Google Guide -- Making Searching Even Easier
The absolutely best tutorial on how to use all of Google's potential. Easy to use, simple to navigate, this is a little jewel for both the novice and advanced search user. The definitive up-to-date guide on how to best leverage the Google search engine and all of its features in a simple and easy to access format. Recommended.
-- Robin Good, Master New Media: What Communication Experts Need to Know, February 21, 2004

Nancy Blachman's Google Guide is by far the best guide to using Google, for beginners & more intermediate users, that I've seen so far. I see great potential here for plopping patrons down with this self-guided tutorial, instead of the 20 minute "This is Google, this is how you search" lecture.
--LibrarianInBlack: resources and discussions for the "tech-librarians-by-default" among us..., Feb 4, 2004
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Want to Get Started Immediately?

If you're a novice, get a tour of my favorite features or go straight to Part I: Query Input.

If you're an experienced user, start with one of the following links. These pages may appear to describe basic concepts, but if you read carefully, you'll discover helpful insights into how Google works and how to use it more effectively.

Favorite Features

Part I: Query Input

• Interpreting Your Query
• Crafting Your Query
  (Using Special Characters)
 

• Sharpening Your Query 
  (Advanced Search)
• Using Search Operators 
  (Advanced Operators)

 

Part II: Understanding
Results

• How Google Works

Part III: Special Tools

• Google Answers
• Feature History
 

• Prototypes & Demos
  (Google Labs)

 

Part IV: Developing a Website

• Linking to Search Results  

What Google Guide Explains

In this tutorial, you can learn

Why Take the Google Guide Tutorial?

Google is so easy to use, why take this online tutorial? If you're like many people, you use only a small number of Google's services and features. The more you know about how Google works, its features and capabilities, the better it can serve your needs.

How to Use the Google Guide Tutorial

If you have time, read all of Google Guide and work through the examples and exercises. Otherwise, look at the Table of Contents or use the search box at the bottom of each page to find the pages or sections that are likely to be most helpful to you.

Just as the best way to learn how to sail is to sail, the best way to learn how to search with Google is to search with Google. Consequently this Google tutorial contains many examples and exercises designed to give you practice with the material presented and to inspire you to find amusing or useful information.

Try the examples, work the exercises, and click on the links (usually underlined) to see Google in action and to learn more about a topic.

Since the web and Google's algorithms and features constantly evolve, your results may be different from those shown in this tutorial.

In this tutorial, clicking the left mouse button on an example or a link to a page not in Google Guide, will display the results in a new window. Clicking on a link that points to another section in this tutorial, will display the contents of the associated page in the same window. You can make the contents of the linked page appear in a new window by:

Although this tutorial is for people new to Google, it contains information of interest to those who have experience with Google or another search engine. Unless you're familiar with all of Google's features, you'll learn something by taking this tutorial.

Who will Benefit from Google Guide?

Practically anyone who uses Google.

How Much Time Will the Google Guide Tutorial Take?

This online Google tutorial will occupy you from 0.5 to 8 hours, depending on how many sections you elect to skip, and how many of the examples and problems you work through. Most people spend about half an hour at a time, and two hours total.

Navigation Bar

Near the top of each page is a navigation bar. The current section and its subsections are displayed in blue.

Screen shot of Google Guide's navigation bar.
Click on any name in the navigation bar to be taken to the corresponding section.

Searching Google Guide

If you want to restrict your search to just pages on Google Guide's web site, follow your query with site:www.googleguide.com.

Why the Name Google ~Guide?

Why did I first name this tutorial Google ~Guide? Putting a tilde in front of a search term (with no space in between) effectively turns that term into any of its synonyms. The tilde is known as synonym operator. So, if you search for "Google ~Guide," Google will find Google Guide as well as other Google tutorials.

History of Google Guide

Jerry Peek, author of Unix Power Tools, gave me the idea of writing a book about using Google. I found the idea appealing because I was a fan of Google, was interested in learning how to use it better, there were no other books about Google when I started writing, and with such a job, I could work flexible hours. I created Google Guide and gave seminars on searching with Google to get feedback from users.

Katie Conley, an editor at Osborne/McGraw Hill, approached Fritz Schneider about writing a book about Google. He had written JavaScript: The Complete Reference for Katie. Because of my having mentioned I was writing a book and creating an online tutorial to some Google engineers, Fritz learned of my Google projects. We teamed up so that we could divide the work and write a book more quickly. Eric Fredericksen, a co-worker of Fritz's, joined us. How to Do Everything with Google was published in November of 2003.

How to Do Everything with Google book cover How is Google Guide Different from How to Do Everything with Google?

The book How to Do Everything with Google covers material similar to Google Guide, but it's a reference book while Google Guide is a tutorial, with exercises at the end of nearly every section.

About the Authors: Nancy Blachman and Jerry Peek

To get ideas of what to include in Google Guide, Nancy Blachman gives free seminars on searching with Google. Nancy has been using Google since the spring of 1999, when Google was less than one year old. She has written over a half dozen tutorial and reference books, including How to Do Everything with Google, Mathematica: A Practical Approach, Mathematica Graphics Guidebook, Mathematica Quick Reference, Maple V Quick Reference, and Putting Your Heart Online. Nancy is president and founder of Variable Symbols, a company that specializes in software training and consulting. Nancy obtained a B.Sc. in Applied Mathematics from the University of Birmingham, U.K., an M.S. in Operations Research from the University of California at Berkeley, and an M.S. in Computer Science from Stanford University, where she taught for eight years.

Jerry Peek is author/co-author of seven books; he's been a technical writer, instructor, and course developer for more than twenty years. Jerry has a B.S. in Electronic Engineering Technology from California Polytechnic State University and an M.Sc. in Computer Science from the University of London, Birkbeck College. He currently writes the Power Tools column in Linux Magazine.

If you want to meet the authors, consider attending Nancy's birthday party/conference.

Table of Contents

Home

• Quick Tips
  • Google Search Box
Introduction
• What Google Guide Explains
• Start Immediately
• Why take Google Guide?
• Who will Benefit?
• How Much Time Will it Take?
• Google Guide's Home Page
  • Navigation Bar
• Radio Buttons
• Why Google ~Guide?
• History of Google Guide
• Google Guide vs. my Google Book
• About the Authors

Contents

• Getting Started Immediately
• Quiz
  • Power Googling
• Quiz Answers

Printable Versions

• Cheat Sheet (pdf 1/2 page)
• Adv. Op. Reference (pdf 2 pages)
• Calculator Reference (pdf 2 pages)
• Sact State's QuikRef (pdf 1 page)
• Google Guide (pdf over 100 pages)
• Quick Reference (pdf)
• Favorite Features (pdf)
• Power Googling (pdf)
• I: Query Input (pdf)
• II: Understanding Results (pdf)
• III: Special Tools (pdf)
• IV: Website Development (pdf)
 

• Cheat Sheet (html 1/2 page)
• Adv. Op. Reference (html 3 pages)
• Calculator Reference (html 3 pages)
• Google Guide (html)
• Cheat Sheet (html)
• Favorite Features (html)
• Power Googling (html)
• I: Query Input (html)
• II: Understanding Results (html)
• III: Special Tools (html)
• IV: Website Development (html)
• Nancy Blachman's Speaking Schedule (html)

 
Favorite Features
• Tools
• Shortcuts
• Keeping Abreast of the News
• More Relevant Results
• Special Notation
• Preferences Setting
• Translation & Language Tools
  • Highlighting Terms
• Sets
• Advertising
• Power and Control
• Links to Other Useful Information
• Printable Version
• Quick Tips

Part I:
Query Input

• Entering a Query
• Going Directly to the 1st Result
• Selecting Search Terms
• Interpreting Your Query
• Crafting Your Query by using
  Special Characters
 

• Sharpening Your Query by using 
  Google's Advanced Search Form
• Using Search Operators 
  (Advanced Operators)

 

Part II:
Understanding
Results

• How Google Works
• Results Page
• Links Included with Your Results
• Spelling Corrections (Suggestions)
• Definitions
• Cached Pages
• Similar Pages
• News Headlines

 

• Product Search
• File Type
• Translation
• Preferences
• Last Results Page
• Advertising
• Evaluating Results

 

Part III:
Special Tools

• Google Tools
• Shortcuts
• Calculator
• Phonebook
• Street Maps
• Stock Quotes
• Definitions (Google Glossary)
• Travel Conditions
• Search by Number
• Images
• Groups
• News
 

• Alerts
• Froogle
• More »
• Catalogs
• Local Google (Search by Location)
• Directory
• Special Searches
• Google Answers
• Prototypes & Demos
  (Google Labs)
• Feature History by date, alphabetic order, by category

 

Part IV:
Developing a Website

• Creating Content 
• Linking to Search Results
• Getting Listed
• What's PageRank?
 

• Improving Your PageRank
• Advertising Your Website
• Generating Revenue by Running Ads

 

Talks

• Developing a Website
  • Power Googling

Appendix

• Summary
• Tracking
• Useful Links
• Search Leader
• Solutions to Selected Exercises
• Testimonials
• Google Guide Press
 

• Press Releases
• Submitting Feedback
• Link to Google Guide
• Creative Commons License
• Acknowledgments
• Translation Advice
• For the Press

 

Quiz

Take this quiz and find out how well you know Google. If you want a hint, click on the link(s) in the question. When you have completed the quiz, click here or visit www.googleguide.com/quiz_answers.html to see the answers and tally your score.

  1. What's on Google's homepage?
    1. Just Google's logo.
    2. Google's logo, a search box, and two banner ads.
    3. Google's logo, a search box, a link to job openings at Google, and a copyright notice.
    4. Google's logo, a search box, some links, a copyright notice, and perhaps a weather report, news headlines, or stock quotes if you personalized Google's homepage.

  2. What happens if you enter a query such as google tutorial on Google's homepage and then click the I'm Feeling Lucky button?
    1. You're shown one of the Google's holiday logos.
    2. You're taken directly to the first result for your query instead of Google's results page.
    3. Google donates $1 to the charity of your choice.
    4. Google displays your fortune along with a cookie.

  3. Is Google case sensitive, i.e., does Google return different results for Red Cross than for red cross?
    1. Yes, use capitalization to fine-tune your results.
    2. No, ignoring case distinctions increases the number of results Google finds.
    3. Yes, but Google ignores capitalized query terms, such as OR and AND, which are special operators.
    4. All of the above.

  4. Does Google care if you misspell one or more of your query terms?
    1. Yes, Google will not find any results.
    2. No, there's a good chance that Google will recognize your spelling mistakes and suggest an alternative more common spelling.
    3. Yes, but you can run a spelling checker on your query before you submit it to Google.
    4. No, Google will figure out what you want even if you just enter the first letter of each query term.

  5. What results does Google favor?
    1. Pages that have your search terms near each other.
    2. Pages that have the terms in the same order as in your query.
    3. Pages that match your search terms exactly.
    4. All of the above.

  6. How can you use Google to find the meaning of a word?
    1. When you include "define," "what is," or "what are" in your query in front of a word, phrase, or acronym, Google displays one Glossary definition above your search results, e.g., define phishing.
    2. When your query includes the "define:" operator, Google displays all the definitions it finds on the web, e.g., define:deipnosophist.
    3. Search for the word and then click on the definition link in the statistics bar that appears below the Google search box and above your search results.
    4. All of the above.

  7. How can you translate a word, sentence, webpage, or other material into another language?
    1. Ask a native speaker.
    2. Type in define, colon, whatever word you want defined, e.g., define:suchmaschine.
    3. Go to Google Language Tools and enter the text or webpage you want translated.
    4. A or C.

  8. Does Google return only pages that match all your search terms?
    1. Pretty much, so select your search terms carefully.
    2. No, Google also includes pages with variations of your search terms.
    3. No, Google ignores some common words, such as "a," "the," and "how."
    4. All of the above though they contradict each other.

  9. What variants of your search terms does Google include in your results?
    1. Google searches for your query words as well as each of their synonyms.
    2. None. Google only returns pages that match your search terms exactly.
    3. Google searches for your search terms as well as misspellings of each term.
    4. Google uses a technique called stemming to search on the stem or root of a word that can have multiple endings.

  10. Google limits query to how many words?
    1. There is no limit.
    2. 65 (because the design engineer wanted to impress her colleagues)
    3. 32 (naturally because it's 2^5 or 2*2*2*2*2, an easy number for a computer to compute)
    4. 8 (who needs more than 8 search terms)

  11. What's the quickest way to find driving directions using Google?
    1. Type the address in the Google search box, e.g., 1099 Lombard Street San Francisco CA, and then click on one of the map provider links.
    2. Type the address in the search box, e.g., 1 Broadway Ter, New York, NY, and Google will display a satellite view of the street.
    3. Use Froogle, Google's shopping tool, to buy a GPS system. Then install it in your car.
    4. Search Google Images for a map, e.g., 1900 Louis Road, Palo Alto, CA.

  12. What's the fastest way to find someone's phone number?
    1. Visit 411.info, and search for a person by last name and city or zip code.
    2. Enter a person's name and a city, state, or zip code into Google's search box, e.g., Barack Obama Chicago IL.
    3. Pull out your local phone book and look up the person.
    4. Buy a CD-ROM phone database and look up phone numbers without being connected to the Internet.

  13. What is the fastest way to find where a particular movie is playing at your local cinema?
    1. Look in the entertainment pages of your newspaper.
    2. Call 777-FILM if you are in the United States.
    3. Search Google for "movie" followed by your city or zip code, e.g., movie 10001.
    4. Search Google for "movie" followed by the name of the film you want to see, e.g., movie March of the Penguins.

  14. How can you add a list of numbers, convert from miles to kilometers, or evaluate some other mathematical expression?
    1. Use your cell phone or PDA, if it has a built-in calculator.
    2. Use a calculator.
    3. Enter the expression you want evaluated in Google's search box and hit the ENTER or RETURN key.
    4. All of the above.

  15. What's the fastest way to find the exchange rate between the US dollar and the Euro?
    1. Buy a newspaper and look in the financial section.
    2. Find a currency conversion site, such as XE.com and use their universal currency converter.
    3. Search Google for 1 Euro in USD. (USD for US Dollars)
    4. You can't find out because the rate is volatile.

  16. How would you find a weather forecast for where you live?
    1. Search Google for weather and your city or zip code, e.g., weather 94010.
    2. Read the weather report in your local newspaper, listen to or watch the weather report on the radio or on TV.
    3. Personalize Google's homepage to include a weather forecast for where you live.
    4. Any of the above.

  17. How can you read a page when the hosting website is down?
    1. You can't find a page if the hosting website is down.
    2. In Google's search results, click on the title of a webpage, and Google will provide the page even when the hosting website is down.
    3. In Google's search results, click on the cached link.
    4. Visit the Wayback Machine, a.k.a., Internet Archive, and search for several snapshots of the webpage.

  18. What is the fastest way to find flights between San Jose and Boston?
    1. Call your favorite travel agent before he loses his job.
    2. Go to Expedia.com or CheapTickets and specify the dates you want to fly.
    3. Search Google for sjc bos or San Jose Boston.
    4. Call United or Delta; they both need your business.

  19. Before going to the airport, what's a quick way to find out when your friend's flight will arrive?
    1. Search Google for your friend's flight to find out when it will arrive and at which gate, e.g. United 42.
    2. Call a taxi to pick up your friend at the airport and relax.
    3. Check the travel conditions at the airport by searching google for the 3-letter airport code followed by the word "airport," e.g., sfo airport.
    4. Call the airlines to find out about when the flight will arrive and where.

  20. In addition to the Web, what other things can you search using Google?
    1. Images, news, stores, dictionaries, books, parking spaces
    2. Images, news, products, books, recipes
    3. Images, news, products, Usenet (online discussions), Blogs (online journals), local businesses, books, movies
    4. Images, news, products, books, Blogs (online journals), genealogy charts

  21. How can you check gas prices in your area?
    1. Search for "gas" followed by your zip code in Yahoo's search box, e.g., gas 94010, and click on the Gas Buddy link.
    2. Although Google can handle volatile commodities, such as stocks and currency, Google doesn't currently provide a shortcut to gas prices. Given the rate at which Google is adding features, I expect Google will soon include capabilities for checking gas prices.
    3. Search for "gas" followed by your zip code in Google's search box, e.g., gas 94010, to find your local gas stations and then drive by them and see the prices they posted.
    4. All of the above.

  22. How does Google decide how to rank ads on a page?
    1. The advertiser that pays the most per click through gets the top spot.
    2. The ad that gets the most click throughs gets the top spot.
    3. The ad that generates the most revenue to Google gets the top spot, taking into consideration rate of click throughs and cost per click.
    4. The exact formula is proprietary information that Google doesn't divulge
    5. Google doesn't show ads on its website.

  23. What ads does Google display next to your search results?
    1. Ads from advertisers who pay the most for a given search term.
    2. Ads with the highest click-rate.
    3. Ads that are related to your present search terms.
    4. Ads that are related to your previous search terms.

  24. How can you improve the ranking of your website on Google?
    1. Place lots of ads on Google.
    2. Include useful high-quality information on your site and then publicize and get links to your website.
    3. Buy lots of Google stock and schmooze with Larry and Sergey at the shareholder's meeting.
    4. Don't worry about Google. Instead try to get your site included on Yahoo.

