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Do you really know how to search in Google?

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013 by Eli Zheleva

The slogan of today’s online world is “if you don’t know it, Google it” – and most of us do that religiously. You would be surprised though, by just how many people can’t find what they are looking for. Not because it’s not there, or because we, the SEO geeks, have not done our job properly, but because people don’t know how to search. I have seen people who are searching for “local groceries shop” and expecting to straight away see prices for cucumbers! But hey, who am I to judge? After all, Google has stated pretty clearly that there are many more results than we can even imagine, so no wonder some people get lost in the search process.

the web is made up of over 30 trillion pages
Image source: http://www.google.com/intl/en/insidesearch/howsearchworks/thestory/

In another post a few months ago, we showed you how to utilise the Google search operators to get more of your search. If this approach is too geeky for you, however, here’s a quick overview of Google’s search interface that will (hopefully) make things easier to digest for those of us that are not as technical.

Step 1 – go to Google

As you probably have noticed by now, after you perform a search in Google, an additional menu appears just above the results, helping you narrow down your search.

Google search menu

In this post, I will focus on the first three sections of it – web, images and maps, giving you more information about each of them, as well as some useful tips.

Step 2 – tell Google what you’re searching for

Web – by using this, Google will scrape the whole web for you and bring back the most relevant results to your search query, no matter whether that’s an image, video or just plain text.
By using the additional menu “Search tools” you can:
– bring back results with pages from a specific country
– show only results that have been published within a particular date range
– specify a reading level. By default, all reading levels will be returned, but if you are looking for academic materials, for example, it might be worth considering choosing the Advanced level. This will eliminate generic blog posts that have mentioned what you’re looking for, but are not likely to help you in your research.
– Verbatim – this will only show you results to do with what you have put in the search bar, even if it’s mistyped.
Note: Google is getting better at figuring out what we’re trying to find even if we have misspelt the keyword, so be careful when you choose “verbatim” as the results you see might not be the best ones out there.

Images – it is self-explanatory that if you are looking for images, this is the place to go. After clicking on that menu, the “search tools” now offer a different set of filtering options.
– Size, ‘color’ & time – by default, you will be provided with images of all sizes and colours, posted at any time, but you can easily customise those to suit your needs
– Type – Google has split up the images on the web in a few major categories – face, photo, clip art, line drawing and animated to make it quicker to find the image in which you are interested
– If you click on “more tools” you will see on each image its dimensions (in pixels)
Useful tip: if you only want to see royalty free images that you can use on your websites without worry, simply click on the cog in the top right corner and select “Advanced search”. Then, look at the very bottom of the page and you will find an option for “usage rights”, which will present the different options available. After all, we don’t want to you get in trouble for using pictures off Google!

Did you know that you can now search by image? To do that, click the little camera icon in the Google search bar:camera icon and a pop-up window will appear asking you to either upload an image, or to paste the relevant URL (assuming it’s already somewhere on the web). Once you’ve done that, you click search by image and Google will do its best to show you where else on the internet this image is appearing. You might want to do this check for privacy reasons, for intellectual property protection, or just out of curiosity.

Searching in Google maps – if you need to get from A to B, Google Maps is a very useful tool that would help you plan your journey. Start by typing the starting and end locations, then Google will do the rest for you. In the results you will have one (or more) suggested route(s) and how long it would take you to get to your destination in current traffic.
On the left hand side of the “Get directions” blue button, you will see a link called “show options”. It will help you customise your journey by avoiding tolls and/or highways. In addition to that, this is the place where you can change the miles to km and vice versa.
Useful tip: the journey duration “in current traffic” might be misleading because, if you are planning to travel in during the rush hours and you’re checking the route in the evening, the figures are often quite different. To see how busy the roads would be at a particular time of the day, select “Traffic” from the top right corner of the map and at the bottom left corner of the map you will see “live traffic” and the button “change”.
Did you know that by dragging and dropping the little yellow man Google street view little yellow manonto the map, you will activate Google Street View?

Step 3 (if you dare) – challenge yourself

If you feel like you know what you’re doing now, you can test your knowledge with this search challenge provided by Google. A solution is provided as well, so even if you can’t figure it out first time, don’t give up and have a look how the professionals have done it. By all means, do leave a comment to say how the challenge went for you.

Happy browsing!

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About the author

Eli Zheleva

Eli Zheleva

Eli joined Vertical Leap in July 2013 as a Campaign Delivery Manager. She is absolutely addicted to all things SEO and is a bit of a tech whizz as well. Oh and she also likes cars and theatre.