Google's 23rd birthday in 2021

How can I achieve better search results using the full power of Google?

November 29, 2021
Clare Brown

This Google themed post was inspired by a tweet. A librarian and client had an email exchange and the librarian tweeted the following:

Student: I’ve searched everywhere but can’t find the original source of this quote, can you help?

Me: *pastes quote into Google, source is literally the first result*

I feel oddly cheated? Was hoping to use my librarian skillz (sic) to track this down. 

This happens more often than end-users realise. I could never understand why requests for articles or cases that took me seconds to Google achieved more end-user gratitude than an entire afternoon spent on client-based project work. So, no matter how easy library and information professionals make searches look, let’s maintain our star status and stay current on Google search practices. 

Do #infopros need to learn how to code?

But first, what are the alternatives to Google?

Search engine giant Google captures 92.6 percent of searches worldwide but we can't deny that the company is controversial in terms of privacy, ethics and management. We live in an age of choice, therefore you could look at alternatives such as Bing, Yahoo or DuckDuckGo. 

Bing is the second largest search engine and is owned and operated by Microsoft. I used this search engine in the course of this blogpost and enjoyed the images on the homepage. Likewise, Yahoo!, which has been around for a long time, exhibits some great photographs and remains a popular search portal. 

There has been a rise in independent and potentially more ethical search engines over the past few years. Check out DuckDuckGo which prides itself on being the search engine that does not track or personalise your searches and results. Qwant claims to ensure neutrality, privacy, and digital freedom while you go about your internet searching. 

None of these search engines are perfect so choose the one that works for you. Overall, although search results are important (obviously!), other functionality is now expected as standard. Reservations, calculations, directions, translations, alerts, snippets, search suggestions and so on are useful additions that we can’t do without.

It feels like only yesterday when I was comparing Yahoo with AltaVista in my “Internet for Lawyers” library training back in 1998! For now though, because of its flexibility and functionality, Google is my search engine of choice.

Some hints and tips to make the most of Google

Start your search in the right tab! There are tabs for Images, Videos, News, and More - which has Books, Flights and Finance. Depending on what you are looking for, you can go straight to the relevant tab. If you click on the Tools button to the right, you can filter by results and time frame.

As the Tweet above shows, a Google search can be as quick as you can type - or speak. Even if you’ve spelt something wrong or your end-user has misremembered a quote, the search will generally return useful hits or offer you an alternative so you can modify your search string. But sometimes you need more precision in your searches - information can be found here.

Special characters

" "

Exact phrase searching is probably the most common way of narrowing searches - certainly I can’t imagine google without " "!

-

Excluded words can be helpful if you want to remove any ambiguity from your searches

...

Numerical ranges can be helpful if you want to search across a range of dates, numbers, prices. Eg: legaltech 2010...2015

OR

Multiple words can widen your search

 

Search operators

There are others but these seem the most useful. 

allintitle:

To restrict terms to just the title. For example, allintitle:legal tech innovation

site:

To search across a specific website. For example, team site:www.vable.com

allinurl:

To identify terms in a URL. For example allinurl:faq zoom

location:

To narrow down to a particular location. For example, law librarian conferences location:canada

filetype:

To narrow your search to a particular file type. This might be useful if you’re looking for templates, spreadsheets or multimedia files.

If you are in any doubt as to which operator to use, the advanced search page can help. Should you need to set up Google alerts to feed into your current awareness platform, you can create precise updates on topics, people, or industries of interest. 

As you search, amend it until you get the best results. Make use of Google search suggestions, snippets, dictionary results, and even Wikipedia to enlarge your search vocabulary. This obviously leads us to discussions around appropriate and trustworthy sources but you are the experts in this!

How can you become the power behind the search engine?

Mathematical tools and calculations using Google

Do you need assistance with a mathematical formula? It can be as simple as the area of a rectangle or as complicated as graphs for sines and cosines.

Google the following and try them out:

  • Calculator
  • Tip calculator
  • Timer
  • Clock

I don't want to cover browser functionality in this piece but I find my searchable browsing history useful - especially when I remember something I read but not necessarily the title! It’s easy to search and find articles in the history. However, don't forget that you can go incognito if you want to browse with an element of privacy.

Searching the Google News archives 

Google News plays a large part in current awareness provision, through alerts etc. However, as part of our library and information role, there are times when we may need to consult news archives. Although Google ceased scanning and archiving newspapers years ago, there remains a large number that might be of use and interest. 

Start by browsing the newspaper list to go directly to a specific newspaper title. The available range is given underneath the title and once you have selected the title you want, you can scroll through to the date and page given. Searching can be a challenge because of the outdated OCR technology. This is why information people make full use of other news archive databases. But it is a freely available source and it is interesting to browse. 

What is trending on Google now?

Spotting trends are essential skills for library and information people. You may also need to know what was trending over a specific timeline. This is where Google trends can help. Google put together some tips so you can get the most out of this tool and uncover interesting insights.

Fun and games with Google

And finally, there are some well known Easter eggs and games within Google and you can easily look these up, for example, try Googling "do a barrel roll". To make everything on your screen fall to the bottom, explore Google gravity - this one made me laugh out loud. 

For ongoing and ever changing fun and games, one of my favourite Google updates is the famous and ever inventive Google Doodles - like the one above for it's 23rd birthday in September 2021. Some of the simple games are great fun, and are usually inspired by events and special days around the world. 

Share your Google hints and tips and tweet them to @TryVable

Download the white paper now and learn how you can prove your library's worth