  25. How can you find the current price of Google shares?
    1. Search for goo on Google.
    2. Search for goog on Google.
    3. Search for google on Google.
    4. Don't bother looking it up. It will only make you sad that you didn't buy it at the IPO.

When you have completed the quiz, click here or visit www.googleguide.com/quiz_answers.html to see the answers and tally your score.

About.com's Google Quiz inspired me to create this quiz.
My Favorite Features

In addition to searching the web, you can use Google to find specific information that is available offline or on specialized sites. In this page I describe how Google works and features that enable me to find more quickly things I want.

Tools
Shortcuts





Special Searches


Other Features

To learn more about a particular service or feature, click on the title of a section, which links to a more detailed description in Google Guide, www.googleguide.com, or read How to Do Everything with Google.

Tools

Enter a query even if Google's home page isn't in your browser.

Toolbar - toolbar.google.com

A screen shot of Google's Toolbar

I often access Google from the Toolbar when I use Windows 95/98/ME/NT/2000/XP and Internet Explorer 5.0 or a more recent version or from Googlebar when I use Mozilla. For Mac OS X users, Apple's Safari web browser includes Google search and my other favorite Toolbar features.

A screen shot of the Mozilla's Googlebar

My favorite Toolbar features include

Feature What it can do
Search Box Access Google's search technology from your browser toolbar.
Highlight Highlight terms on the current page.
Pop-up Blocker Stop annoying pop-up windows (new in version 2.0 of Toolbar).

Browser Buttons - www.google.com/options/buttons.html

I often search using Google browser buttons when I don't have access to a Google Toolbar or Deskbar.

It's easy to install buttons for searching Google

Copyright © 2003 Google Inc. Used with permission.

Shortcuts

Google provides shortcuts that seem intuitively obvious once I've learned about them.

Keeping Abreast of the News - News Alerts

Rather than searching Google News every day to find out what's new, I set up Google News Alerts to send me email when news articles of interest to me appear on the web.

Screen shot of Google NewsAlerts.

I've also set up Google Alert, a third-party service available at www.googlealert.com, to keep up with the latest news about Google, How to Do Everything with Google, and Google Guide. Google Alert is more flexible and returns more results than Google's News Alerts.

Screen shot of Google Alert.

More Relevant Results

When Google was first launched, it returned only pages that matched all your query terms exactly. To increase the number of results, Google now returns pages that match variants of your search terms. For example,

Google search box with [ child bicycle helmet ].  

finds pages that contain words that are similar to some or all of your search terms, e.g., "child," "children," or "children's," "bicycle," "bicycles," "bicycle's," "bicycling," or "bicyclists," and "helmet" or "helmets." Google calls this feature word variations or automatic stemming.

Where are your Search Terms on a Page?

When Google returns a link to a page that appears to have little to do with my query, or if I can't find the information I'm seeking on the current version of the page, I look at the cached version.

Screen shot showing cached link in a search result.

Click on the Cached link to view Google's cached version of the page with the query terms highlighted.

On the cached version, Google highlights search terms and indicates terms that appear only on links pointing to the page.

Note: Internet Explorer users may view results or a page with any word(s) highlighted, not just search terms, by using the highlight feature of the Google Toolbar, which I mentioned above.

Screen shot of results pages with terms highlighted.

Google Sets

Google showcases some prototypes and products in development on the Google Labs, the web site of Google's research group.

My favorite prototype is Google Sets.

Enter a few items from a set of things.
Google Sets will try to predict other items in the set.

Enter a few items from a set of things in Google sets. Enter a few items from a set of things in Google sets.

I've used Google sets to find

Advertising

I never would have imagined that I would be listing Google advertising among my favorite features. I'm both pleased as a user and as an advertiser. Ads have led me to useful information that I might not have otherwise found so easily and my ads have steered thousands of interested users to my Google tutorial for a minimal cost.

Google's approach to ads is similar to its approach to search results: the ads must deliver useful links, or the ads are removed.

You can distinguish ads by their format and the label "Sponsored Link." Ads contain a title, a short description, and a web address (URL).

A screen shot showing how Google's ads are identified and kept separate from search results

Want Power and Control?

Like a race car, there are special features if you want more control over your searches.

When you don't find what you're seeking, consider specifying more precisely what you want by using Google's Advanced Search feature, which

Screen shot pointing to the Advanced Search link on Google's home page.

You can specify most of the Advanced Search page options in a regular search box query by using advanced operators, i.e., query words that have special meaning to Google.

Want to see examples of advanced operators?

Note: The colon following the operator name is mandatory.

[ head OR hair lice site:edu ]
[ link:www.pampmothersclub.org ]
[ allintitle: child safety ]
[ swimming lessons -adult ]
[ wills estate planning filetype:pdf ]

Advanced operators allow more flexibility than the basic operators and the Advanced Search form.

Find a page by its title.

Google search box with [ allintitle: Wear Sunscreen ].  

Find pages whose titles contain the word "security," with the word "e-mail" on the text of the page not on microsoft.com.

Google search box with [ intext:e-mail intitle:security -site:microsoft.com].  

Find crime reports in California.

Google News search box with [ location:CA "crime reports" ].  

Find pdf documents with information about financial planning for a child's college education.

Google search box with [ filetype:pdf financial planning college education ].  

Search non-commercial organizations, educational, and government sites.

Google search box with [ site:.org OR site:.edu OR site:.gov googleguide ].  

Find every page on a site that is included in Google's index.

Google search box with [ site:www.googleguide.com googleguide ].  

Learn about techniques used by hackers to exploit targets and find sensitive data and how to defend your own websites in Johnny Long's Google Hacking Mini-Guide.

The Google Guide Advanced Operator Quick Reference (www.googleguide.com/advanced_operators_reference.html) provides a nice two-page summary of the search operators grouped by type.

There is an alphabetical list of the search operators in the Using Search Operators (Advanced Operators) section of Google Guide.

For tips on using one or more search operators in a query, see the last section in Using Search Operators (Advanced Operators).

Links to Other Useful Information

Click on any of the following links for more on these topics.

Selecting Search Terms
How Google Interprets a Query
Refining a Query
What Appears on the Results Page
Getting to the Last Result
When Google added features (Feature History)
How Google Works

For more features and services as well as how Google works, read Google Guide (www.googleguide.com) or How to Do Everything with Google.

Part I: Query Input

Google is easy to use, but the more you know about how it works, its features, its capabilities, and how it displays results, the better it can serve your needs.

In this segment, you will learn how to:

Entering a Query

If you have little or no experience with Google, read on. Otherwise, skip to the next section, titled "Go to the First Result."

If your browser isn't pointing to Google, visit Google's home page by entering one of the following web addresses into your browser:

(When we refer to a web address in this tutorial, we omit the "http://" prefix. For a description of web addresses, see the section "Anatomy of a Web Address."

You may also have a bookmark or favorites entry for Google or a "Google" button on your browser window. No matter how you do it, you should see the Google home page with a search box:

Screen shot of Google's home page

What is a query? It's a request for information from a search engine. A query consists of one or more words, numbers, or phrases that you hope you will find in the search results listings. In Google Guide, I sometimes call a query search terms.

To enter a query, type descriptive words into Google's search box. You can use either the search box on Google's home page (shown above) or the search box that always appears at the top of a Google results page (shown in the next screen shot). And for now, you can also use the search box we've provided. For practice, point to this box, click in it, and type the words [ california driving ]:

  

The previous example isn't just a picture of a search box. Now press the ENTER key or click on the "Google Search" button to view your search results. You'll get the Google results page for a search on the words "california" and "driving." The results include links to pages that match your query as well as relevant snippets (excerpts) with your search terms in boldface.

Feel free to change what's in the search box and run other searches. To come back to this tutorial, click your browser's "back" button (more than once, if needed).

Screen shot of Google search results for "california driving"

The results page is full of information and links, most of which relate to your query. Results Google considers to be most relevant to your query are shown first. To the right of Google's search results appear sponsored links, which are paid advertisements.

The first line in each result is the page title. The title will be underlined, i.e., it's a link to the web page. You can click on the title to view that page. (The URL of the page is shown in green at the start of a line, near the end of the result.) Under the title are often excerpts, called snippets. Snippets include one or more of your query words shown in boldface. In our example, click on the link California Driving — A Survival Guide to view the corresponding California Driving Guide web page.

Your results for a search on "california driving" may be different from this screen shot because Google constantly searches the Web for new pages and adjusts its results algorithms.

Going Directly to the First Result

Click on the I'm Feeling Lucky button on Google's home page to go directly to the first result for your query. Instead of showing you a list of pages, Google sends you immediately to the result that may be most relevant to your query. For example, if you enter the query [ california driving ] (without the square brackets) and click the I'm Feeling Lucky button, Google may send you to the home page of Hamish Reid's wonderful California Driving Guide. (You may see another page if Google's first result has changed by the time you read this tutorial.) Then come back to this Google Guide page by clicking your browser's "back" button.

Google search box with [ california driving ].  

This example isn't just a picture of what a search box and the I'm Feeling Lucky button look like. In this example and in others like it throughout this tutorial, you can edit what's in the search box and run different searches.

Screen shot of the top result from search for "california driving"

The I'm Feeling Lucky button can save you the time it takes to review your results and then click on the first one. Use it when you're confident the page you want is the best fit for your query, which is usually the case when you're seeking very popular pages. For example, it's a safe bet that an I'm Feeling Lucky search for "Paul McCartney" (one of The Beatles) will send you to his home page www.paulmccartney.com.

Note: I'm Feeling Lucky doesn't consider the various sponsored links on the first results page, which are paid advertisements, when deciding where to take you. In other words, the I'm Feeling Lucky button will send you to what Google considers the most relevant result that is not a paid advertisement.

In the Section after the Exercises, we'll look at how to select search terms.

Exercises

These problems give you experience with entering a query. For hints and answers to selected problems, see the Solutions page in the Appendix.

  1. Point your browser to Google's home page by visiting www.google.com. Find Google tutorials by typing [ google tutorial ] (without the square brackets) into Google's search box and then clicking the "Google Search" button. Click on the link for Google Guide.

  2. After completing the previous exercise, click the back button on your browser twice to return to Google's home page and then search again for [ google tutorial ] (without the square brackets). Click on the I'm Feeling Lucky button.

  3. What is the difference between the results of the previous two exercises?

  4. Point your browser to Boogle's home page by visiting www.boogle.com. In addition to offering the same search capabilities as Google, Boogle includes an interesting quote.

  5. Find recipes for chocolate souffle by typing [ chocolate souffle recipes ] (without the square brackets) into Boogle's search box and then clicking the "Google Search" button.

  6. After completing the previous exercise, go back to the Boogle home page. (If you still have the same window open, use its back button to go back. Otherwise, click on www.boogle.com.) Then search again for [ chocolate souffle recipes ] (without the square brackets). Click on the I'm Feeling Lucky button.

Selecting Search Terms

The search terms you enter and the order in which you enter them affect both the order and pages that appear in your search results. In the examples below, click on the similar ways of specifying various searches and note how the results differ.

For simplicity sake, this tutorial uses square brackets to denote Google's search box. For example, to search for a cheap hotel in Mykonos, I'll put the words "cheap," "hotel," and "Mykonos" in square brackets, [ cheap hotel Mykonos ], to indicate you should type those three words in Google's search box. You should not type the brackets, although Google will ignore them if you do type them.

Furthermore, in the examples that follow, each set of search terms is linked to the results of a Google search on those terms. So clicking on [ cheap Mykonos hotel ] returns the Google results page for a search on those three words.

Use words likely to appear on the pages you want.

[ salary negotiation tips ]
[ sciatica ]
[ window treatments ]

Avoid using a question as a query. For example, the query, [ Does Australia have Target ], instructs Google to find pages containing all the terms. Such a query won't necessarily find pages answering your question. A better query might be [ Australia Target store ].

USE [ Australia Target store ]
NOT [ Does Australia have Target ]

When Google detects very common words such as where, do, I, for, and a, known as stop words, it ignores them so Google may return relevant results. If you're seeking pages that include a stop word, e.g., "how the west was won," learn how to force Google to search for a complete phrase or a specific word in the section Crafting Your Query.

Avoid using words that you might associate with your topic, but you wouldn't expect to find on the designated page(s). For example, queries that include "articles about," "discussion of," "documentation on," and "pages about" are likely to return fewer results since information on the web is rarely labeled with such terms.

USE [ lasik eye surgery ]
NOT [ documentation on lasik eye surgery ]

USE [ jobs product marketing Sunnyvale ]
NOT [ listings of product marketing jobs in Sunnyvale ]

Suppose you want to know how old someone is, such as Nelson Mandela (the former President of South Africa). Pages with "birthday" or "age" might be more than a year old. Searching for pages that include "Nelson Mandela" and "born" are likely to include either "Nelson Mandela born" or "Nelson Mandela was born" followed by his birth date. You can figure out his age from knowing when he was born.

USE [ Nelson Mandela born ]
NOT [ Nelson Mandela birthday ] nor [ Nelson Mandela age ]

Not sure what word or phrase is likely to appear on pages you want? Consider running a word or phrase popularity contest with Google Smackdown, which you can find at www.onfocus.com/googlesmack/down.asp. This third-party application reports which of two terms or phrases Google estimates to be more prevalent on the web (actually on more web pages that Google has included in its index).

Screen shot of Google Smackdown. Screen shot of Google Smackdown results.

Although not as popular according to Google Smackdown, in Google Guide I use "screen shot" because it's in my online dictionary and "screenshot" isn't.

Note: The section How Google Works describes how Google finds web pages and constructs an index.

Be specific: Use more query terms to narrow your results.

It's better to use a more precise, less ambiguous term than a common one to "flesh out the topic by including facets that interest you," notes Ned Fielden in his book Internet Research, Second Edition (McFarland & Company, 2001).

Does your query have enough specific information for Google to determine unambiguously what you're seeking? If your query is too vague, it's unlikely to return relevant results. Consider, for example, the query [ java ]. What do you suppose Google includes in the first page of results? An island in Indonesia? A beverage consisting of an infusion of ground coffee beans? A computer network-oriented platform-independent programming language developed by Sun Microsystems?

USE [ Java Indonesia ], [ java coffee ], or [ java programming language ]
NOT [ java ]

How can you come up with more specific search terms? What do you know about the topic? Consider answers to the questions, who?, what?, where?, when?, why?, and how?

When you search for [ Tom Watson ], on the first page of results you may get references to a member of Parliament, the golfer, the IBM executive, and a Populist Party candidate for President in 1900 and 1904. If you're searching for something that could return many different types of results, you should add a term that distinguishes among them. This way you'll get only results about the specific Tom Watson you're interested in.

USE [ Tom Watson MP ], [ Tom Watson golf ], or [ Tom Watson IBM ]
NOT [ Tom Watson ]

USE [ baby development ] or [ baby milestones ]
NOT [ babies ]

USE [ Betty Ford Center drug addiction ]
NOT [ Ford Center ]

Note: Google limits queries to 32 words.

Be brief.

For best results, use a few precise words. For example, a program on quitting smoking is more likely to include the terms "quit smoking program" than the words "program on quitting tobacco cigarette smoking addiction."

USE [ quit smoking program ]
NOT [ program on quitting tobacco cigarette smoking addiction ]

You don't have to correct your spelling.

There's a good chance that Google will recognize your mistakes and suggest an alternative more common spelling, usually faster than you can look up the term in an online dictionary.

When you enter: [ Anna Kornikova tennis ]
Google responds: Did you mean: Anna Kournikova tennis

Note: Before clicking on Google's suggested spelling, consider whether it's what you want. Spelling checkers, like people, make mistakes.

For more information on Google's spelling correction system, see the section Spelling Corrections.

Note: Even if you use the search tips described in Google Guide, you won't be able to access authoritative information that's available offline, e.g., old reference books, or is stored in specialized databases. For such information is not currently searchable with Google.

Next we'll look at how Google interprets your query.

For more information on the basics of Google search, visit www.google.com/help/basics.html.

Exercises

These problems give you practice in selecting search terms. For hints and answers to selected problems, see the Solutions page in the Appendix.

  1. Find a page with "Google doodle."

  2. Find the Dilbert cartoon that Scott Adams developed by using Google's logo.

  3. What's Google's history?

  4. Find contact information for your representative(s), e.g., senator, congresswoman (or congressman), or member of Parliament.

  5. How long did it take the first person to cross the United States by car and in what year was it first done?

  6. In the summer of 1997, an email message was widely circulated featuring the text of a "commencement speech" purportedly given by Kurt Vonnegut at MIT. The imaginary speech began "Wear sunscreen." What's the story behind this email hoax? What did this funny well-written fantasy "commencement speech" say?

  7. Learn about the recommended tours of the Hearst Castle.

  8. Find a recipe for lamb with mint sauce.

Interpreting Your Query

Understanding how Google treats your search terms will help you devise effective queries and revise ineffective ones.

Google returns only pages that match all your search terms.

A search for [ compact fold-up bicycle ] finds pages containing the words "compact" and "fold-up" and "bicycle." Because you don't need to include the word AND between your terms, this notation is called an implicit AND.

[ compact fold-up bicycle ]

Because of implicit AND, you can focus your query by adding more terms.

