6 Google Tricks For Improving Your Searching Savvy

A search engine is only as good as the nerd that drives it. Luckily Fast Company is quite nerdy–and we and our friends at the NSA have a few ideas for improving your searches.

6 Google Tricks For Improving Your Searching Savvy
[Image: Flickr user Tim Green]

There’s so much information on the Internet that even government cyberspies need a hand in rooting out juicy data.


In the Untangling the Web: A Guide to Internet Research, readers are walked through how to find confidential South African spreadsheets and password-rich Russian documents. It’s like Google for Dummies, but for spies!

Which is great, but what if we non-NSA search-scourers want to get better at finding Internet gold? Here’s how.

1. Tailor your search to just one site

If you’re trying to sort through a single site, let the search bar know by typing the word site with a colon followed by the site’s name.

This is particularly useful if you’re trying to sort through WebMD for health knowledge, TheKitchn for awesome recipes, or, ahem, Fast Company for a few productivity hints.

2. Get immediate definitions

You don’t need to head to another dictionary. Google’s got you. Just type “define” followed by a colon and the word you want to look up.

The meaning of life

3. Find a specific file type

Use filetype:[jpg, pdf, or other extension] to nab different forms of knowledge, such as professional presentations with “ppt,” academic papers with “pdf,” and lolcats with “jpg.”

4. Limit your results

If you’re looking for primary sources, use the “-” modifying to get around Wikipedia, Quora, or other knowledge aggregators. Like Lifehacker writer Melanie Pinola notes, this is super useful when the word you’re searching after has more than one meaning, like “jaguar -car.”

5. Compare foods

But there are times when Quora can be helpful, such as one user’s recommendation to compare foods with a ‘vs’ indicator:

6. Find an etymology

Word nerds need not labor after word roots; starting your search with “etymology:” will bring up histories for many common words.

A history of ‘history’

If you have any spectacular search hacks, let us know in the comments.


Hat tip: Lifehacker

About the author

Drake Baer was a contributing writer at Fast Company, where he covered work culture. He's the co-author of Everything Connects, a book about how intrapersonal, interpersonal, and organizational psychology shape innovation.