Google Search Tips

If you ever get stuck on a Google search, use these Google search tips to discover the information you're looking for.

Introduction to Google

When you have a question, when you need information, when you want to find something specific, you need the best tools in order to find what you're looking for. That's where Google comes in.

Google is the go-to search engine for most people on the Internet. It's so popular, in fact, that it's changed the way many of us talk about searching for information online. Have you ever heard someone use the word "google" as a verb, for example?

Photo of people with laptops

"I don't know the answer. Just google it!"

"Whoa! You won't believe what we found when we googled your name."

"Relax... I'm googling the address right now."

There are many reasons Google is so popular. For one, it's easy to use—even for beginners. It's also more effective than the average search engine, making it easier to find what you're looking for. In addition, Google is home to a variety of features that can improve your search experience in surprising ways.

Want to learn more? Watch this video from Google to see some of its search features in action.


How to search

There are several ways to conduct a Google search. If you're new to Google, take a look at the options below. You'll want to keep them in mind when we start exploring search strategies on the next page.

Option 1: Google.com

Go to Google's homepage at Google.com. From there, conducting a search is straightforward. Just type your search terms in the box, then click the Google Search button or press Enter on your keyboard.

Screenshot of GoogleConducting a search at Google.com

If your search results start loading before you finish typing, don't panic. By default, you may have a feature called Google Instant enabled. If you don't like the way Google Instant works, you can disable it later by customizing your search settings. (We'll show you where your search settings are on page 3 of this module, under Understanding Your Search Results.)

Option 2: Your browser's search bar

Depending on your browser's default search engine, you may be able to conduct a Google search right from the browser's interface. For example, in Chrome you can use the address bar. In Firefox (pictured below), you can use the address bar or the built-in search bar. Both of these options can be convenient if you remember to use them.

Screenshot of FireboxFirefox address bar and built-in search bar

If the default search engine for your browser is something else (for example, Yahoo! or Bing), you can easily change it to Google. To find out how, visit Make Google my default search engine on Google's support site. The steps are different for each browser, so make sure you follow the instructions for the one you're using.

Option 3: Google Search app

If you have a mobile device, you can download the Google Search app for iOS or Android. Because it is optimized for Google search, you may find that the app is faster or easier to use than your device's web browser.

Screenshot of Google Search appGoogle Search app on an iPhone

Google search strategies

With a few basic search strategies, you can find almost anything online. It doesn't matter if you're using Google, Yahoo!, Bing, or some other type of search engine; most of the techniques in this video are universal. Take a look, and find out how you can improve your web search skills.

Watch the video to learn about searching online.

Use our Google Search Cheat Sheet to help you remember a few basic search strategies.

Screenshot of cheat sheet

Click to download and print (PDF)

Understanding your search results

Click the buttons in the interactive below to learn your way around the different parts of the results page.

Other Google Products

Use this navigation bar to access other Google products and services, like YouTube, Gmail, and Blogger. Alternatively, some of the options can help you find different types of content, like Images or Maps. To view more options, click More at the far end of the list.

Page Navigation

Remember to scroll to the bottom to navigate to the next page of search results. Google is so effective, you'll usually find what you're looking for within the first few results; but sometimes you need to dig a little deeper.

Related Searches

In short, this part of the results page shows you what other people are searching for when they use search terms that are similar to yours. If you need help refining your search, this is a great place to look for ideas.

More Results

Sometimes, if Google finds results that seem like they might be extra helpful, they appear here. In this example, we have a map of nearby stores that sell office supplies.

Ads sometimes appear here as well.

Search Results

Was your search successful? The center of the page is where you'll find your search results. These results can include webpages, images, and many other types of content that have some relevance to what you're looking for.

To view a search result, click the one you want.

Ads

The truth about the results page is that a large part of it is made up of ads. But that's okay. While some ads can be distracting, misleading, or downright annoying, others can be helpful.

The method Google uses to determine which ads will be relevant to you (and your search) is very effective, and generally provides useful results. Just remember to use your judgement, and evaluate everything you see.

Just because a website paid to post an ad doesn't mean it's the best or the most reliable resource.

Tools & Filters

Use the Search tools menu to customize your results even more. Change your location to get better local search results. Filter your results by time to find content that was posted recently, or sometime longer ago.

The features in this menu are dynamic. That means they change depending on the type of content you're searching for, so you always have the most useful tools at your disposal.

Types of Content

Looking for something specific? Use this toolbar to navigate between different types of content, like videos, news, recipes, and much more. Each one will show you resources that are related to your search terms.

We'll take a closer look at this feature in the interactive below.

Gear Icon

Click the gear icon to access several different features, including Search Settings, Search Help, and more.

Changing your search settings is a great way to customize your experience with Google. For example, you could adjust the SafeSearch filter (which controls how much explicit content you see), or change the number of search results that appear per page.

Search Box

Use the search box to continue your investigation. Search for different keywords to refine your search results, or try a different topic all together. You don't have to go back to the Google homepage to search again.

Exploring types of content

Click the buttons in the interactive below to see what it's like to navigate between different types of content using the options above the search results.

Web

Under Web, you'll find results from all the content types (including images, maps, places, etc.), but mostly webpages that match your search terms.

It may help to think of this option as a summary, plus a preview of what you can find under some of the other content types.

Images

Google Images lets you browse pictures that match your search terms. If you want to see the full-sized version of an image (as well as the website it came from), all you have to do is click the one you want.

You can also click Search tools to filter the results by subject, size, color, and more.

Maps

The results under Maps can be very useful, especially if you're searching for something nearby. You can also use Google to get directions, plan a road-trip, or look up points of interest around the world.

In this example, Google has found quite a few local businesses that offer boarding, training, and other services for dog owners.