[ compact lightweight fold-up bicycle ]

Note: If you want pages containing any (instead of all) of your search terms, use the OR operator, which is described in the next section Crafting Your Query.

Note: Google sometimes returns pages that don't contain your query terms, as you can see in the example in the Cached Pages section in Part II. Google returns pages in which your query terms are included in the link text (interpreted as a description) to another page or place on the page, more commonly referred to as the anchor text of a link pointing to the page.

Google returns pages that match your search terms exactly.

In his book Internet Research, Second Edition (McFarland & Company, 2001), Ned Fielden notes "Google simply matches strings of characters together and doesn't currently base inferences on uses of the language. Although this searching method has some drawbacks, it harnesses one of the fabulous powers of computers, [the ability] to sift through enormous heaps of data quickly and accurately."

 If you search for ...  Google won't find ...
cheap inexpensive
tv television
effects influences
children kids
car automobile
Calif OR CA California
Note: There are exceptions when Google finds pages that include synonyms of your search terms, which are displayed in a boldface typeface in Google's snippet.
 If you search for ...  Google finds ...
NYC New York City
SF San Francisco
GNP Gross National Product

Google returns pages that match variants of your search terms.

The query [ child bicycle helmet ] finds pages that contain words that are similar to some or all of your search terms, e.g., "child," "children," or "children's," "bicycle," "bicycles," "bicycle's," "bicycling," or "bicyclists," and "helmet" or "helmets." Google calls this feature word variations or automatic stemming. Stemming is a technique to search on the stem or root of a word that can have multiple endings.

If you only want to search for pages that contain some term(s) exactly, precede each such term with a plus sign (+) or enclose more than one term in quotes (" ").

Google doesn't match variants when your query consists of a single term.

Note: When you want synonyms or variants that Google doesn't find, consider using either the OR or tilde operator, which is described in the next section Crafting Your Query.

Google ignores some common words called "stop words," e.g., the, on, where, how, de, la, as well as certain single digits and single letters.

Stop words tend to slow down your search without improving the results. Google will indicate if a stop word has been excluded on the results page below the search box.

[ lyrics to the Dixie Chicks' songs ]

Screen shot showing what Google does when it ignores some common words, such as "to" and "the."

Note: Use the + operator or enclose more than one term in quotes (" ") to force Google to include terms it would otherwise ignore. I describe these basic operators and others in the next section, Crafting Your Query.

If your query consists only of common words that Google normally ignores, Google will search for pages that match all the terms.

[ the who ]

Note: Find more pages mentioning the rock band The Who by entering [ "the who" ], a notation you'll learn about in the next section Crafting Your Query.

Google limits queries to 32 words.

Google will indicate in a message below the query box at the top of the page if your query exceeds the 32-word limit. The 32-word limit applies to search terms and operators but not stop words.

The limit was previously 10 words, as shown in the following image.

Screen shot of Google message indicating 10-word limit.

The following query finds sites that have included Google Guide's description of how Google works.

[ "Google consists of three distinct parts, each of which is run on a distributed network of thousands of low-cost computers and can therefore carry out fast parallel processing. Parallel processing is a method of computation in which many calculations can be performed simultaneously, significantly speeding up data processing." ]

Google favors results that have your search terms near each other.

Google considers the proximity of your search terms within a page. So the query [ snake grass ] finds pages about a plant of that name, while [ snake in the grass ] tends to emphasize pages about sneaky people. Although Google ignores the words "in" and "the," (these are stop words), Google gives higher priority to pages in which "snake" and "grass" are separated by two words.

[ snake grass ]
[ snake in the grass ]

Google gives higher priority to pages that have the terms in the same order as in your query.

Consequently, you should enter search terms in the order in which you would expect to find them on the pages you're seeking. A search for [ New York library ] gives priority to pages about New York's libraries. While the query [ new library of York ] gives priority to pages about the new libraries in York.

[ New York library ]
[ new library of York ]

Google is NOT case sensitive; it shows both upper- and lowercase results.

Ignoring case distinctions increases the number of results Google finds. A search for [ Red Cross ] finds pages containing "Red Cross," "red cross," or "RED CROSS."

[ Red Cross ], [ red cross ], and [ RED CROSS ] return the same results.

There is no way to instruct Google to pay attention to case distinctions, e.g., you can't tell Google to find only occurrences of "Red Cross" where the first letter of each word is capitalized.

Note: The words "OR" and "AND" have special meanings if entered in uppercase letters.

Google ignores some punctuation and special characters, including ! ? , . ; [ ] @ / # < > .

Because punctuation is typically not as important as the text around it, Google ignores most punctuation in your search terms. There are exceptions, e.g., C++ and $99. Mathematical symbols, such as /, <, and >, are not ignored by Google's calculator.

Dr. Ruth ] returns the same results as [ Dr Ruth ]

What if you're seeking information that includes punctuation that Google ignores, e.g., an email address? Just enter the whole thing including the punctuation.

info@amazon.com ]

Be aware that web pages sometimes camouflage email addresses to make collecting such information difficult for spammers. For example, on some sites you'll find the @ sign in an email address replaced with the word "at."

Now we'll look at some special characters that Google doesn't ignore.

A term with an apostrophe (single quotes) doesn't match the term without an apostrophe.

A query with the term "we're" returns different results from a query with the term "were."

we're ] matches "we're" but not "were"
were ] matches "were" but not "we're"

Because some people spell hyphenated words with a hyphen and others with a space, Google searches for variations on any hyphenated terms.

When Google encounters a hyphen (-) in a query term, e.g., [ part-time ], it searches for:

[ part-time ] matches "part-time," "part time," and "parttime"
[ part time ] matches "part-time" and "part time", but
[ "part time" ] (with quotes) is better for space-separated words

[ e-mail ] matches "e-mail," "email," and "e mail"
[ email ] matches "email"

Note: Google may search for variations of your query terms that are included in the online dictionary that Google uses.

non profit ] matches "non-profit," "nonprofit," and "non profit"

If you aren't sure whether a word is hyphenated, go ahead and search for it with a hyphen.

The following table summarizes how Google interprets your query.

Search Behaviors  Descriptions
Implicit AND Google returns pages that match all your search terms. Because you don't need to include the logical operator AND between your terms, this notation is called an implicit AND.
Exact Matching Google returns pages that match your search terms exactly.
Word Variation
Automatic Stemming
Google returns pages that match variants of your search terms.
Common-Word Exclusion Google ignores some common words called "stop words," e.g., the, on, where, and how. Stop words tend to slow down searches without improving results.
32-Word Limit Google limits queries to 32 words.
Term Proximity Google gives more priority to pages that have search terms near each other.
Term Order Google gives more priority to pages that have search terms in the same order as the query.
Case Insensitivity Google is case-insensitive; it shows both upper- and lowercase results.
Ignoring Punctuation Google ignores most punctuation and special characters including , . ; ? [ ] ( ) @ / * < >

Next we'll look at how to fine-tune your query.

For more information on the basics of Google search, visit www.google.com/help/basics.html.

Exercises

These problems are intended to help you understand how Google interprets your search terms. For hints and answers to selected problems, see the Solutions page in the Appendix.

  1. Indicate which queries would match a page containing "GoogleGuide."

    [ guide ]    [ goog ]    [ googleguide ]    [ GoogleGuide ]    [ google ]

  2. What is the usual percentage gratuity (tip) to give in a big city in the United States to a person who provides take-out service, i.e., gives you your orders and accepts payment for the food?

  3. Indicate which words the following queries will find:

    [ year-end ] year-end year end yearend
    [ year end ] year-end year end yearend
    [ yearend ] year-end year end yearend

  4. Which queries would you predict to be most likely to find sites with discounted designer linens?

    [ discounted designer linens ]
    [ discount designer linen ]
    [ designer linen discount ]
    [ linen designer discount ]
    [ linen discounted design ]

  5. With the following queries, is Google doing stemming, i.e., matching variations of the search terms?

    [ color printer ]
    [ color printers ]
    [ color printer OR printers ]

  6. Why doesn't the query [ Be Manual ] include any results about the Be operating system?

Crafting Your Query by using Special Characters

By using special characters and operators, such as +, -, ~, .., OR, and quotation marks, you can fine-tune your search query and increase the accuracy of its results.

To search for a phrase, a proper name, or a set of words in a specific order, put them in double quotes.

A query with terms in quotes finds pages containing the exact quoted phrase. For example, [ "Larry Page" ] finds pages containing exactly the phrase "Larry Page." So this query would find pages mentioning Google's co-founder Larry Page, but not pages containing "Larry has a home page," "Larry E. Page," or "Congressional page Larry Smith." The query [ Larry Page ] (without quotes) would find pages containing any of "Larry Page," "Larry has a home page," or "Congressional page Larry Smith."

[ "Larry Page" ]
[ Larry Page ]

A quoted phrase is the most widely used type of special search syntax.

[ "close your eyes and I'll kiss you" ]
[ "what you're looking for is already inside you" Anne Lamott speech ]

Use quotes to enter proper names.

[ "Julia Robinson" ]
[ "Rio de Janeiro" ]

Find recommendations by searching for pages containing lists.

[ "favorite movies" ]
[ "best non-fiction books" ]

Google will search for common words (stop words) included in quotes, which it would otherwise ignore.

USE [ "to be or not to be" ]
NOT [ to be or not to be ]

USE [ "how to change oil" ]
NOT [ how to change oil ]

Google doesn't perform automatic stemming on phrases, i.e., searching for pages that match variants of any of your search terms, which I described in the previous section Interpreting Your Query. For example, if you want to see pages that mention only one favorite book rather than lists of favorite books, enclose your search terms in quotes.

[ "favorite book" ]

Some teachers use quoted phrases to detect plagiarism. They copy a few unique and specific phrases into the Google search box, surround them with quotes, and see if any results are too similar to their student's supposedly original work. Find ways to detect and prevent plagiarism.

[ "ways to detect plagiarism" ]
[ "how to detect plagiarism" ]

You may include more than one quoted string in a query. All quoted query phrases must appear on a result page; the implied AND works on both individual words and quoted phrases. The following search would find pages containing both of the phrases "The Cat in the Hat" and "Green Eggs and Ham":

[ "The Cat in the Hat" "Green Eggs and Ham"  ]

Note: In the section Using Search Operators, you'll learn how to find a page by specifying its title.

Force Google to include a term by preceding the term with a "+" sign.

To force Google to search for a particular term, put a + sign operator in front of the word in the query. Note that you should not put a space between the + and the word. So, to search for the satirical newspaper The Onion, use [ +The Onion ], not [ + The Onion ].

The + operator is typically used in front of stop words that Google would otherwise ignore or when you want Google to return only those pages that match your search terms exactly. However, the + operator can be used on any term.

Want to learn about Star Wars Episode One? "I" is a stop word and is not included in a search unless you precede it with a + sign.

USE [ Star Wars +I ]
NOT [ Star Wars I ]

Google excludes common words in English and in other languages, such as "la" (which means "the" in Spanish) and "de" (which means "of" in French, Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese). So if Google ignores a term critical to your search, e.g., LA (common abbreviation for Los Angeles), put a + sign in front of it.

USE [ jobs in central +LA California ]
NOT [ jobs in central LA California ]

The query [ jobs in central LA California ] finds jobs in central California, since the term "LA" is ignored because it's a stop word. Central California is at least a hundred miles (160 km) from central Los Angeles.

Disable automatic stemming, i.e., searching for pages that match variants of your search term(s), by preceding each term that you want to be matched exactly with the + operator. For example, if you want to see only pages mentioning one favorite book rather than lists of favorite books, precede the word "book" by a + sign.

[ favorite +book ]

Google will search for "favourite" as well as "favorite." To prevent this, precede the word "favorite" by a + sign.

[ +favorite +book ]

What if you're looking for a string that contains a "+" sign? Though the character has special meaning, Google gives special attention to very common terms that include it, e.g., C++ (the name of a widely used computer language).

[ C++ ]

Precede each term you do not want to appear in any result with a "-" sign.

To find pages without a particular term, put a - sign operator in front of the word in the query. The - sign indicates that you want to subtract or exclude pages that contain a specific term. Do not put a space between the - and the word, i.e., use [ dolphins -football ] not [ dolphins  - football ].

So, to search for a twins support group in Minnesota, but not return pages relating to the Minnesota Twins baseball team:

USE [ twins support group Minnesota -baseball ]
NOT [ twins support group Minnesota ]

No pages containing the word "baseball" will be returned by the first query.

Find pages on "salsa" but not the dance nor dance classes.

USE [ salsa -dance -class ]
NOT [ salsa ]

Find synonyms by preceding the term with a ~, which is known as the tilde or synonym operator.

The tilde (~) operator takes the word immediately following it and searches both for that specific word and for the word's synonyms. It also searches for the term with alternative endings. The tilde operator works best when applied to general terms and terms with many synonyms. As with the + and - operators, put the ~ (tilde) next to the word, with no spaces between the ~ and its associated word, i.e., [ ~lightweight laptop ] not [ ~ lightweight laptop ].

Why did Google use tilde? In math, the "~" symbol means "is similar to". The tilde tells Google to search for pages that are synonyms or similar to the term that follows.

~inexpensive ] matches "inexpensive," "cheap," "affordable," and "low cost"
[ ~run ] matches "run," "runner's," "running," as well as "marathon"

Looking for a guide, help, tutorial, or tips on using Google?

google ~guide ]

Interested in food facts as well as nutrition and cooking information?

[ ~food ~facts ]

The tilde operator works best when applied to general terms and terms with many synonyms.

[ ~cockroach ]

If you don't like the synonyms that Google suggests when you use the ~ operator, specify your own synonyms with the OR operator, which I describe next.

Specify synonyms or alternative forms with an uppercase OR or | (vertical bar).

The OR operator, for which you may also use | (vertical bar), applies to the search terms immediately adjacent to it. The first and second examples will find pages that include either "Tahiti" or "Hawaii" or both terms, but not pages that contain neither "Tahiti" nor "Hawaii." The third and fourth examples will find pages that contain any one, two, or all three of the terms "blouse," "shirt," and "chemise."

[ Tahiti OR Hawaii ]
[ Tahiti | Hawaii ]

[ blouse OR shirt OR chemise ]
[ blouse | shirt | chemise ]

Note: If you write OR with a lowercase "o" or a lowercase "r," Google interprets the word as a search term instead of an operator.

Note: Unlike OR, a | (vertical bar) need not be surrounded by spaces.

[ bicycle|cycle ]

Use quotes (" ") to group compound words and phrases together.

[ filter OR stop "junk email" OR spam ]
[ "New Zealand" OR "Ivory Coast" holiday OR vacation package ]

Specify that results contain numbers in a range by specifying two numbers, separated by two periods, with no spaces.

For example, specify that you are searching in the price range $250 to $1000 using the number range specification $250..$1000.

recumbent bicycle $250..$1000 ]

Find the year the Russian Revolution took place.

Russian Revolution 1800..2000 ]

This table summarizes how to use the basic search operators, described on this page. You may include any of these operators multiple times in a query.

Notation Find result Example
terms1 terms2 with both term1 and term2 [ carry-on luggage ]
term1 OR term2
term1 | term2
with either term1 or term2 or both [ Tahiti OR Hawaii ]
[ Tahiti | Hawaii ]
+term with term (The + operator is typically used in front of stop words that Google would otherwise ignore or when you want Google to return only pages that match your search terms exactly. However, the + operator can be used on any terms.) [ +i spy ]
-term without term [ twins minnesota -baseball ]
~term with term or one of its synonyms
(currently supported on Web and Directory search)
[ google ~guide ]
number1..number2 with a number in the specified range
annual report 2000..2003 ]
"phrase"  with the exact phrase, a proper name, or a set of words in a specific order [ "I have a dream" ]
[ "Rio de Janeiro" ]

Queries that use this special notation may also be entered by using Google's Advanced Search, which we'll look at next.

Exercises

This problem set is designed to give you practice in refining your queries and in using Google's commands with special notation. For hints and answers to selected problems, see the Solutions page in the Appendix.

  1. Find the Google "cheat sheet" that lists search operators and services.

  2. How long before you go outside should you apply sunscreen?

  3. Find advice on writing a will.

  4. Search for your own name. Does Google find any references to you or a namesake?

    See if there is any difference in your results if you type a period (.) between your names rather than enclosing your name in quotes and if you just enter the opening quote, i.e., compare the results from [ Nancy.Blachman ], [ "Nancy Blachman" ], and [ "Nancy Blachman ].

  5. Find pages on daily life in Afghanistan that do not mention war or the Taliban.

  6. What is the history of the McIntosh Apple (the fruit), not the computer?

  7. Find the terms that Google considers approximately equivalent to the term "cheap."

  8. Find the terms that Google considers approximately equivalent to the term "volunteer."

  9. Find today's weather forecast/condition.

  10. Find recipes for zucchini, also known as courgette in the UK and France.

  11. Find studio apartments for rent in Minneapolis or St. Paul, Minnesota.

  12. Find Iranian restaurants in New Jersey and New York.

  13. Why does the query [ "the who" ] give more priority to results about the rock band The Who than the query [ the who ] but return significantly fewer results?

