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• Phrase search ("")

By putting double quotes around a set of words, you are telling Google to consider the exact words in that exact order without any change.

Google already uses the order and the fact that the words are together as a very strong signal and will stray from it only for a good reason, so quotes are usually unnecessary. By insisting on phrase search you might be missing good results accidentally. For example, a search for [ "Alexander Bell" ] (with quotes) will miss the pages that refer to Alexander G. Bell.

• Terms you want to exclude (-)

Attaching a minus sign immediately before a word indicates that you do not want pages that contain this word to appear in your results. The minus sign should appear immediately before the word and should be preceded with a space.

For example, in the query [ anti-virus software ], the minus sign is used as a hyphen and will not be interpreted as an exclusion symbol; whereas the query [ anti-virus -software ] will search for the words 'anti-virus' but exclude references to software. You can exclude as many words as you want by using the - sign in front of all of them, for example [ jaguar -cars -football -os ].

• Fill in the blanks (*)

The *, or wildcard, is a little-known feature that can be very powerful. If you include * within a query, it tells Google to try to treat the star as a placeholder for any unknown term(s) and then find the best matches.

For example, the search [ Google * ] will give you results about many of Google's products. The query [ Obama voted * on the * bill ] will give you stories about different votes on different bills.

Note that the * operator works only on whole words, not parts of words.

• Search exactly as is (+) 

By attaching a + immediately before a word (remember, don't add a space after the +), you are telling Google to match that word precisely as you typed it. Putting double quotes around a single word will do the same thing.

Google employs synonyms automatically, so that it finds pages that mention, for example, childcare for the query [ child care ] (with a space), or California history for the query [ ca history ]. But sometimes Google helps out a little too much and gives you a synonym when you don't really want it.

• The OR operator

Google's default behavior is to consider all the words in a search. If you want to specifically allow either one of several words, you can use the OR operator (note that you have to type 'OR' in ALL CAPS).

For example, [ San Francisco Giants 2004 OR 2005 ] will give you results about either one of these years, whereas [ San Francisco Giants 2004 2005 ] (without the OR) will show pages that include both years on the same page. The symbol | can be substituted for OR. (The AND operator, by the way, is the default, so it is not needed.)

• Search for specific document types.

Google can search for specific types of files using the “filetype:” operator. If you’re looking for PowerPoint files about GTD, for example, you could try: [GTD filetype:ppt]

• Search within numerical ranges using the .. operator.

Say, for example, you want to look for information about Olympic events that took place in the 1950’s, you could use this search: [Olympics 1950..1960]

• Search definitions

If you want to get a definition of a word, you can use the “define:” operator to return definitions from various dictionaries. For example, [define: parasympathetic].