Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

As much as we use it daily, Google and searching in general, remains a massively under utilized tool and skill.

Several of you are going to think this is the stupidest, most obvious recommendation ever.

And I know that most of you already know, love and use Google as your primary search engine. In fact, that's how most people find Ask Leo! in the first place, and it's what powers the search you'll find on every page.

I probably don't need to convince you that it's useful.

The problem is that most people don't use it well.

By "well", I mean that when searching for particular bits of information, many people enter over-general, or over-specific, search terms. As a result they either don't find what they're looking for even though it's out there, or spend way too much time manually wading through search results.

It doesn't have to be like that. My wife often challenges me to look something up for her, and it's rare that I can't get exactly what she was looking for on the first page of search results, often in the number one spot. How? By knowing how searches work, and choosing my search terms carefully. It's as simple ... and as complex ... as that.

A friend of mine, Tara Calishain, has written a book, Web Search Garage, that I highly recommend. It can really help improve your "Googling" skills. (It actually applies to all search engines.) You can read more about the book, and why I recommend it so strongly here: "Web Search Garage".

Regardless of whether you get that book, or use other resources or techniques to do it, my strongest recommendation is simply to improve your search engine skills. Google is an unbelievably powerful tool, and it really is worth the time invested in learning to use it effectively.

Article C2471 - November 25, 2005 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

jerry seibel
June 30, 2009 11:42 AM

I totally agree with your complements of google,it sure was difficult to search prior to google. Recently i've experienced a problem concerning google. I've used Firefox for years and have google as my search engine, About a week ago google was replaced by "",and i can't uninstall it,sure, they tell you how but it doesn't work for me. I uninstalled Firefox.reinstalled and the darn inbox is there again. So i'm using IE7. I sent a note to Firefox but their filter probably threw it out.js

This sounds more like malware/spyware that's residing on your machine. Make sure you run up to date scans.
- Leo

Charlie Griffith
June 30, 2009 12:11 PM

Leo....during a basic computer course I took at our local Community College, the instructor made the point that searches work best by typing into the Google block your search terms in descending order of importance,..forget sentence structure, etc. That has worked pretty well for me...

June 30, 2009 6:15 PM

Someone made a criticism about this article not sharing any tips. I also was hoping to find some quick tips, and followed a couple of links on this site to find them...the article on this site: "The one skill you should hone" has some information and a link to a different page called "Using Search Engines - A Tutorial." Just an FYI for anyone esle who was disappointed not to see any examples.

the angler
July 1, 2009 2:15 PM

Carmen - it's not a tip posting, it's a sales posting to sell Web Search Garage. "The killer in your spice cabinet --- details at 11:00".

July 2, 2009 3:05 PM

Hi Leo,

I was asked to give a presentation on using Google by our genealogy group and was amazed at the information I found and presented (omg, only 1 hour). Another source I would recommend is by Nancy Blachman. There are cheat sheets for quick reference and even a complete presentation you can use with proper license requirements.


B Kock
July 14, 2009 7:22 PM

My hint is to try Google Images instead of Google Web under certain circumstances. Examples: When searching for a free music score to print out. When searching for people with the name Orpin I am able to weed out the sites which are instantly recognizable as relating to the plant 'orpin'. I am more able to zero in on village of Hastings Ontario web sites in a sea of Hastings County Ontario web sites - from recognizing known images.

January 25, 2011 9:06 AM

Simplest and easiest way to get more relevant results is to put what you really want in quotation marks. Example: I recently did a search for a particular carnival ride, the Space Roller. First search turned up many different results , all with either space or roller in the text fields. Everything from NASA sites to machinery. After I bonked myself on the head for forgetting such a simple thing I reentered with "Space Roller" and my whole first page was articles and videos pertaining to the ride in question.

January 27, 2011 4:39 PM

Great thing about Google is that it offers information how to fine tune your search. From using quote marks, for results of an exact phrase, to logic operators. They even have a link for more advanced search parameters that give you the exact tools to narrow your search. What can I say about Google that hasn't already been said about sliced bread?

January 29, 2011 7:39 AM

I have always been a loyal Yahoo user. My attempts to use Google have not convinced me that it is any better. Everything I read above regarding Google is available with Yahoo.

Can anyone tell me what is better about Google compared Yahoo?

Thanks in advance.

By all means use which ever search engine you feel serves you best. That being said, the prevailing feeling is that Google's search results are generally better at returning what you were actually looking for.

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