Sharpening Your Query by using Google's Advanced Search Form

When you don't find what you're seeking, consider specifying more precisely what you want by using Google's Advanced Search feature. Don't be frightened by the name "Advanced Search"; it's easy to use, and it allows you to select or exclude pages with more precision than Google's standard search box. Click on the Advanced Search link at the right of Google's search box.

Screen shot pointing to the Advanced Search link on Google's home page.

or visit www.google.com/advanced_search and fill in the form. The Advanced Search form is automatically filled in with appropriate information from your previous query — if you entered a query just before you clicked on the Advanced Search link. If you searched for a phrase, the phrase appears in the phrase search box. If you restricted your search to a specific site or domain, the domain appears in the domain box.

Screen shot showing the Advanced Search fill-in form.

Filling in the top portion of the Advanced Search form is an easy way to write restricted queries without having to use the " ," +, -, OR notation discussed in the previous section Crafting Your Query.

Advanced Search
Find results
Basic Search
Example
Basic Search
Find results
 with all of the words tap dance ] with all search terms
 with the exact phrase "tap dance" ] with terms in quotes in the specified order only
 without the words tap -dance ]
-tap dance ]
including none of the terms preceded by a -
 with at least one of the words  tap OR ballet ] with at least one of the terms adjacent to OR

Let's look at some examples. If you click on the screen shots in this section, you'll be taken to the results of running the corresponding search.

The next part of the Advanced Search page lets you restrict the types of pages listed in your search results.

Specify more precisely what you want by using the Advanced Search fill-in form.

Next we'll look at each part of the form. If you want to jump ahead to a particular part, though, choose it from this list:

Now a detailed description of each part of the Advanced Search page:

Page-Specific Searches

The Advanced Search form also offers page-specific searches for finding pages similar to a page for which you have a web address (URL) and for finding out what pages link to a particular page.

Unlike the other fields in the Advanced Search form, the page-specific searches can't be combined with other query terms. Consequently each has its own Search button.

You can easily run these page-specific searches from Google's Toolbar, which is described in the section Making Google Easier with Google Tools.

Instead of going to the Advanced Search form, you can search for a web site by entering its address in the search box and Google returns a link to the website, as well as links to:

For example, to find out about the wonderful reference site www.refdesk.com, enter www.refdesk.com into Google's search box.

Google search box with the query [ www.refdesk.com ].  

Screen shot with results from search for [ www.refdesk.com ].

Alerts

Once you've refined your Advanced Search, you can watch for changes in the top 20 results by setting up Google Alerts. Google will find and deliver links to new web pages once a week, once a day, or as soon as Google finds them. Simply copy and paste your advanced search query into the search box on the Google Alerts page.

Google Ultimate Interface

If you want to specify what you're looking for with more precision than Google's Advanced Search form offers, try the Google Ultimate Interface, a third-party application available at www.faganfinder.com/google.html. With the Ultimate Interface you can:

Screen shot of the Google Ultimate Interface.

Michael Fagan developed Google Ultimate Interface when he was a teenager.

If you're not sure of all the types of information that you can search for with Google, check out Soople, www.soople.com/soople_int.php.

Screen shot of Soople, which shows many of the
        different types of searches Google supports.
I describe many of the capabilities included in Soople in Part II: Understanding Search Results and Part III: Special Tools.

Refining a Query

Refining a query means changing or adding to the set of search terms to do a better job of returning the pages you're seeking. Successful researchers frequently enter several queries to find what they're seeking.

The search boxes at the top and bottom of the results page show the query for the current results page. If the query uses special operators that you entered either directly or indirectly through the advanced search form, they will appear in the search box as well. To refine your query, edit what's in the search box and then click the "Google Search" button or hit the ENTER key.

Let's look at a few examples.

The following table presents suggestions to narrow or focus a search, as well as tips for broadening a search that has produced few useful results. Click on a link in the table to be taken to the section in Google Guide that describes features and ways to refine your query.

Too many results? Focus the search by... Too few results? Broaden the search by...
adding a word or phrase removing a word or phrase
specifying the order in which you want words to appear specifying words instead of phrases
using a more specific term using more general terms
identifying ineffective terms and removing them including synonyms or variant word forms or using a more common version of the word's spelling
limiting to a domain or site broadening the domain or searching the entire web
limiting to a date range or including a date removing a date range
limiting where terms occur removing redundant terms or splitting a multi-part query
restricting type of file searching any type of file
limiting pages to a particular language translating your search terms into other languages and searching for the translated terms
limiting pages to a particular country searching the entire web

For a tutorial on how to use Advanced Search, visit www.lib.monash.edu.au/vl/google/goog06.htm.

Anatomy of a Web Address

If you already know how to read a web address or URL (Universal Resource Locator, pronounced "you are ell"), skip this section. Otherwise, consider the hypothetical web address http://www.googleguide.com/searchEngines/google/searchLeader.html (which might list reasons why Google is a search leader). Here's what it all means:

http   transfer protocol (type of information being transferred)
www.googleguide.com    website name, host name
googleguide    second-level domain name
com    top-level domain name
searchEngines    directory name (major category)
google    sub-directory name (sub-category)
searchLeader    file name (a file within the directory)
html    file format

Here's a list of some common top-level domain names. Note that some sites don't follow these conventions:

.edu    educational site (usually a university or college)
.com    commercial business site
.gov    U.S. government/non-military site
.mil    U.S. military sites or agencies
.net    networks, Internet service providers, organizations 
.org    non-profit organizations and others

Because the Internet was created in the United States, "US" was not originally assigned to U.S. domain names; however, it's used to designate American state and local government hosts, including many public schools, and commercial entities, e.g., well.sf.ca.us. The domain .ca represents Canada, unless it's followed by .us, in which case it represents California.

Domain
Codes
  State
.ca.us  California
.nv.us  Nevada
.tx.us  Texas

Other countries have their own two letter codes as the top level of their domain names — although many non-US sites use other top-level domains (such as .com):

Domain
Codes
  Country
.ca    Canada  
.de    Germany  
.dk    Denmark  
.jp    Japan  
.il    Israel  
.uk    United Kingdom  
.za    South Africa  

To limit results to a single site or domain, specify the site name (e.g., www.googleguide.com or googleguide.com) or a top-level domain name (e.g., .com or .edu) in Google's domain selector.

Exercises

This problem set is designed to give you practice with specifying more precisely what you're seeking by using the Advanced Search form. For hints and answers to selected problems, see the Solutions page in the Appendix.

  1. What are some home remedies for getting rid of ants?

  2. Find facts about declawing cats.

  3. What is Google's privacy policy? How do I stop my previous queries from appearing when I type in a new search term?

  4. Some movie stars attend Botox parties. What goes on at such parties and why do they attend? Which stars have used Botox?

  5. When was Nina Totenberg, National Public Radio's (NPR) legal affairs correspondent, born, where was she educated, what degrees does she have? Did she attend law school?

  6. When you search Google for a URL, such as www.guardian.co.uk, what links are included with your results?

    What is shown in the search box when you click on the "Find web pages that contain the term "www.guardian.co.uk" link?

  7. What country has the domain code .at?

  8. What country has the domain code .bm?

  9. Run several queries on Soople.

  10. Run several queries simultaneously using Google Blaster.

Using Search Operators (Advanced Operators)

You can use most of the options we discussed in the previous page (the Advanced Search Page options) in a regular search box query. If you're a frequent searcher or a "power searcher," this can save time because you don't need to open the Advanced Search page and fill in various boxes; instead, you can enter the refined query in almost any Google search box. You'll use advanced operators, query words that have special meaning to Google. Since the advanced operators are convenient for searching, Google Guide calls them "search operators."

Note: We recommend that you skip ahead to Part II: Understanding Search Results unless you're an experienced Google user or you want to know how to use Google's advanced operators.

Here are three places you can find examples of search operators.

  1. Visit the Google Guide Advanced Operator Quick Reference and look for special operators of the form operator:value.
  2. Fill in Google's Advanced Search form. Then look at the search box on the results page; you may see that Google has added search operators to your query. For instance, if you fill in the Advanced Search page, asking Google to "find results with all of the words" [ detect plagiarism ] and to "return results where my terms occur: in the title of the page", your results page should look like the one shown here. Notice the "allintitle:" search operator that Google added before your query:

    Results with allintitle: operator
  3. Read through the descriptions below and try the examples.

Here are more examples of search operators. Note: The colon (:) after the operator name is required.

[ Larry Page search engine site:stanford.edu ] restrict results to the stanford.edu site
[ volunteering site:.org ] restrict results to the .org domain
[ related:www.doctorswithoutborders.org ] find similar or related pages
[ link:www.googleguide.org ] which pages link to Google Guide's home page
[ web page evaluation checklist filetype:pdf ] find only pdf files

The following table lists features available on the Advanced Search page that are accessible via search operators.

Advanced Search
Features
Search
Operators
File Format filetype:
Occurrences
      in the title of the page
      in the text of the page
      in the URL of the page
      in the links to the page

allintitle:
allintext:
allinurl:
allinanchor:
Domain site:
Similar related:
Links link:

The following table lists the search operators that work with each Google search service. Click on an operator to jump to its description — or, to read about all of the operators, simply scroll down and read all of this page.

Search Service Search Operators
Web Search allinanchor:, allintext:, allintitle:, allinurl:, cache:, define:, filetype:, id:, inanchor:, info:, intext:, intitle:, inurl:, inlink:, phonebook:, related:, rphonebook:, site:, stocks:,
Image Search allintitle:, allinurl:, filetype:, inurl:, intitle:, site:
Groups allintext:, allintitle:, author:, group:, insubject:, intext:, intitle:
Directory allintext:, allintitle:, allinurl:, ext:, filetype:, intext:, intitle:, inurl:
News allintext:, allintitle:, allinurl:, intext:, intitle:, inurl:, location:, source:
Froogle allintext:, allintitle:, store:

The following is an alphabetical list of the search operators. This list includes operators that are not officially supported by Google and not listed in Google's online help. Note that Google may change how undocumented operators work or may eliminate them completely.

Each entry typically includes the syntax, the capabilities, and an example. Some of the search operators won't work as intended if you put a space between the ":" and the subsequent query word. If you don't care to check which search operators require no space after the colon, always place the keyword immediately next to the colon. Many search operators can appear anywhere in your query. In our examples, we place the search operator as far to the right as possible. We do this because the Advanced Search form writes queries in this way. Also, such a convention makes it clearer as to which operators are associated with which terms.

allinanchor:
If you start your query with allinanchor:, Google restricts results to pages containing all query terms you specify in the anchor text on links to the page. For example, [ allinanchor: best museums sydney ] will return only pages in which the anchor text on links to the pages contain the words "best," "museums," and "sydney."

Anchor text is the text on a page that is linked to another web page or a different place on the current page. When you click on anchor text, you will be taken to the page or place on the page to which it is linked. When using allinanchor: in your query, do not include any other search operators. The functionality of allinanchor: is also available through the Advanced Web Search page, under Occurrences.

allintext:
If you start your query with allintext:, Google restricts results to those containing all the query terms you specify in the text of the page. For example, [ allintext: travel packing list ] will return only pages in which the words "travel," "packing," and "list" appear in the text of the page. This functionality can also be obtained through the Advanced Web Search page, under Occurrences.

allintitle:
If you start your query with allintitle:, Google restricts results to those containing all the query terms you specify in the title. For example, [ allintitle: detect plagiarism ] will return only documents that contain the words "detect" and "plagiarism" in the title. This functionality can also be obtained through the Advanced Web Search page, under Occurrences.

The title of a webpage is usually displayed at the top of the browser window and in the first line of Google's search results for a page. The author of a website specifies the title of a page with the HTML TITLE element. There's only one title in a webpage. When using allintitle: in your query, do not include any other search operators. The functionality of allintitle: is also available through the Advanced Web Search page, under Occurrences.

In Image Search, the operator allintitle: will return images in files whose names contain the terms that you specify.

In Google News, the operator allintitle: will return articles whose titles include the terms you specify.

allinurl:
If you start your query with allinurl:, Google restricts results to those containing all the query terms you specify in the URL. For example, [ allinurl: google faq ] will return only documents that contain the words "google" and "faq" in the URL, such as www.google.com/help/faq.html. This functionality can also be obtained through the Advanced Web Search page, under Occurrences.

In URLs, words are often run together. They need not be run together when you're using allinurl:.

In Google News, the operator allinurl: will return articles whose titles include the terms you specify.

The Uniform Resource Locator, more commonly known as URL, is the address that specifies the location of a file on the Internet. When using allinurl in your query, do not include any other search operators. The functionality of allinurl: is also available through the Advanced Web Search page, under Occurrences.

author:
If you include author: in your query, Google will restrict your Google Groups results to include newsgroup articles by the author you specify. The author can be a full or partial name or email address. For example, [ children author:john author:doe ] or [ children author:doe@someaddress.com ] return articles that contain the word "children" written by John Doe or doe@someaddress.com.

Google will search for exactly what you specify. If your query contains [ author:"John Doe" ] (with quotes), Google won't find articles where the author is specified as "Doe, John."

cache:
The query cache:URL will display Google's cached version of a web page, instead of the current version of the page. For example, [ cache:www.eff.org ] will show Google's cached version of the Electronic Frontier Foundation home page.

Note: Do not put a space between cache: and the URL (web address).

On the cached version of a page, Google will highlight terms in your query that appear after the cache: search operator. For example, [ cache:www.pandemonia.com/flying/ fly diary ] will show Google's cached version of Flight Diary in which Hamish Reid's documents what's involved in learning how to fly with the terms "fly" and "diary" highlighted.

define:
If you start your query with define:, Google shows definitions from pages on the web for the term that follows. This advanced search operator is useful for finding definitions of words, phrases, and acronyms. For example, [ define: blog ] will show definitions for "Blog" (weB LOG).

ext:
This is an undocumented alias for filetype:.

filetype:
If you include filetype:suffix in your query, Google will restrict the results to pages whose names end in suffix. For example, [ web page evaluation checklist filetype:pdf ] will return Adobe Acrobat pdf files that match the terms "web," "page," "evaluation," and "checklist." You can restrict the results to pages whose names end with pdf and doc by using the OR operator, e.g. [  email security filetype:pdf OR filetype:doc ].

When you don't specify a File Format in the Advanced Search Form or the filetype: operator, Google searches a variety of file formats; see the table in the File Type Conversion section.

group:
If you include group: in your query, Google will restrict your Google Groups results to newsgroup articles from certain groups or subareas. For example, [ sleep group:misc.kids.moderated ] will return articles in the group misc.kids.moderated that contain the word "sleep" and [ sleep group:misc.kids ] will return articles in the subarea misc.kids that contain the word "sleep."

id:
This is an undocumented alias for info:.

inanchor:
If you include inanchor: in your query, Google will restrict the results to pages containing the query terms you specify in the anchor text or links to the page. For example, [ restaurants inanchor:gourmet ] will return pages in which the anchor text on links to the pages contain the word "gourmet" and the page contains the word "restaurants."

info:
The query info:URL will present some information about the corresponding web page. For instance, [ info:gothotel.com ] will show information about the national hotel directory GotHotel.com home page. Note: There must be no space between the info: and the web page URL.

This functionality can also be obtained by typing the web page URL directly into a Google search box.

insubject:
If you include insubject: in your query, Google will restrict articles in Google Groups to those that contain the terms you specify in the subject. For example, [ insubject:"falling asleep" ] will return Google Group articles that contain the phrase "falling asleep" in the subject.

Equivalent to intitle:.

intext:
The query intext:term restricts results to documents containing term in the text. For instance, [ Hamish Reid intext:pandemonia ] will return documents that mention the word "pandemonia" in the text, and mention the names "Hamish" and "Reid" anywhere in the document (text or not). Note: There must be no space between the intext: and the following word.

Putting intext: in front of every word in your query is equivalent to putting allintext: at the front of your query, e.g., [ intext:handsome intext:poets ] is the same as [ allintext: handsome poets ].

intitle:
The query intitle:term restricts results to documents containing term in the title. For instance, [ flu shot intitle:help ] will return documents that mention the word "help" in their titles, and mention the words "flu" and "shot" anywhere in the document (title or not). Note: There must be no space between the intitle: and the following word.

Putting intitle: in front of every word in your query is equivalent to putting allintitle: at the front of your query, e.g., [ allintitle: google search ].

inurl:
If you include inurl: in your query, Google will restrict the results to documents containing that word in the URL. For instance, [ inurl:print site:www.googleguide.com] searches for pages on Google Guide in which the URL contains the word "print." It finds pdf files that are in the directory or folder that I named "print" on the Google Guide website. The query [ inurl:healthy eating ] will return documents that mention the words "healthy" in their URL, and mention the word "eating" anywhere in the document. Note: There must be no space between the inurl: and the following word.

Putting inurl: in front of every word in your query is equivalent to putting allinurl: at the front of your query, e.g., [ inurl:healthy inurl:eating ] is the same as [ allinurl: healthy eating ].

In URLs, words are often run together. They need not be run together when you're using inurl:.

link:
The query link:URL shows pages that point to that URL. For example, to find pages that point to Google Guide's home page, enter:

link:www.googleguide.com ]

Note: According to Google's documentation, "you cannot combine a link: search with a regular keyword search."

Also note that when you combine link: with another advanced operator, Google may not return all the pages that match. The following queries should return lots of results, as you can see if you remove the -site: term in each of these queries.