News

Visit News to view news articles that match your search terms. Most of the results come from well-known websites like CNN.com, but can also come from other sources (like blogs and local news providers).

In this example, Google has found a wide variety of articles that mention the word dog. If we were to search for something more specific (such as westminster dog show), the results would be even more useful.

Shopping

Here, you'll find results for products that match your search terms. You can even use the Search tools to filter the results by price, brand name, and whether or not the product is in stock nearby. This is a great resource for shopping online when you don't know where to find what you're looking for.

More

Click here to search for videos, books, places, blogs, and more.

Advanced search strategies

Screenshot of GoogleAccessing Advanced Search

Contrary to what you might think, advanced search strategies aren't just for advanced users. They're for everyone, whether you have a lot of experience with Google or just a little. The only tool you need is Google's Advanced Search page. You can access it from the results page by clicking the gear icon in the upper-right corner.

If you've never seen the Advanced Search page, you may be surprised by some of the things you can do. For example, you can narrow your results by language or reading level. You can also limit your search results to pages that have a certain domain, such as .gov or .edu.

Click the buttons in the interactive below to learn more about the Advanced Search page.

Usage Rights

In general, you're not allowed to copy & paste information that you find online, and claim it as your own. However, there are some exceptions; for example, works in the public domain, and content that's been licensed by the original author.

With the usage rights option, you can search for this type of content.

File Type

Are you hoping to find a file that contains your search terms, rather than a webpage? Here, you can search for PDFs, spreadsheets, Word documents, and other common file types.

Reading Level

The reading level option can be useful in some very interesting ways. Of course, you can you use it to choose the reading level you're most comfortable with. But you can also use it to manipulate your results to find certain types of information.

Say you're searching for higher-level academic content. You're more likely to find it if you set the reading level to show only advanced results.

SafeSearch

Google's SafeSearch filter lets you control how much explicit sexual content you see.

Strict gives you the most protection, but may inadvertently filter results that you want to see. Moderate is a good compromise because it filters the most extreme results, but still gives you access to others.

Terms Appearing

By default, Google searches for information that contains your search terms anywhere in the page. If you want to limit your search to one part of the page (for example, the page title), you can do that here.

This may be useful for locating something very specific, like a website you've been to before, but you can't remember the address.

Site or Domain

Use this option to search a single website (for example, about.com), or a certain type of website. You can do the latter by limiting your search results to one domain. The domains are as follows:

.edu - colleges, universities, and other school websites

.org - organizations

.gov - agencies of the U.S. government

Last Update

If the information you've found seems out of date, you may want to narrow your results to pages that have been updated more recently. Your options range from the past 24 hours to pages that have been updated within the past year.

Region

Depending on what you're looking for, limiting your search to a specific region can lead to some interesting results. Take the American Revolutionary War, for example. Compared to the U.S., do you think webpages in the United Kingdom would have a slightly different perspective? Probably. Of course, you can also use this feature to search for more general information from different regions.

Language

Are you a native English-speaker? What if you're helping a friend find information in French? Use this option to search for web content that's written in another language - from Afrikaans to Vietnamese, and everything in between.

Then narrow your results by...

Use this section to narrow your results using much more specific criteria. Remember: You must enter at least one search term in the section above in order to use these options.

Find pages with...

These options should look familiar if you've already reviewed our basic search strategies. Here, you can refine your results using techniques like search for an exact phrase. You can also search for pages that contain one of several relevant search terms; for example, discount OR deal.

You must enter at least one search term in this section in order to use the options below (under Then narrow your results by...).

Still can't find what you're looking for?

Sometimes it's not enough to know all the basic and advanced search strategies. If you still can't find what you're looking for, you may need to try different search terms—and this time, really use your critical thinking skills. Let's take a look at some examples.

Example 1

Screenshot of Google searchSearching for an animal shelter

Let's say you're looking for a place where you could adopt a dog. What words do you think OTHER people would use to describe that? Maybe shelter? Or rescue? You could even search for an adoption center by name (for example, humane society).

The truth is, shelter and rescue are pretty common terms—both in popular culture and among people in the pet adoption community. This means they're more likely to appear on a webpage than place to adopt a dog. Notice how that sounds slightly less "official"?

If you know the popular term for the information you're looking for, search for that instead. If you don't know the popular term, look closely at your original search results to see what you can find. If you notice any keywords that appear more frequently than others, it might be a clue.

Example 2

In certain parts of the country, fall is one of the most beautiful times of the year. If you're a "leaf peeper" (someone who's willing to travel in order to view or photograph fall foliage), you need to know when the leaves are going to be at their most colorful.

Of course, you could search for fall foliage forecast. But this may not produce the most comprehensive results. This is because there are so many other words you could use to describe what you're looking for. For example:

In short, try a few synonyms if your original search terms were unsuccessful. You may need to experiment with different combinations and then compare the results to figure out which keywords work best. You can also use advanced search strategies to search for multiple terms (for example, fall OR autumn).

Again, if you don't know any synonyms look at your original results. Review some of the language used there to see whether they give you any ideas.

Doing more with Google

Using fast facts

Google fast facts are tricks you can use to get answers to common questions. They can also help you with everyday tasks like tracking packages or looking up sports scores. All you have to do is type your query in the search box using one of the techniques below, and the answer will appear instantly at the top of the results page.

Screenshot of GoogleConverting a measurement (miles to kilometers)

Review our Google Fast Facts Cheat Sheet to learn more about using fast facts at home. To download and print a copy of your own, click the image below.

Screenshot of cheat sheet Click to download and print (PDF)

Ways to customize

If you really like Google, there are several things you can do to make your experience more personal. For example, you could sign up for a Google account, which gives you access to even more Google services. For more information, review the resources below.

Resources

To learn more about searching, visit these resources below.

Google search

Other resources