Google Search Tips

How do you have more fun when searching? Simply: become a better searcher. Here are some syntax basics as well as advanced tricks or bits of trivia for searching with Google.com:

A quote/ phrase search can be written with both quotations "like this" as well as a minus (or dot) in-between words, like-this.

Google didn't always understand certain special characters like "#", but now it does; a search for C#, for example, yields meaningful results. Note that not every character works yet.

Google allows 32 words within the search query (some years ago, only up to 10 were used, and Google ignored subsequent words). You rarely will need so many words in a single query – just thinking of such a long query is a hard thing to do, as this sentence with twenty words shows. However, it can come in handy for advanced or automated searching.

You can find synonyms of words. E.g. when you search for house but you want to find "home" too, search for ~house. To get to know which synonyms the Google database stores for individual words, simply use the minus operator to exclude synonym after synonym. Like this: ~house -house -home -housing -floor

Google has a lesser known "numrange" operator which can be helpful. Using e.g. 2000..2006 (that's two dots in-between two numbers) will find 2000, 2001, 2002 and so on until 2006.

Google's "define" operator allows you to look up word definitions. For example, define:nasa yields "National Aeronautics and Space Administration" along with many more explanations. You can also enter what is nasa for similar results.

Google searches for all of your words, whether or not you write a "+" before them. Therefore, writing queries +like +this is not really necessary.

Sometimes, Google seems to understand "natural language" queries and shows you so-called "onebox" results. This happens for example when you enter goog, weather new york, ny, war of the worlds (for this one, movie times, move ratings and other information will show), or beatles (which yields an instant discography).

Not all Googles are the same! Depending on your country, Google might forward you to a different version of Google with potentially different results to the same query. For example in Germany and France, certain results are censored for a long time now. In early 2006, Google decided to self-censor Chinese search results (such as web pages of human rights organizations) in compliance with Chinese government requests – which not only resulted in an oddly skewed Google.cn, but also a public outcry from both diehard fans and organizations such as Reporters Without Borders.

For some search queries, Google uses its own search result advertisement system to offer jobs. Try entering work at google and sometimes, you find job offers straight from Google.

Some say that whoever turns up first for the search query president of the internet is, well, the President of the internet. Take a look at the results for this search to find out who's currently ruling you!

Can you guess why the Disney homepage is in a top 10 search result position when you enter "Exit", "No", or "Leave" into Google? Try it out, you'll be surprised (I won't spoil here why this is happening, but it has something to do with adult websites).

Google doesn't have "stop words" anymore. Stop words traditionally are words like "the", "or" and similar which search engines tended to ignore. Nowadays, Google includes all of your words, even the former stop words.

You can use the wildcard character "*" in phrases. This is helpful for finding song texts – let's say you forgot a word or two, but you remember the gist, as in "love you twice as much * oh love * *." You can even use the wildcard character without searching for anything specific at all, as in this search: "* * * * * * *."

The following search tip, on the other hand, you better not follow. But you may sing along…


When it's late at night
And you've an essay due
And you don't know what to write
I'll tell you what to do
Before sunrise
Find something to plagiarize

on Google
Talkin' ‘bout Google.."
– Mort, The Google Song