Find links to the Google home page not on Google's own site.

link:www.google.com -site:google.com ]

Find links to the UK Owners Direct home page not on its own site.

link:www.ownersdirect.co.uk -site:ownersdirect.co.uk ]

location:
If you include location: in your query on Google News, only articles from the location you specify will be returned. For example, [ queen location:canada ] will show articles that match the term "queen" from sites in Canada. Two-letter US state abbreviations match individual US states. Two-letter Canadian province abbreviations don't work (at least, not at the time we wrote this page). Some other two-letter abbreviations — such as UK for the United Kingdom — are also available.

movie:
If you include movie: in your query, Google will find movie-related information. For examples, see Google's Blog.

phonebook:
If you start your query with phonebook:, Google shows all U.S. white page listings for the query terms you specify. For example, [ phonebook: Krispy Kreme Mountain View ] will show the phonebook listing of Krispy Kreme donut shops in Mountain View.

related:
The query related:URL will list web pages that are similar to the web page you specify. For instance, [ related:www.consumerreports.org ] will list web pages that are similar to the Consumer Reports home page. Note: Don't include a space between the related: and the web page url. You can also find similar pages from the Similar pages link on Google's main results page, and from the similar selector in the Page-Specific Search area of the Advanced Search page. If you expect to search frequently for similar pages, consider installing a GoogleScout browser button, which scouts for similar pages.

rphonebook:
If you start your query with rphonebook:, Google shows U.S. residential white page listings for the query terms you specify. For example, [ rphonebook: John Doe New York ] will show the phonebook listings for John Doe in New York (city or state). Abbreviations like [ rphonebook: John Doe NY ] generally also work.

site:
If you include site: in your query, Google will restrict your search results to the site or domain you specify. For example, [ admissions site:www.lse.ac.uk ] will show admissions information from London School of Economics' site and [ peace site:gov ] will find pages about peace within the .gov domain. You can specify a domain with or without a period, e.g., either as .gov or gov.

Note: Do not include a space between the "site:" and the domain.

You can use many of the search operators in conjunction with the basic search operators +, -, OR, " ." For example, to find information on Windows security from all sites except Microsoft.com, enter:

windows security -site:microsoft.com  ]

You can also restrict your results to a site or domain through the domains selector on the Advanced Search page.

source:
If you include source: in your query, Google News will restrict your search to articles from the news source with the ID you specify. For example, [ election source:new_york_times ] will return articles with the word "election" that appear in the New York Times.

To find a news source ID, enter a query that includes a term and the name of the publication you're seeking. You can also specify the publication name in the "news source" field in the Advanced News Search form. You'll find the news source ID in the query box, following the source: search operator. For example, let's say you enter the publication name Ha'aretz in the News Source box, then you click the Google Search button. The results page appears, and its search box contains [ peace source:ha_aretz__subscription_ ]. This means that the news source ID is ha_aretz__subscription_. This query will only return articles that include the word "peace" from the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz.

stocks:
If you start your query with stocks:, Google will interpret the rest of the query terms as NYSE, NASDAQ, AMEX, or mutual fund stock ticker symbols, and will open a page showing stock information for the symbols you specify. For instance, [ stocks:brcm brcd ] will show information about Broadcom Corporation and Brocade Communications System.

Note: Specify ticker symbols not company names. If you enter an invalid ticker symbol, you'll be told so and given a link to a page where you can look up a valid ticker symbol. You can also obtain stock information by entering one or more ticker symbols in Google's query box, e.g., [ brcm brcd ] and then clicking on the link "Stock Quotes for BRCM, BRCD" that appears near the top of the results page.

store:
If you include store: in your query, Froogle will restrict your search to the store ID you specify. For example, [ polo shirt store:llbean ] will return listings that match the terms "polo" and "shirt" from the store L. L. Bean.

To find a store ID, enter the name of the store and click on the link "See all results from store." You'll find the store ID in the query box, after the store: search operator.

weather
If you enter a query with the word weather and a city or location name, if Google recognizes the location, the forecast will appear at the top of the results page. Otherwise, your results will usually include links to sites with the weather conditions and forecast for that location.

Since weather is not an advanced operator, there is no need to include a colon after the word. For example, [ weather Sunnyvale CA ] will return the weather for Sunnyvale, California and [ weather 94041 ] will return the weather for the city containing the zip code (US postal code) 94041, which is Mountain View, California.

The Google Guide Advanced Operator Quick Reference (www.googleguide.com/advanced_operators_reference.html) provides a nice summary of the search operators grouped by type. It includes search operators not yet documented by Google, e.g., allinanchor:, allintext:, author:, ext:, group:, id:, insubject:, intext:, intitle:, location:, phonebook:, source:, and store:. Be forewarned that Google may change how undocumented operators work or eliminate them completely.

Using More than One Search Operator

You may use many of the basic operators and search operators with each other. However, there are some that must be used by themselves and others that you should be careful about using together.

Exercises

This problem set is designed to give you experiences with search operators and practice with specifying more precisely what you're seeking by using the Advanced Search form. For hints and answers to selected problems, see the Solutions page in the Appendix.

  1. Use the site: operator to search for armchairs on IKEA's site, www.ikea.com.

  2. Use the Advanced Search form to find the page whose title is "Some Ways to Detect Plagiarism." When the title is entered in lowercase letters, the query box on the results page contains [allintitle:  "ways to detect plagiarism" ].

  3. Find all pages on google.com but not on answers.google.com nor on directory.google.com whose titles include the words "FAQ" or "help."

  4. Use the link: operator to see who links to googleguide.com, your company's website, or your favorite website.

  5. Find pages whose titles include surfing that are not about surfing the World Wide Web.

  6. Find out where the upcoming international conference on AIDS is being held.

  7. How can you search for [ google help ] on Google Guide, www.googleguide.com, and on the UC Berkeley library website, www.lib.berkeley.edu?

Part II: Understanding Search Results

Google strives to make it easy to find whatever you're seeking, whether it's a web page, a news article, a definition, something to buy, or text in a book. By understanding what appears on a results page, you'll be better able to determine if a page includes the information you're seeking or links to it.

After you enter a query, Google returns a results list ordered by what it considers the items' relevance to your query, listing the best match first. Sponsored links sometimes appear above to the right of the search results.

In this course segment, you'll learn:

How Google Works

If you aren't interested in learning how Google creates the index and the database of documents that it accesses when processing a query, skip this description. I adapted the following overview from Chris Sherman and Gary Price's wonderful description of How Search Engines Work in Chapter 2 of The Invisible Web (CyberAge Books, 2001).

Google runs on a distributed network of thousands of low-cost computers and can therefore carry out fast parallel processing. Parallel processing is a method of computation in which many calculations can be performed simultaneously, significantly speeding up data processing. Google has three distinct parts:

Let's take a closer look at each part.

Googlebot, Google's Web Crawler

Googlebot is Google's web crawling robot, which finds and retrieves pages on the web and hands them off to the Google indexer. It's easy to imagine Googlebot as a little spider scurrying across the strands of cyberspace, but in reality Googlebot doesn't traverse the web at all. It functions much like your web browser, by sending a request to a web server for a web page, downloading the entire page, then handing it off to Google's indexer.

Googlebot consists of many computers requesting and fetching pages much more quickly than you can with your web browser. In fact, Googlebot can request thousands of different pages simultaneously. To avoid overwhelming web servers, or crowding out requests from human users, Googlebot deliberately makes requests of each individual web server more slowly than it's capable of doing.

Googlebot finds pages in two ways: through an add URL form, www.google.com/addurl.html, and through finding links by crawling the web.

Screen shot of web page for adding a URL to Google.

Unfortunately, spammers figured out how to create automated bots that bombarded the add URL form with millions of URLs pointing to commercial propaganda. Google rejects those URLs submitted through its Add URL form that it suspects are trying to deceive users by employing tactics such as including hidden text or links on a page, stuffing a page with irrelevant words, cloaking (aka bait and switch), using sneaky redirects, creating doorways, domains, or sub-domains with substantially similar content, sending automated queries to Google, and linking to bad neighbors. So now the Add URL form also has a test: it displays some squiggly letters designed to fool automated "letter-guessers"; it asks you to enter the letters you see — something like an eye-chart test to stop spambots.

When Googlebot fetches a page, it culls all the links appearing on the page and adds them to a queue for subsequent crawling. Googlebot tends to encounter little spam because most web authors link only to what they believe are high-quality pages. By harvesting links from every page it encounters, Googlebot can quickly build a list of links that can cover broad reaches of the web. This technique, known as deep crawling, also allows Googlebot to probe deep within individual sites. Because of their massive scale, deep crawls can reach almost every page in the web. Because the web is vast, this can take some time, so some pages may be crawled only once a month.

Although its function is simple, Googlebot must be programmed to handle several challenges. First, since Googlebot sends out simultaneous requests for thousands of pages, the queue of "visit soon" URLs must be constantly examined and compared with URLs already in Google's index. Duplicates in the queue must be eliminated to prevent Googlebot from fetching the same page again. Googlebot must determine how often to revisit a page. On the one hand, it's a waste of resources to re-index an unchanged page. On the other hand, Google wants to re-index changed pages to deliver up-to-date results.

To keep the index current, Google continuously recrawls popular frequently changing web pages at a rate roughly proportional to how often the pages change. Such crawls keep an index current and are known as fresh crawls. Newspaper pages are downloaded daily, pages with stock quotes are downloaded much more frequently. Of course, fresh crawls return fewer pages than the deep crawl. The combination of the two types of crawls allows Google to both make efficient use of its resources and keep its index reasonably current.

Google's Indexer

Googlebot gives the indexer the full text of the pages it finds. These pages are stored in Google's index database. This index is sorted alphabetically by search term, with each index entry storing a list of documents in which the term appears and the location within the text where it occurs. This data structure allows rapid access to documents that contain user query terms.

To improve search performance, Google ignores (doesn't index) common words called stop words (such as the, is, on, or, of, how, why, as well as certain single digits and single letters). Stop words are so common that they do little to narrow a search, and therefore they can safely be discarded. The indexer also ignores some punctuation and multiple spaces, as well as converting all letters to lowercase, to improve Google's performance.

Google's Query Processor

The query processor has several parts, including the user interface (search box), the "engine" that evaluates queries and matches them to relevant documents, and the results formatter.

PageRank is Google's system for ranking web pages. A page with a higher PageRank is deemed more important and is more likely to be listed above a page with a lower PageRank.

Google considers over a hundred factors in computing a PageRank and determining which documents are most relevant to a query, including the popularity of the page, the position and size of the search terms within the page, and the proximity of the search terms to one another on the page. A patent application discusses other factors that Google considers when ranking a page. Visit SEOmoz.org's report for an interpretation of the concepts and the practical applications contained in Google's patent application.

Google also applies machine-learning techniques to improve its performance automatically by learning relationships and associations within the stored data. For example, the spelling-correcting system uses such techniques to figure out likely alternative spellings. Google closely guards the formulas it uses to calculate relevance; they're tweaked to improve quality and performance, and to outwit the latest devious techniques used by spammers.

Indexing the full text of the web allows Google to go beyond simply matching single search terms. Google gives more priority to pages that have search terms near each other and in the same order as the query. Google can also match multi-word phrases and sentences. Since Google indexes HTML code in addition to the text on the page, users can restrict searches on the basis of where query words appear, e.g., in the title, in the URL, in the body, and in links to the page, options offered by the Advanced-Search page and search operators.

Let's see how Google processes a query.

A graphic of a user's computer.
3. The search results are returned to the user in a fraction of a second.     1. The web server sends the query to the index servers. The content inside the index servers is similar to the index in the back of a book--it tells which pages contain the words that match any particular query term.
2. The query travels to the doc servers, which actually retrieve the stored documents. Snippets are generated to describe each search result.
Copyright © 2003 Google Inc. Used with permission.

For more information on how Google works, take a look at the following articles.

What Appears on the Results Page

The results page is filled with information and links, most of which relate to your query.

Screen shot indicating what is shown on a Google results page.

Here's another screen shot of the results page in case the one at the top of this page scrolled off your screen.

Screen shot indicating what is shown on a Google results page.

For more on what's included on Google's results page, visit www.google.com/help/interpret.html.

Links Included with Your Results

Google may include links to the following types of information above or along side your results.

The shortcut links that often appear to the left of an icon are known as OneBox results.
Spelling Corrections (Suggestions)

Not sure how to spell something? Don't worry, try gessing or speling any way you can. In just the first few months on the job, Google engineer Noam Shazeer developed a spelling correction (suggestion) system based on what other users have entered. The system automatically checks whether you are using the most common spelling of each word in your query.

(We used to suggest that you search Google for phonitick spewling. But so many Web pages added the same example that now — or, at least, when we last checked — Google no longer treats those "words" as incorrectly spelled! Google's system doesn't match words against an actual dictionary; it compares them to commonly-used words.)

Want to know the approximate value of a used car? Check out its "Blue Book" value.

Google search box with [ blu book ].  

Notice that Google suggests the correct spelling if you fail to type the final "e" in "blue."

Google suggests an alternative more common spelling.

Since an alternative spelling is more common, Google asks: Did you mean: blue book. Click the suggested spelling link to launch a new search on the "blue book" spelling instead of the original "blu book."

Google's checker is particularly good at recognizing frequently made typos, misspellings, and misconceptions. It analyzes all terms in your query to recognize what you most likely intended to enter. For example, when you search for [ untied stats ], the spelling checker suggests Did you mean: "united states", although each individual word is spelled correctly.

Regardless of whether it suggests an alternative spelling, Google returns results that match your query if there are any. If there aren't any that match your query, Google may offer an alternative spelling, search tips, and a link to Google Answers. The last is a service that provides assistance from expert online researchers for a fee.

If no results match your query, Google offers search tips.

Google figures out possible misspellings and their likely correct spellings by using words it finds while searching the web and processing user queries. So, unlike many spelling correctors, Google can suggest common spellings for:

People searching for Britney Spears have clearly found the spelling checker useful, as it has corrected spellings of her first name ranging from "Brittany" to "Prietny." Visit www.google.com/jobs/britney.html to see hundreds of other ways people have misspelled her name.

Be aware that the spelling checker isn't able to distinguish between a variant spelling and a word or name that is spelled similarly. So, before clicking on what Google suggests, check that it's what you intended. For example, when looking up the San Francisco Bay Area web designer Mistrale, Google asks: Did you mean: Mistral, though I spelled the name correctly.

Screen shot showing how Google makes a suggestion though I spelled the term correctly.

Exercises

The first problem gives you practice in using Google's spelling-correction system. For hints and answers to selected problems, see the Solutions page in the Appendix.

  1. On National Public Radio (NPR), you heard a researcher at Stanford University whose name sounded like Jeff Naumberg and want to send him email. What is Jeff's email address?

  2. From Google's home page, www.google.com, search for "french military victories" and then click on the I'm Feeling Lucky button to see Albino Blacksheep's parody of a Google spelling correction result.

    Note: Though the page looks like a Google page, if you enter another query in the search box, it will be processed by the hosting site, listed in your browser's address box.

Definitions

Want a definition for your search terms? It's just a click away.

Google looks for dictionary definitions for your search terms. If it finds any definitions, it shows those words as underlined links or includes a definition link in the statistics bar section of the results page (located below the search box showing your query). Google is able to find definitions for acronyms, colloquialisms, and slang, as well as words that you would expect to find in a dictionary.

Google search box with [ triumvirate ].  

Click on the underlined terms or the definition link in the statistics bar to link to their dictionary definition, which also may include information on pronunciation, part of speech, etymology, and usage.

Screen shot of the underlined terms in the statistics bar, which are linked to their dictionary definitions.

For example, learn what co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, and CEO Eric Schmidt mean when they say they run Google as a triumvirate by clicking on the link triumvirate.

Screen shot of one of the dictionary definitions for triumvirate.

Screen shot of one of the dictionary definitions for triumvirate.

Phrases with idiomatic meanings that aren't necessarily implied by the definitions of the individual words will be linked to their dictionary definitions, e.g., "happy hour," "put off," "greasy spoon," and "raise the roof."

Google search box with [ happy hour ].  

If Google doesn't find a definition for a term, try using Google Glossary.

Exercises

These problems give you practice in finding dictionary definitions. For hints and answers to selected problems, see the Solutions page in the Appendix.

  1. According to the dictionary, what is an "urban legend"?

  2. Find the history of the word 'chivalry.' From which language does it come and from what word?

  3. Does Google provide a link to dictionary for definitions of terms in languages other than English?

  4. What does 'zeitgeist' mean? What's on the Google Zeitgeist page www.google.com/press/zeitgeist.html?

Cached

Google takes a snapshot of each page it examines and caches (stores) that version as a back-up. The cached version is what Google uses to judge if a page is a good match for your query.

Practically every search result includes a Cached link. Clicking on that link takes you to the Google cached version of that web page, instead of the current version of the page. This is useful if the original page is unavailable because of:

Sometimes you can access the cached version from a site that otherwise require registration or a subscription.

Note: Since Google's servers are typically faster than many web servers, you can often access a page's cached version faster than the page itself.

If Google returns a link to a page that appears to have little to do with your query, or if you can't find the information you're seeking on the current version of the page, take a look at the cached version.

