Getting the most out of Google Search – a user guide

Sometimes even with powerful search engines like Google, it can still be hard to sort the good results from the bad. After years of getting involved with SEO and SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages), I know a thing or two about getting the stuff you want from this search engine giant. With these few tips that you may or may not have come across, I can show you how to supercharge your Google-fu.

Eliminate frustrating Google search snafus!

How many times did you want to type “Google search is not working”… into Google? Sometimes finding what would seem to be the simplest of information can be tedious, to say the least. But with this simple guide to some of the most powerful Google search engine tools, you can be on your way. And you’re learning from a Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) pro, so you’re sure to get better results!

We’ll try a demonstration. Let’s say you’re searching for the latest news on widgets. Type “widgets” into the search box and get the results: there are over 200 million references to widgets on the web!

Google Search Engine Results Pages

So how can you cut these results down? You could try being more specific about your search terms, for example by adding geographic keywords, but perhaps that’s not helpful. Of course, you will already know that there are tabs at the top of the search page that divide the results into categories such as Images, Shopping and News, but did you notice the link on the far right that says Tools?

Where to find tools to improve Google searches

This is a shortcut to search engine paradise! Click on the Tools link and a group of new menus will appear below the tabs and above the search results. We could choose to narrow our search down by country, but for this demonstration, we’ll choose the Any Time option. On clicking this, a dropdown list appears. Choose Past Week to show results that have been indexed for the first time within the last seven days.

Sort Google searches by time

Notice that another dropdown appears after you selected this option? You can then go ahead and click this to further sort the results by Date or Relevance. As to how ‘relevant’ the links provided are… that’s a matter of opinion, but it’s always interesting to see the difference. (Ever wondered why your site is not appearing on Google’s pages? It may be because it considers you not “relevant”!)

Sort Google searches by relevance

If you want to go back to the original set of results, just hit clear and all will be reverted.

Click the Tools button again. The All Results dropdown menu has a mysterious Verbatim option. That can be very handy if you’re searching for a term that is obscure or often auto-corrected by Google. How many times were you annoyed by the “Did you mean…” message? Prevent this frustrating guessing game by using the Verbatim option so that it searches for exactly what you typed. You can also but double quotes around the terms instead, if you prefer, although it’s not always foolproof, especially when Google’s quite sure you’re wrong and it’s right. A combination of quotes and Verbatim shows you want very literal results without Google interference.

Using search tools power-ups on Google Image Search

The Images tab shows results that are, of course, pictures only. Google will look at a website and suck out the images to categorise them. It often seems to categorise via the alt text you write for your image so if you are building your own website, be careful to write something useful here. Using the search tools for images is often incredibly useful. You can sort by Time to get the latest results, just as we did previously, but there are also some extra dropdown options which is where the real beauty of the system comes in.

Sorting Google Image Search (GIS) by time, size, etc

With the Size dropdown you can choose small, medium, large or specify your own required dimensions. This can be very useful if you need to see more detail than the default results are supplying. Other dropdowns include sorting the image by Color, the dominant colour that appears in the image or by black and white. The Type dropdown allows you to choose to search for faces, line art or even animated. (By this, they mean animated gifs rather than videos. There is an entirely separate category for them.)

The Usage Rights dropdown category is by far the most useful for those who need royalty free images for their blog or website. Website designers and blog authors often need a public domain image to illustrate something that can’t be found in stock image banks like iStock or Shutterstock. The most flexible is the option for images Labeled for Reuse with Modification. These will include things like pictures available via Creative Commons licence in sites like Wikipedia. Always double-check them, though! Sometimes they require some form of attribution or credit.

Google Images sorted by reusage rights

You should now have enough info to start exploring the other results categories and how to show what you want in Google search results or even using other similar results-based software. Good luck and happy hunting!

PS If you want to know more about SEO, see our Search Engine Optimisation basics checklist, or check out our SEO services.

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