Am I alone in wishing I could spend less time researching and more time writing?
Living in the 21st century helps. I get to use Google instead of thumbing through encyclopedias!
Still, there have been times when I had to plod through 4-5 pages of results before I struck gold.
That was until I discovered a smarter way to google.
Google has an index of “search operators” built into its code–hacks designed to make your searches more efficient and accurate. And what writer hasn’t dreamed of faster, better research?
So, from one writer to another, here’s a list of Google shortcuts that can reduce your research time and give you more time to write!
When you know exactly what you’re looking for…
Great for those moments when you’re trying to place an obscure literary quote!
- “YOUR TOPIC” <- With quotation marks, Google will search for the exact phrase. Without them, Google might rearrange the words or leave some of them out.
- author:YOURAUTHOR YOUR TOPIC <- Returns search results from the specified author
- YOUR TOPIC – ANOTHER TOPIC <- Excludes the second topic from your search results
True Story: I was once writing a passage about a baby goose (gosling), and I wasn’t sure if his feet would be orange or black. I googled gosling feet…and I got a bunch of pictures of Ryan Gosling’s feet. That would have been a great time to know about the – operant!
When you’re open to suggestions…
Even the most creative writers need a little inspiration from time to time. Enter the “wildcard” operants!
- KEYWORD * KEYWORD <- Returns results with any word that completes the phrase
- ~KEYWORD <- Returns results that use synonyms for your keyword
- related:MYFAVORITESITE.COM <- Helps you find sites that are similar to your favorite site!
When you want something that smacks of authority…
You don’t want to misinform your readers, and you do want to let them know that you’re committed to getting the facts straight. Deferring to an authority can help!
Narrow your Google search results down to the authorities by typing:
- site:.edu YOUR TOPIC
- site:.gov YOUR TOPIC
- site:.org YOUR TOPIC
- YOUR TOPIC + study
- YOUR TOPIC + statistics
- YOUR TOPIC + laws
You can also pick and choose from reputable magazines by typing:
- site:nytimes.com YOUR TOPIC
- site:theguardian.com YOUR TOPIC
- site:nationalgeographic.com YOUR TOPIC
Did You Know? Providing links to authoritative sites can raise your Google ranking!
If you still haven’t found the hardcore, scientific material that you want, try hitting up Google Scholar instead of regular Google. Just a forewarning: the articles you find on Google Scholar can be pretty dense!
When you are worried about SEO…
On one hand, Google is your SEO enemy. It’s the one judging your content, right? On the other hand, Google can be your SEO savior–if you know where to look.
- Related searches. Researching a new blog topic? Don’t forget to scroll down to the bottom of the Google search results. There, you will find related searches. Take relevant phrases and sprinkle them through your blog post. Now, you are getting traffic from those searches too!
- Google Trends. Before you write that post about life-size tofu sculptures, find out if anybody wants to read it. Google trends will tell you how often a topic is searched (aka. how many people want to read about it). Trends can also compare keywords, helping you choose the keyword that gets maximum traffic.
And if you want to keep tabs on emerging hot topics in your field, you can set up a Google Alert!
When you are curious about your own site…
Want to see yourself from Google’s perspective? You can do it!
- related:YOUR.URL <- Returns results that are similar to your site
- link:YOUR.URL <- Finds people who have linked to your site
- info:YOUR.URL <- Force Google to dish everything it’s got on you!
When you can’t remember the operator you need…
We’ve covered a lot of Google hacks now! What happens if you can’t remember them all?
No problem. Just use Google’s advanced search and choose the commands you want from a drop-down list.
Did you find any funny results while testing these hacks? Leave a comment below!
If you liked this post, you might also like…