Let's search for pages on the Google help basic search operators.

Google search box with [ Google help basic search operators ].  

Screen shot showing cached link in a search result.

Click on the Cached link to view Google's cached version of the page with the query terms highlighted. The cached version also indicates terms that appear only on links pointing to the page and not on the page itself.

On the cached version, Google highlights search terms and indicates terms that appear only on links pointing to the page.

Note: Internet Explorer users may view a page with any word(s) highlighted, not just search terms, by using the highlight feature of the Google Toolbar, which is mentioned in Part III.

When Google displays the cached page, a header at the top serves as a reminder that what you see isn't necessarily the most recent version of the page.

The Cached link will be omitted for sites whose owners have requested that Google remove the cached version or not cache their content, as well as any sites Google hasn't indexed.

If the original page contains more than 101 kilobytes of text, the cached version of the page will consist of the first 101 kbytes (120 kbytes for pdf files).

You can also retrieve Google's cached version of a page via the cache: search operator. For example, [ cache:www.pandemonia.com/flying/ ] will show Google's cached version of Flight Diary in which Hamish Reid documents what's involved in learning how to fly.

On the cached version of a page, Google will highlight terms in your query that appear after the cache: search operator. For example, in the snapshot of the page www.pandemonia.com/flying/, Google highlights the terms "fly" and "diary" in response to the query [ cache:www.pandemonia.com/flying/ fly diary ].

Use the Wayback Machine when you want to visit a version of a web page that is older than Google's cached version.

Exercises

These problems give you practice accessing Google's cached version of a page. For hints and answers to selected problems, see the Solutions page in the Appendix.

  1. After Nelson Blachman received reprints of a paper he wrote for the June 2003 issue of The Mathematical Scientist, he wanted to discover what other sorts of papers appear in the same issue of this semiannual publication. Find a table of contents for The Mathematical Scientist for Nelson.

  2. Compare the dates on the current page with the dates on the cached version for the following organizations:

    Note: Google indexes a page (adds it to its index and caches it) frequently if the page is popular (has a high PageRank) and if the page is updated regularly. The new cached version replaces any previous cached versions of the page.

  3. Check the dates that the Wayback Machine archived versions of Google Guide.

Similar Pages

Here's how to find results similar to another Google search result. Let's say you're interested in finding sites similar to that of Consumer Reports. First, search for their site.

Google search box with [   

Click on the Similar pages link that appears on the bottom line for the Consumer Reports result.

Screen shot of Similar pages link in search results.

The link may be useful for finding more consumer resources, or information on Consumer Reports' competitors.

Screen shot of what you see when you click on the Similar pages link.

You can also find similar pages by using the Page-Specific Search selector on the Advanced Search page or by using the related: search operator. If you expect to search frequently for similar pages, you may want to install a GoogleScout browser button.

Note: The similar pages feature is most effective on pages that are popular, i.e, that are linked to from many pages.

How does Google find similar pages?

By finding other sites listed on pages that link to the specified page. Let's see how Google chooses sites similar to Google Guide. I use the related: search operator, which returns the same results as the Similar pages link.

Google search box with [ related:www.googleguide.com ].  

Screen shot showing pages similar to Google Guide.

Now let's look at one of the sites that link to Google Guide, as it was at the time we made the screen shot above. On the Michigan State University (MSU) Libraries page, www.lib.msu.edu/sowards/home/home5.htm (shown in the screen shot below), Google Guide is listed near the top of the page just after a link to Google's Zeitgeist page, www.google.com/press/zeitgeist.html. The next three sites listed as being similar to Google Guide (Metaspy, the MEL Internet Myths and Hoaxes, and Web Characterization) are also listed on the MSU page. Google automatically selected these sites by considering many factors including the popularity of the pages containing links to Google Guide, the positions, sizes, and proximities of other links to the Google Guide link.

Screen shot of an  MSU library page that links to Google Guide.

Another resource for similar results is the category link that may appear just below the snippet or above your search results, which is described next. If there isn't a category link, try using Google's Directory.

For more information about the Similar pages link, visit www.google.com/help/features.html#related.

Exercises

These problems give you practice in using Google's Similar pages feature. For hints and answers to selected problems, see the Solutions page in the Appendix.

  1. Find a site that will get your name off mailing lists so that you receive less commercial advertising mail. Click on the Similar pages link to find other such sites.

  2. What sites are similar to the Internet Movie Database?

News Headlines

When Google finds current news relating to your query, Google includes up to three headlines that link to news stories above your search results. Why at most three? So as not to push the web search results off the page.

Of course, since news by definition reports recent events, you'll see the most recent headlines about the United Nations (if there are any recent headlines, that is) when you enter the query [ United Nations ].

Google search box with [ United Nations ].  

News relating to your query appears above your results

For more news stories or to browse the latest headlines, visit Google News Search at news.google.com, which we describe in Part III.

Exercises

These problems give you practice in searching for news headlines. For hints and answers to selected problems, see the Solutions page in the Appendix.

  1. Find the latest news about Google.

  2. Find the latest news on Iraq.

Product Search (Froogle)

When Google finds products relevant to your query, above your search results, you may find up to three links to items that merchants list in Froogle, Google's product search service.

Google search box with [ portable dvd player ].  

Screen shot of products that match your query

Exercises

These problems give you practice in searching for products. For hints and answers to selected problems, see the Solutions page in the Appendix.

  1. Find denim jackets.

  2. Find cell phones (mobile phones).

File Type Conversion

Google converts all file types it searches to either HTML or text (unless, of course, they already are in one of these formats). Google searches a variety of file formats including

File Format Suffix Description
Adobe Acrobat PDF pdf A publishing format commonly used for product manuals and documents of all sorts.
Adobe PostScript ps A printing format often used for academic papers.
Hypertext Markup Language html or htm The primary language for web pages.
Lotus 1-2-3 wk1, wk2, wk3, wk4, wk5, wki, wks, or wku A spreadsheet format.
Lotus WordPro lwp A word processing format.
MacWrite mw A word processing format.
Microsoft Excel xls A spreadsheet format.
Microsoft PowerPoint ppt A format for presentations and slides.
Microsoft Word doc A common word processing format.
Microsoft Works wks, wps, or wdb A word processing format.
Microsoft Write wri A Macintosh word processing format.
Rich Text Format rtf A format used to exchange documents between Microsoft Word and other formats.
Plain Text ans or txt Ordinary text with no special formating.

Clicking on a link to a non-HTML file will launch the associated program for reading the file, provided it's installed on your system.

If you can't view the page in the native format — for instance, if you don't have Adobe Acrobat on your computer, or if you want faster access to the file — click on either the "View as HTML" or "View as Text" link. Note: Portions of some files converted to HTML or text may be difficult to read.

Non-HTML files can be viewed in their original forms, or as HTML or text

You can use the Advanced Search form or the filetype: search operator to restrict your results to a particular format.

For more information about file types that Google supports, visit www.google.com/help/faq_filetypes.html.

Exercises

These problems give you practice viewing files of different types. For hints and answers to selected problems, see the Solutions page in the Appendix.

  1. Find a document with tips on job interviewing and salary negotiation that is in PDF/Adobe Acrobat format. What differences in the appearance of the document result from viewing it in its native format, Adobe Acrobat versus HTML?

  2. Find a Power Point slide presentation on first aid and choking. View the presentation as HTML.

  3. Find pdf or Postscript documents and course notes on symplectic geometry that are on university and other educational sites.

    This problem was inspired by Julian Uschersohn.

Translation

As the web has spread across the world, more and more web pages are available in languages other than English. Google provides a translation link and language tools to enable you to read pages written in unfamiliar languages.

Google translates pages by computer. Machine translation is difficult to do well and tends not to be as clear as human translation. But it can give you the gist of what's written or suggestions for translating something into another language.

Your results may include a "Translate this page" link when a results page is written in a language different from your interface language (as specified by your Google Preferences, which is described in the next section). Your interface language is the language in which Google displays messages and labels, buttons, and tips on Google's home page and results page. You can translate pages written in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish into another language from that set.

Results include a "Translate this page" link when Google finds a page in a language different from your language of choice.

Google's Language Tools overcome language barriers. Click on the "Language Tools" link to the right of the search box on Google's home page,

The Language Tools link on Google's home page

or visit www.google.com/language_tools, or select the Language Tools menu option in the Google Toolbar (in Part III, section Making Google Search Easier with Google Tools) to:

If you want to translate some text or a page into a language other than those Google Language Translation Tool offers, check out Fagan Finder's Translation Wizard.

If you're interested in translating Google Guide, send email to feedback(at)googleguide.com (replace "(at)" by "@") and review Erik Hoy's advice for Google Guide translators. The Danish Google Guide, bibliotek.kk.dk/soeg_bestil_forny/googleguide, is available through the Copenhagen Central Library's website. You can find a Hebrew version of Google Guide at www.googleguide.co.il/.

Exercises

These problems give you practice with translating words, pages, and results, and with finding pages in specific countries. For hints and answers to selected problems, see the Solutions page in the Appendix.

  1. Find out about municipal swimming pools that you can use when visiting Naples. Hint: Find the Italian words for "municipal swimming pools Naples" and then search for them on pages in Italy. You can use your browser's Copy and Paste features to transfer the Italian words from one screen to another.
  2. Find the name of the mayor of Montpellier, France, by searching the city website montpellier.fr. It may help to know the French word for "mayor."

  3. Translate "I wish to mail a package. Where is the nearest post office? Thank you." into Spanish.

  4. Find listings or photos of old books at the national library of Spain. Hint: Translate the two unrelated phrases "old books" and "national library Spain" separately; otherwise, the translation software may try to make them into a sentence (and add "noise" words).

  5. Restrict your search to France and search for pages in English on the war in Iraq.

Customizing Your Results by Using Preferences

Whenever I run a new piece of software, ... I [first] ... look at the program's 'preferences' panel. By clicking through the options, I rapidly learn what a program can do and what its shortcomings are. Google is no different. — Simson Garfinkel, Getting More from Google, Technology Review, June 4, 2003

You can customize the way your search results appear by configuring your Google global preferences, options that apply across most Google search services. To change these options, click on the Preferences link, which is to the right of Google's search box, or visit www.google.com/preferences.

A screen shot showing that the Preferences link is to the right of the search box on Google's home page

From the Preferences page, specify your global preferences, including

When you set your preferences, Google stores your settings in a "cookie" on the computer you are using. Google doesn't associate that cookie with any other computer you use. So, if you want Google to work similarly on all the computers you use, you will need to set these preferences on each one of them. There's more about cookies and other user information in the section called Accounts and Cookies.

Interface Language

The set of languages in which you want to allow messages and labels, text on buttons, and tips to be displayed. Your choice of interface languages is much larger than the "translate" set of languages (those that can be translated into your interface language) and includes relatively obscure languages, such as Catalan, Maltese, Occitan, and Welsh, and frivolous languages, such as Bork, bork, bork!, Esperanto, Hacker, Interlingua, and Pig Latin.

Screen shot showing the selection of languages in which you can display messages and labels, text on buttons, and tips.

If you set your interface language to Greek, message and text on links, tabs, and buttons will be displayed in Greek.

A screen shot showing Google's search box with the interface language set to Greek

The interface language is configured on the Preferences page. The pull-down menu allows you to choose from over 80 languages.

A screen shot showing how to specify your Interface Language

Note: If you don't find your preferred language in the list, you can volunteer to translate Google's help information and search interface into that language via the Google In Your Language program.

If you select an interface language other than English, when using Google Web search you will be given the option of searching the entire web or just pages written in your interface language. For example, with French as the interface language the search box looks like this:

A screen shot showing Google's search box with the interface language set to French

Note: Most non-English Google home pages have a "Google.com in English" link in case you can't read the rest of the page.

Search Language

By default, Google Web search includes all pages on the Web. You can choose to restrict your searches to those pages written in the languages of your choice by setting the search language.

Google Search Language Preferences

If you want to restrict results to a single language for a few queries, consider using Google's Advanced Search page.

SafeSearch Filtering

Google's SafeSearch filters out sites with pornography and explicit sexual content. Moderate filtering, the default, is set to exclude most explicit images from Google Image search results but not Google Web search or other Google search services.

Google SafeSearch Filtering Preferences

Google's philosophy is to filter no more than necessary, i.e., as little as possible. Google considered adding the capability to filter other controversial content besides pornography, e.g., hate speech, anarchy, bomb making, etc. But these are much more difficult to filter automatically. For example, if you try to filter hate speech, you may filter out sites that discuss hate speech.

Number of Results

The most important setting, located near the bottom of the page, is "Number of Results." By default, Google returns just 10 results for a search. Since Google's search algorithms are so accurate, this default saves Google both computer resources and downloading time. But I always increase the default to 100. Although such searches take a little longer to download (especially over a dial-up connection), getting back 100 results saves me time when I'm searching for anything out-of-the-ordinary; it's much faster to scroll through a Web page than to manually click through 10 pages of intermediate results. — Simson Garfinkel, Getting More from Google, Technology Review, June 4, 2003 (MIT's Alumni magazine)

You can increase the number of results displayed per page to 20, 30, 50, or 100. The more results displayed per page, the more likely you are to find what you want on the first page of results. The downside is that the more results per page, the more slowly the page loads. How much more time it takes depends on your connection to the Internet.

Google Number of Results Preferences

The Number-of-Results setting applies to Google's Web, Groups, News, Froogle, and Directory search services. It does not apply to Images and Answers.

New Results Window

After you set the Results Window option on the Preferences page, when you click on the main link (typically the page title) for a result, Google will open the corresponding page in a new window.

Google Preferences

You can display the contents of the associated page in a new window in Internet Explorer by holding down the SHIFT key while you click on the link or pressing the right button and selecting "Open a New Window" after clicking on the link. In Firefox or Netscape, simply click your mouse's middle button on the link that you wish to display in a new window (this can be configured in the browser's Preferences or Options section).

Cookies and their Effect on Preferences

Google stores your preferences with a cookie in your computer. Among other things, this means:

So, if Google seems to "forget" your preferences settings, look into what's happening with your cookies. As of this writing, the Mozilla and Firefox web browsers have especially flexible cookie management — including site-by-site cookie preferences and a scrollable list of all saved cookies.

Exercises

These problems give you practice in changing preferences. After you've changed your preferences, run a couple of searches. For hints and answers to selected problems, see the Solutions page in the Appendix.

  1. Change your preferences to display 20 results per page.

  2. Change your preferences to use strict filtering, i.e., filter both explicit text and explicit sexual content.

  3. Set your preferences to open search results in a new browser window.

  4. Configure your preferences to suit your needs.

  5. If you would like to have more than one set of preferences on your computer, e.g., one of searching French language sites and to search all sites, then find tools for enabling you to specify more than one set of preferences using more than one cookie.

    (For instance, the Mozilla browser allows you to have multiple "profiles," each with its own set of cookies. You can also install more than one type of browser on the same computer. Both of these methods let you have more than one "identity" at the same time on the same computer.)

Google's Approach to Ads

Some search engines sell their search results, in addition to showing ads. A sold result means that a link to the buyer's page is put at or near the top of the results page, just as if the search engine thought it was one of the best results. Usually, there is no indication that the page's result location was bought and paid for.

Google never sells its search results. If a web page appears in Google's search results, it's because Google thought it was a relevant result for your search, not because someone paid Google to put it there.

Google's approach to ads is similar to its approach to search results: the ads must deliver useful links, or the ads are removed.

You can distinguish ads by their format and the label "Sponsored Link." Ads contain a title, a short description, and a web address (URL).

A screen shot showing how Google's ads are identified and kept separate from search results

Advertisers decide which queries their ads should match, and then Google decides on placement, i.e., which ads to show and in what order. Google determines placement by an auction; the auction not only considers what the advertiser will pay for the ad, but also its click-through rate, i.e., how often users click on the ad. If users often click on an ad, Google will likely place the ad higher up on the results page. If the click-through rate of an ad falls below a certain level, indicating an ad isn't relevant to the query, Google removes the ad.

For the most part, you'll find advertisements pertinent to your query. However, Google's automatic matching to words on a page sometimes places an ad inappropriately. For example, in September of 2003, adjacent to a New York Post article about a gruesome murder in which the victim's body parts were stashed in a suitcase, Google listed an ad for suitcases. Since that incident, Google has improved its filters and automatically pulls ads from pages with disturbing content. So Google is unlikely to make another faux pas on a par with this one.

Some web pages display ads provided by Google's AdSense service. The hosting website and Google share the amount an advertiser pays when a user clicks on an ad, which varies between US$0.01 and US$50.00. Web publishers typically place Google AdSense ads near the top, on the right, or on the left side of a page to catch your attention. We've included such an ad at the top of this page.

For why Google sells advertising and not search results, visit www.google.com/honestresults.html.
For more information on Google's advertising programs, visit www.google.com/ads/.
For what to do if you find a pop-up ad on Google, visit www.google.com/help/nopopupads.html.

Exercises

For hints and answers to selected problems, see the Solutions page in the Appendix.

