Feeling Lucky to be immediately taken to the first search result. It's a good way to save time when you know exactly what you're looking for. However, Google has added a new wrinkle that can help you find something else.
Before you type anything into Google, hover over the I'm Feeling Lucky button and the wording will change. It may change to "I'm Feeling Adventurous," which will provide you with a coin to flip. "I'm Feeling Hungry" will Google nearby restaurants. "I'm Feeling Trendy" will show you recent Google trends. Every day there are new suggestions with different results.
Google Search Easter Eggs
As we've detailed in the past, Google's engineers apparently have a lot of extra time on their hands with which to implement all manner of Easter eggs and April Fool's pranks. And why should Google's main raison d'etre be left out of the fun? Here are just a few cool Easter Eggs you can uncover through search.
"askew" will tilt your screen
"Festivus" adds a Festivus pole to the left side of the screen
"do a barrel roll" or "z or r twice" will cause the screen to do a 360
"Google in 1998" will make the page appear as Google did in 1998
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