  1. How many sponsored links (ads) appear on the first search-results page with the answer to the following questions?

    1. Where can you stay in central London at a moderate price?

    2. What's going on with NASA's Mars Exploration Program?

  2. Click on several interesting sounding Adsense ads.

  3. If you have a website, sign up for an AdWords account so that you can purchase ads to bring users to your site.

  4. If you have a website, sign up for an AdSense account so that you can generate revenue from advertising on your site.

Evaluating What You Find

Google's web-page-ranking system, PageRank, tends to give priority to better respected and trusted information. Well-respected sites link to other well-respected sites. This linking boosts the PageRank of high-quality sites. Consequently, more accurate pages are typically listed before sites that include unreliable and erroneous material. (The various browser toolbars can show you the PageRank of the page you're currently browsing.) Nevertheless, evaluate carefully whatever you find on the web since anyone can

Many people publish pages to get you to buy something or accept a point of view. Google makes no effort to discover or eliminate unreliable and erroneous material. It's up to you to cultivate the habit of healthy skepticism. When evaluating the credibility of a page, consider the following AAOCC (Authority, Accuracy, Objectivity, Currency, Coverage) criteria and questions, which are adapted from www.lib.berkeley.edu/ENGI/eval_criteria.html.

Authority

Accuracy

Objectivity

Currency

Coverage

Search for [ evaluate web pages ] or [ hints evaluate credibility web pages ] to find resources on how to evaluate the veracity of pages you view.

For a printable form with most of the questions that you will probably want to ask, visit www.lib.berkeley.edu/TeachingLib/Guides/Internet/EvalForm.pdf. If you're unable to view PDF files, you can get a free PDF viewer from Adobe by visiting www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep2.html.
For more information on evaluating what you find, visit www.lib.berkeley.edu/TeachingLib/Guides/Internet/Evaluate.html.

Exercises

Find documents on the web that provide the answers to the following questions. What's your level of comfort with the referring site(s) and why? For hints and answers to selected problems, see the Solutions page in the Appendix.

  1. Is it true that if you touch a cold halogen light bulb with clean fingers, you will shorten its lifespan?

  2. Are 75% of Americans chronically dehydrated? Find opposing points of view.

  3. Are you less likely to get dental cavities if you drink fluoridated water?

  4. Is clumping kitty litter a major health hazard to cats?

  5. What are the benefits and drawbacks of a flu (influenza) shot?

  6. Does microwaving food in plastic containers or plastic cling wrap release harmful chemicals into the food? Check whether this is an urban legend.

Want more experience assessing the authenticity and integrity of some websites? Try the exercises listed on www.lib.berkeley.edu/TeachingLib/Guides/Internet/EvaluateWhy.html.

Part III: Special Tools

In this course segment you'll learn — among other things — how to:

Google started by providing generalized web search. It now offers specialized searches that are accessible by clicking on the links above Google's search box (which we show just after this paragraph). Each link, except the last, represents a separate search service. Click on any of the following links to learn more about the corresponding specialized search service(s) — or simply follow this course, from page to page, to learn all of these and more.

Web    Images    Groups    News    Froogle    LocalNew!    more »
 

Google displays the current service link (the kind of search that the current page will perform) in black. Links for other services are blue.

After running a search on one service, you can click on another service's link to run a search on that service using the same terms. For example, when you click on the News link, your search will be repeated on Google's News service.

Topic-specific searches are accessible from the Advanced Search form.

New! Local - Find local businesses and services on the web
Catalogs - Search and browse mail-order catalogs online

Apple Macintosh - Search for all things Mac
BSD Unix - Search web pages about the BSD operating system
Linux - Search all Linux-friendly pages
Microsoft - Search Microsoft-related pages

U.S. Government - Search all .gov and .mil sites
Universities: Narrow your search to a specific school's website, such as Stanford, Brown, BYU, etc.

Several nice summaries of some of Google's features and services are available online:

The word "Beta" beside the name of a service means that Google is testing and refining the service. Use the service, and if you are so inclined, provide feedback to Google on how the service can be improved.

Next, we'll look at many of the special search tools listed above, as well as:

This section ends with Google's feature history.

The search tips and behaviors described in Part I of Google Guide work with Google's special search tools, except that the synonym operator (~) currently works only on Web and Directory searches.

For more information on Google special services and tools, visit www.google.com/options/.

Making Google Easier with Google Tools

You can use Google even when the www.google.com page isn't currently in your browser. It's simple to do with the following tools and features.

Here's how.

NOTE: The Google Browser Buttons should work for recent versions of most browsers, but may not work on older ones.

Google Browser Buttons are available at www.google.com/options/buttons.html.

  • Built-in Browser Support
    Several web browsers have built-in support for search engines — including, of course, Google.

  • Make Google Your Homepage
    To have the Google home page appear whenever you start your browser, click on the "Make Google Your Homepage" link on Google's home page. If the link is missing, follow the instructions listed on www.google.com/options/defaults.html.

  • Make Google Your Default Search Engine
    For instructions, visit www.google.com/options/defaults.html#default.

    Exercises

    Set up your system to make Google easier to access. For hints and answers to selected problems, see the Solutions page in the Appendix.

    1. If you use Windows 98/ME/2000/XP and Internet Explorer 5.5 or a more recent version, install the Google Deskbar on your system.

    2. If you use a browser that supports the Google Toolbar, install it on your system. If you use another browser, install Google Browser Buttons on your system.

    3. Make Google your home page.

    4. Make Google your default search engine.

    Shortcuts

    Google provides shortcuts for finding commonly sought utilities and information, which you may have previously found offline or on specialized sites. The results of these shortcuts appear to the right of a tag or specialized icon and above your search results.

    To read about all of these shortcuts, one by one, simply click the "Next" links at the top or bottom of this page and the following Google Guide pages. Or, to read about any one of them now, click on the item below:

    Icon that is displayed beside calculations Calculator
    Icon that is displayed beside phonebook listings Phone Numbers and Addresses
    Icon that is displayed beside links to street map
     providers Street Maps
    Icon that is displayed beside links to stock quotes Stock Quotes
    Definitions (Google Glossary)
    Travel Conditions
    Search by Number
           Icon that is displayed beside links to map of area
     code Area Code Maps
           Package Tracking
           Icon displayed beside link to flight tracking information Flight Tracking Information
           Icon displayed beside link to vehicle information Vehicle Information
           Patent Search
           FAA Airplane Registration Numbers
           UPC Codes
           FCC Equipment IDs

    Calculator

    Want to add up a list of numbers, convert from miles to kilometers, or evaluate some other mathematical expression? Instead of using a piece of paper, your calculator, or a computer math software program, you can now solve mathematical problems with Google's built-in calculator function.

    Simply enter the expression you'd like evaluated in Google's web search box and click the ENTER key or click the "Google Search" button.

    When Google recognizes your query as a calculation of a mathematical expression, it computes the result.

    The Google Guide Calculator Reference provides a nice summary of some of Google's calculator features.

    Once you have a result, you can use your browser's Copy feature (usually on its Edit menu) to copy the result. Then you can paste it into another program, a box in a form on another web page, and so on.

    The calculator can evaluate mathematical expressions involving:

    Basic Arithmetic
    Compute expressions containing standard mathematical symbols. The following table lists operators that come between the two numbers on which they operate, e.g., to multiply 2 times 3, use 2 * 3.

    Operator Function Example
    + Addition 15.99 + 32.50 + 13.25 ]
    - Subtraction 79 - 18 - 19 ]
    * Multiplication 2 * 3 * 7 ]
    / Division 378 / 9 ]
    ^ or ** Exponentiation
    (raise to a power of)
    4^10 ] or [ 4**10 ]
    % of Percent 15% of 93.45 ]
    mod or % modulo (the remainder
    after division)
    15 mod 9 ] or [ 15 % 9 ]
    the nth root of calculates the nth root 4th root of 16 ]
    cube root of 109 ]
    square root of 42 ] or
    sqrt(42) ]

    Note: To do multiplication, you must include the * symbol; [ 3 * 4 ] will be calculated, 3 4 won't.

    Advanced Math
    Compute results involving mathematical constants, such as e, pi, i (the square root of -1), and mathematical functions. The following table lists just some of the functions built into Google's calculator.

    Operator Function Example
    sin, cos, tan,
    sec, csc, cot, etc.
    Trigonometric functions (arguments are assumed to be in radians) cos(pi/6) ]
    cosine(pi/6) ]
    arcsin, arccos, arctan, arccsc, etc. Inverse trigonometric functions arccos(.5) ]
    sinh, cosh, tanh, csch, arsinh, arccsch, etc. Hyperbolic functions cosh(6) ]
    ln Logarithm base e ln(16) ]
    log Logarithm base 10 log(16) ]
    lg Logarithm base 2 lg(16) ]
    exp Exponential function exp(16) ]
    ! Factorial 5! ]
    choose x choose y calculates the number of ways of choosing a set of y elements from a set of x distinct elements 5 choose 3 ]

    The following table lists just a few of the commonly used mathematical constants known to the calculator function.

    Name and description Example
    base of the natural system of logarithms e ]
    pi, the ratio of the circumference to the diameter of a circle pi/6 ]
    imaginary number, i, which represents one of the two square roots of -1 i^2 ]
    Euler's constant, gamma e^gamma ]

    Units of Measure and Conversions
    Compute expressions involving different units. By default, units are converted to and results expressed in meter-kilogram-second (mks) units. Many units have both long and short names. Use whichever name you prefer.

    Type of Units Examples
    Currency Australian Dollars (AUD), British pounds (GBP), Euros, US Dollars (USD)
    Mass kilogram or kg, grams or g, grains, pounds or lbs, carats, stones, tons, tonnes
    Length meters or m, miles, feet, Angstroms, cubits, furlongs
    Volume gallons, liters or l, bushels, teaspoons, pints
    Area square kilometers, acres, hectares
    Time days, seconds or s, centuries, sidereal years, fortnights
    Electricity volts, amps, ohms, henrys
    Energy Calories, British thermal units (BTU), joules, ergs, foot-pounds
    Power watt, kilowatts, horsepower or hp
    Information bits, bytes, kbytes, etc.
    Quantity dozen, baker's dozen, percent, gross, great gross, score, googol
    Numbering systems decimal, hexadecimal or hex, octal, binary, roman numerals, etc. Prefix hexadecimal numbers with 0x, octal numbers with 0o and binary numbers with 0b. For example: 0x7f + 0b10010101.

    Here are calculations that involve units.

    2 meters + 5 feet ]

    Convert from one set of units to another by using the notation, x units in y units.

    three quarters of a cup in teaspoons ]
    98.6 degrees Fahrenheit in degrees Celsius ]
    130 lbs in kg ]
    130 lbs in stones ]
    65 mph in kph ] or [ 65 mph in km/h ]

    Warning: When your query includes "Calories" with a capital "C," Google returns kilocalories called "calories" by nutritionists.

    160 pounds * 4000 feet in Calories ]

    Convert from one numbering system to another.

    1500 in hex ] or [ 1500 in hexadecimal ]
    64 in binary ]
    LVII in decimal ]

    In many cases, you can also get the conversion factor between units:

    meters per mile ]
    furlongs per fortnight ]

    That last conversion is a common joke among engineers — though, as Jim Jardine points out, "There is no reason to denigrate neither furlongs nor fortnights as they are both very easily defined measurements." (See his page Furlongs Today.)

    Physical Constants
    The following table lists just a few of the many commonly used physical constants known to the calculator function. Parts of this table were adapted from the table at the end of David W. Ward's article Physics the Google Way. Note: Sometimes Google's calculator interprets lower case letters different from upper case letters.

    Long Name Shorthand
    Notation
    Click the Link for
    the Approximate Value
    atomic mass units amu amu ] or [ atomic mass unit ]
    Astronomical Unit au au ] or [ astronomical unit ]
    Avogadro's number N_A ] or [ Avogadro's number ]
    Boltzmann constant k k ] or [ Boltzmann constant ]
    electric constant, permitivity of free space epsilon_0 ]
    electron mass m_e ] or [ electron mass ]
    electron volt eV eV ] or [ electron volt ]
    elementary charge elementary charge ]
    Euler's constant Euler's constant ]
    Faraday constant Faraday constant ]
    fine-structure constant fine-structure constant ]
    gravitational constant G G ] or [ gravitational constant ]
    magnetic flux quantum magnetic flux quantum ]
    mass of each planet and of the sun m_mars ], [ m_earth ], [ m_uranus ], ..., [ m_sun ]
    molar gas constant molar gas constant ]
    permeability of free space permeability of free space ]
    Planck's constant h h ] or [ Planck's constant ]
    proton mass m_p ] or [ proton mass ]
    radius of each planet and of the sun r_earth ], [ r_pluto ], ..., [ r_sun ]
    Rydberg constant Rydberg constant ]
    speed of light in a vacuum c c ] or [ speed of light ]
    speed of sound in air at sea level speed of sound ]
    Stefan-Boltzmann constant Stefan-Boltzmann constant ]

    Here are some calculations using built-in constants.

    1 AU/c ]
    1.21 MW / 88 mph ]
    (G * mass of earth) / (radius of earth ^ 2) ]

    Parentheses (( )) can be used whenever they'll serve to make complicated expressions unambiguous, and also sets of parentheses can be used within parentheses. Don't use brackets ([ ]) for grouping.

    The following are tips from Google's online help for the calculator, which can be found on the web at www.google.com/help/calculator.html.

    You can force the calculator to try to evaluate an expression by putting an equals sign (=) after it. This works only if the expression is arithmetically computable. For example, 1-800-555-1234= (a US phone number followed by an equals sign) will return a result, but 1/0= will not.

    Parentheses can be used to enclose the parts of your expression that you want evaluated first. For example, (1+2)*3 causes the addition to happen before the multiplication.

    Feel free to experiment with the calculator as not all of its capabilities are listed here.

    If you want a visual interface to some of the capabilities of Google's calculator, visit Soople's Calculator page, www.soople.com/soople_intcalchome.php.

    When Google recognizes your query as a calculation of a mathematical expression, it computes the result.

    Exercises

    This problem set is designed to give you practice in using Google's new calculator function. For hints and answers to selected problems, see the Solutions page in the Appendix.

    1. Convert 1 mile to meters.

    2. Convert 1 kg (kilogram) to lbs (pounds).

    3. Convert 0 degrees Kelvin to Fahrenheit or Celsius.

    4. Compute the number of minutes in a 365-day year.

    5. Which is larger pi^e or e^pi? The same relationship holds between x^e and e^x for all non-negative values of x except e. The exponential constant, e, is approximately 2.72 and the ratio of the circumference to the diameter of a circle, pi, is approximately 3.14.

    6. How many lottery combinations are there if the winning combination consists of 5 distinct integers between 1 and 99, i.e., there are 99 balls in an urn and once one is selected, it isn't returned to the box.

    7. Compute the probability of your winning the lottery if you buy 1,000 tickets each bearing five distinct independently randomly chosen integers between 1 and 99.

    Phone Numbers and Addresses

    Use Google if you want to look up a phonebook listing for someone who lives in the United States. Just enter a person's name and a city, state, or zip code in the standard web search box. Then hit the ENTER key or click the "Google Search" button.

    If you have easy access to the web, Google's phonebook feature can be more convenient than your local phonebook and more extensive too.

    Google search box with [ Michael R Bloomberg New York NY ].  

    On the results page, phonebook listings are next to a telephone icon.

    Screen shot of a link to a Google phonebook listing.

    Google's residential phonebook feature recognizes inputs in the following formats.

    To find a US residence, enter either ... Examples
    First name (or first initial), last name, city
    (state is optional)
    Michael Bloomberg New York ]
    First name (or first initial), last name, state Michael Bloomberg NY ]
    First name (or first initial), last name, area code M Bloomberg 212 ]
    First name (or first initial), last name, zip code Michael Bloomberg 10021 ]
    Phone number, including area code 212-772-1081 ] or [ (212)772-1081 ]
    Last name, city, state Bloomberg New York NY ]
    Last name, zip code Bloomberg 10021 ]

    Notice that Google supports reverse look up. You can enter a phone number with area code and learn to whom that number belongs.

    Be aware that some listings are out of date.

    When you want a US business white-page phonebook listing, enter a business name and location or phone number.

    To seek a US business, enter ... Examples
    Business name, city, state Trek Waterloo WI ]
    Business name, zip code Ben & Jerry's 05403 ]
    Phone number including area code (650) 930-3500 ]

    Google lists up to three results that match your phonebook query.

    Google search box with [ Disney Los Angeles CA ].   

    Screen shot showing  link to more phonebook listing.

    To see other listings, click on the "Phonebook results" link that's just above the phonebook icon.

    View If there are more than two listings, Google includes a link to more phonebook listings

    Notice that when Google provides an address, it includes links to map providers. In the next section, we'll look at how to obtain a map and directions.

    If Google doesn't return a phonebook link, try using the phonebook: search operator.

    Google search box with [ Disney Los Angeles CA ].   

    Need an email address? Though it would be a nice feature for you and me, Google doesn't offer an email-lookup service, since spammers could use it to get your address and send you unsolicited spam email.

    Exercises

    This problem set gives you practice with looking up phone numbers and addresses. For hints and answers to selected problems, see the Solutions page in the Appendix.

    1. What is the address of the Empire State Building in New York City in the state of New York (the two-letter state code is NY)?

    2. Check whether Google knows your phone number and address. If you wish to remove your listing from Google's PhoneBook, complete the name removal form, which you can find at www.google.com/help/pbremoval.html or by searching for [ remove phone number Google ].

    Street Maps

    Want to find where something is or how to get there? Instead of visiting an online map-providing service, just enter an address into Google. You can also copy and paste addresses, even ones with embedded carriage returns, into Google's search box. When Google recognizes your query as a location, the results page includes links to map providers for that location. Clicking on a map-provider link takes you to a map showing the location result.

    Enter a U.S. street address, including zip code or city/state. Often, the street address and city name will be enough.

    Google search box with [ 1600 Amphitheatre Pkwy Mountain View CA ].  

    Beside an icon of a map are links to map providers, as shown below.

    Screen shot of the icon and links to map providers Google returns when it recognizes your query as a map request.

    Click on either the Google Maps link , Yahoo! Maps link, or the MapQuest link to view a map showing 1600 Amphitheatre Pkwy in Mountain View, California.

    Often the Google Local service can find where something is located without your providing an address.

    Google search box with [ Tech Museum San Jose CA ].  

    Sometimes Google can find what you want without an address.

    Click on the link to a map provider to obtain a map.

    Map from Yahoo!Maps Map from Mapquest

    Click on the link "To this location" in Yahoo!Maps or on the radio button "Driving Directions from this location" in MapQuest and specify your starting location.

    Click on the link "To this location" Click on the link "Get Directions To This Location"

    Then you'll get a nice set of directions that you can print out and take with you when driving.

    Screen shot of Mapquest driving directions. Screen shot of Yahoo!Map driving directions.

    Exercises

    This problem set gives you practice with looking up addresses and with getting directions. For hints and answers to selected problems, see the Solutions page in the Appendix.

    1. Get a map showing the most crooked section of Lombard Street in San Francisco, which is between 1000 and 1100 Lombard Street.

    2. Get a map showing Japanese restaurants in Topeka, Kansas by entering [ Japanese restaurants in Topeka KS ] in the Google Maps search box.

    3. If you live in the United States, obtain a map showing where you live by entering your address into Google and clicking the link to a map provider.

    4. If you live in the United States, get directions from your house to either a good friend's place or a great restaurant.

    Stock Quotes

    Looking for Google's stock symbol? It's GOOG on Nasdaq. Click here for Google's stock price or search for it on Google.

    Google  search box with [ goog ].

    Want info on a publicly traded stock or mutual fund? Enter one or more NYSE, NASDAQ, AMEX, or mutual fund ticker symbols and Google will return the latest stock price (with a 15-minute delay for NASDAQ or a 20-minute delay for AMEX and NYSE), along with an intra-day chart, the daily high and low, the volume traded, the company's market capitalization, as well as a link to other financial information.

    Google search box with [ ek ].  

    Enter a ticker symbol and Google returns a link to stock info.

    Click on the stock symbol link to see financial information, which may include the price of the last trade, the range of prices for the day and for the year, a one-year target price estimate, the previous day's closing price, the opening price for the day, the volume of shares traded during the day, the PE radio, dividends per share, the dividend date, and a chart.

    Enter a ticker symbol and Google returns a link to stock info.

    Note: Entering a ticker symbol in the search box and then clicking on I'm Feeling Lucky will not take you to that symbol's financial information page. Instead, Google displays the first search results, whose link appears just below the box enclosing the stock information link.

    Google search box with [ amzn csco ebay ].  

    Enter one or more ticker symbols and Google returns a link to stock info.

    Click on the "Stock quotes" link to view a chart for each stock symbol in your query.

    Screen shot of quotes for several stocks.

    You can also retrieve stock information via the stocks: search operator. For example, [ stock:brcm brcd ] will return a link to stock information about Broadcom Corporation and Brocade Communications System.

    Exercises

    This problem set gives you practice in obtaining financial information for US publicly traded companies. For hints and answers to selected problems, see the Solutions page in the Appendix.

    1. Obtain a chart of Ebay's stock price for the past 5 years by entering Ebay's stock symbol, ebay, clicking on the link "EBAY" and then clicking on "5y" under today's chart.

    2. Find current financial information for Yahoo and Amazon.

    3. Using the similar pages feature, find competitors to google.com that are run by public companies. Check whether their stock prices have been climbing or dropping in the past three months.

    Definitions (Google Glossary)

    When you include "define," "what is," or "what are" in your query in front of a word, phrase, or acronym, Google displays one Glossary definition above your search results. Google Glossary provides definitions for words, phrases, and acronyms that Google finds on web pages. The Glossary is good for finding definitions for terms that aren't in some dictionaries, e.g., slang words, technical terms, ethnic words and other specialized terms.

    In February of 2003, Google acquired Pyra Labs, a company that makes it easy for you to create your own blog. What's a blog? Let's ask Google to define the term.

    Google search box with [ define blog ].  

    Screen shot a definition returned by the Google Glossary

    You can search for blogs with Google, in the same way that you search for other documents. You can easily create a weblog (blog) post pointing to the web page you're visiting by pressing the "BlogThis!" button on the Google Toolbar and publish your thoughts on the web so others may find them. You can learn more about this feature on toolbar.google.com/button_help.html.

    Google Glossary can also find definitions of acronyms.

    Google search box with [ what is cats ].  

    Screen shot a definition returned by the Google Glossary
    One definition appears to the right of the words "Web Definition," below the statistics bar and above Google's search results.

    When your query includes the "define:" operator, Google displays all the definitions it finds on the web.

    Google search box with [ define: phat ].  

    Screen shot definitions returned by the Google Glossary

    If you want a dictionary definition, learn about a shortcut in the Dictionary Definitions section in Part II.

    Exercises

    These problems give you practice in finding definitions. For hints and answers to selected problems, see the Solutions page in the Appendix.

    1. What does aka mean?

    2. What is Google bombing? If Google Glossary doesn't find the definition, find it yourself.

    3. Google is named after the word 'googol.' What is a googol?

    4. What does the abbreviation IRL commonly stand for?

    Google Local (Search by Location)

    Restrict your search to a particular geographic area.

    Click on the Local link above the Google search box

    Web    Images    Groups    News    Froogle    LocalNew!    more »
    or visit local.google.com and then enter in the Google Local search box
    a location
    Anchorage
    350 5th Ave, New York
    a business
    restaurants near the Metropolitan Museum of Art
    cafes
    directions
    SJC to 886 Cannery Row, Monterey, CA
    San Francisco to 94105

    Google Local, aka Search by Location, local.google.com, scouts the web for addresses and clues to pinpoint where things are located.

    Restrict your search to a particular geographic area

    Not only is Search by Location good for finding businesses and landmarks, but it can find locations of places that aren't listed in phonebooks. For example, you can find places that appeared in the film Sleepless in Seattle.

    Screen shot showing results restricted to a particular geographic area.

    See these results on a map by clicking on the link just above your search results.

    Screen shot of map showing where results are located.

    Exercises

    This problem set gives you practice with using Google Local. For hints and answers to selected problems, see the Solutions page in the Appendix.

    1. Find Thai restaurants in the zip code 94041 in Mountain View, California.

    Travel Conditions

    Google provides a shortcut for learning about delays and weather conditions at a US airport. Just enter the airport's three-letter code followed by the word "airport" into Google's search box.

    Note: This feature may not work if you search from any of Google's non-US sites, e.g., google.de, google.com.co, google.ca nor from a foreign-language site, e.g., Swahili or Latvian.

    For example, find conditions at Honolulu International Airport. If you don't know the airport code, look it up on Google. If your city has more than one major airport, include the airport name as well as the city in your query.

    Google search box with [ Honolulu airport code ].  

    You don't need to click on the first result to see that the airport code for one of Honolulu's airports is HNL, because you can find that code in the first line of the snippet.

    Screen shot of showing how to look up an airport code

    It's best not to trust this information, though, unless you know it's the answer you need. For instance, the first result for New York City may be JFK, but there are several New York airports. To check more closely — or if you find the snippet difficult to read — just click on the title of one of the snippets. Let's view the Honolulu Airport entry from World-Airport-Codes.com.

    Screen shot of Honolulu airport information

    Now let's request travel conditions at Honolulu International Airport.

    Google search box with [ hnl airport ].  

    Screen shot of showing how to look up an airport code

    Click on the "View conditions" link to see the FAA's airport status information.

    Screen shot of airport status information

    Exercises

    These problems give you practice in finding travel conditions. For hints and answers to selected problems, see the Solutions page in the Appendix.

    1. Find the travel conditions for Los Angeles International Airport.

    2. Find the travel conditions for Kennedy Airport in New York City.

    Search by Number

    "Parcel tracking IDs, patents, and other specialized numbers can be entered into Google's search box for quick access to information about them," according to the Google Web Search Features page, www.google.com/help/features.html.

    Special searches by number types include:

    Examples
    Icon that is displayed beside links to map of area code Area Code Map 212 ]
    Package Tracking 999444666222 ]
    Icon displayed beside link to flight tracking information Flight Tracking Information united 42 ]
    Icon displayed beside link to vehicle information Vehicle Information JH4NA1157MT001832 ]
    Patent Search patent 5122313 ]
    FAA Airplane Registration Numbers     n199ua ]
    UPC Codes 036000250015 ]
    FCC Equipment IDs fcc B4Z-34009-PIR ]

    The rest of this page contains examples of input and output for most of these types of searches.

    Icon that is displayed beside links to map of area
     code Area Code Map
    Want to see a map of where a US telephone area code is used? Just enter the area code in Google's search box.

    Google search box with [ 650 ].  

    Screen shot of link to area code map.

    Click on the link to view a map.

    Screen shot of map where area code applies.

    Package Tracking
    Instead of going to the FedEx (
    www.fedex.com), UPS (www.ups.com), or US Postal Service (www.usps.com) sites to find out where your package is located, now you can enter parcel tracking IDs directly into Google's search box.

    Google search box with [ fedex 999444666222 ].  

    Screen shot of link to FedEx tracking information

    Click on the link to view tracking information for a parcel.

    Screen shot of FedEx tracking information

    Find the latest information about your UPS package by entering "ups" followed by the tracking ID into Google's search box.

    Google search box with [ 1Z9999W999999999 ].  

    Icon displayed beside link to flight tracking information Flight Tracking Information
    Look up information on a flight by typing the airline name or code followed by a space and a flight number.

    Google search box with [ united 42 ].  

    Screen shot of links to flight information.

    Click on the Travelocity link to view tracking information on the flight.

    Screen shot of flight travel information.

    Click on the fboweb.com link to view how the actual flight is progressing.

    Screen shot show progress of flight.

    Icon displayed beside link to vehicle information Vehicle Information
    Look up automobile vehicle information by entering a vehicle ID (VIN) number.

    Google search box with [ JH4NA1157MT001832 ].  

    Screen shot of link to vehicle information.

    Click on the link to view information on the specified vehicle.

    Screen shot of a Carfax report on the car and its status.

    Patent Search
    Look up a US patent by typing "patent" followed by a space and a patent number.

    Google search box with [ patent 5122313 ].  
  • Screen shot of link to patent information database.

    Click on the link to view information on the patent.

    Screen shot of a patent full-text database

    FAA Airplane Registration Numbers
    Find out about a particular airplane by entering its FAA airplane registration number into Google's search box. An airplane's FAA registration number is typically painted on its tail.

    Google search box with [ n199ua ].  

    Screen shot of link to FAA aircraft information

    Click on the link to view information about the aircraft.

    Screen shot of FAA information

    UPC Codes
    Find information about an item by entering its UPC code into Google's search box.

    Google search box with [ 036000250015 ].  

    Screen shot of link to UPC information.

    Click on the link to view information about this item.

    Screen shot of FCC information

    FCC Equipment IDs
    Find information about FCC equipment by typing "fcc" followed by a space and the equipment's ID number.

    Google search box with [ B4Z-34009-PIR ].  

    Screen shot of link to FCC information

    Click on the link to view information about this equipment.

    Screen shot of FCC information

    Image Search

    Looking for an image, map, graphic, photo, design or drawing? Try Google's Image Search by clicking on the Images link above Google's search box

    Web    Images    Groups    News    Froogle    LocalNew!    more »

    or visiting images.google.com.

    Google
    Images home page

    Enter your query and click on the "Google Search" button. Alternatively, enter your query and then click on the Images tab. Google Image Search works best when there are many images available to choose from, e.g., photos of Anna Kournikova, the most photographed tennis player.

    Google Images search box with [ Anna Kournikova tennis ].  

    A screen shot showing Google Image Search's thumbnail-size images
    Click on the image that interests you. You'll go to a framed page with two parts. On top, you'll see Google's image thumbnail. On the bottom, you'll see the full page on which the image appears.

    Browse thumbnail-size images

    Clicking on the thumbnail image or on the "See full-size image" link that appears just below the thumbnail image will display the full-size image.

    Save the image to your hard disk by either selecting "Save As" or "Save Page As" from the File menu of your browser or by clicking the mouse's right button and selecting "Save As" or "Save Page As" from the pop-up menu.

    To view the page containing the image without the thumbnail image on top, click on the page's URL, which appears between the thumbnail image and the page itself following the text "Below is the image in its original context on the page."

    How Does Google Image Search Work?

    Notice that when you search for images of Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Image Search returns some photographs of Google CEO Eric Schmidt.

    Google Images search box with [ Larry Page Sergey Brin ].  

    Screen shot of results from Google Image Search.

    The words "Larry Page" and "Sergey Brin" appear near images of Eric Schmidt, or in image captions, or in links to those images. Google makes a guess that the words are related to the image. Google technology isn't yet to the point where it can tell what's in an image by looking at it directly.

    Focusing Your Image Search

    As with text searches, you can focus your search when it finds too many images. Restrict your results to images that are large, medium, or small by clicking on one of the links that is in the upper right corner on the Images results page.

    Screen shot of Google size selection links.

    Alternatively, narrow your query by using Google's Advanced Image Search form. To get there, either click on the Advanced Image Search link or go to images.google.com/advanced_image_search.

    Google Advanced Image Search

    You can specify:

    Option Restrict results to Values
    Size images of these relative dimensions small, medium, large
    Filetype image files whose names end with the specified suffix jpg, gif, png
    Coloration images with the specified color depth black and white, grayscale, full color
    Domain a specific site or domain (for a description of site and domain names, see Anatomy of a Web Address) Domains such as .com, .edu, .nl, or sites such as pandemonia.com
     SafeSearch  the specified level of filtering. Be aware that Google's automatic filtering doesn't guarantee that you won't be shown offensive content. none, moderate, strict

    The Size restriction refers to the height and width of the image in pixels. The following table lists the approximate dimensions for each relative size specification.

    Size Value  Approximate Dimensions 
    in pixels
    small 150 x 150 or smaller
    medium larger than 150 x 150 and
    smaller than 500 x 500
    large 500 x 500 or larger

    For more information on Google's Image Search visit images.google.com/help/faq_images.html.

    Exercises

    These problems give you practice with finding images. For hints and answers to selected problems, see the Solutions page in the Appendix.

    1. I used a color chart to select colors for this tutorial. Find some color charts that show the HTML input to render at least 100 colors.

    2. Google displays special logos on its home page on holidays and birthdays. Find some of these logos. Click on the link "repeat the search with the omitted results included" to view more amusing logos.

    3. Find a photograph of the Alhambra in Granada, Spain to see whether you want to take a vacation and visit the Alhambra.

    4. Obtain a map of the London Underground.

    Groups (Discussion Forums)

    Want advice, opinions, and recommendations that haven't necessarily been edited?

    Then consider using Google Groups, which provides access (posting and reading) to thousands of discussion forums — an enormous storehouse of discourse, including

    The Internet connects people from all over the world. When the Internet was initially established, people used it to send email messages to each other. As with physical mail, email must have the address of the recipient. In 1979-1980, Steve Bellovin, Jim Ellis, Tom Truscott, and Steve Daniel at Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill implemented a distributed bulletin board system supported mainly by UNIX computers. It became known as Usenet, which was short for Users Network, and, because it was free and non-proprietary, it swiftly became international in scope. Usenet discussion forums became popular in the 1980s before the birth of the World Wide Web. In 1995, a company named DejaNews began archiving Usenet. In 1999, during the .com boom, DejaNews changed its name to Deja.com. Like many .com companies, Deja.com didn't do well financially. In February of 2001, Deja.com sold its Usenet archives to Google for an undisclosed amount.

    Google has Deja's entire archive (dating back to 1995), as well as lots of material posted earlier, available from the Google Groups home page. Google Groups also tracks recent postings on Usenet and non-Usenet groups. Finally, Google allows you to post messages to these forums by signing up for a free account.

    Click on Groups link above Google's search box

    Web    Images    Groups    News    Froogle    LocalNew!    more »

    or visit groups.google.com to access this comprehensive archive of human conversation, dating back to 1981.

    Note: Particularly in the latter part of the 1980s, there are some significant gaps in the archive. As traffic expanded, volunteers who had been saving Usenet traffic at their own expense were overwhelmed, and stopped archiving some groups. While the Google Groups archive is the most complete Usenet Archive known to exist, it is not a complete archive prior to the 1990s.

    Screen shot of Google Groups home page.

    You can search and read public groups without identifying yourself to Google. To access private groups or to post a message to any group, you'll need a Google Account. (You may also be able to post to public Usenet groups through your Internet provider's own news server — without needing a Google Account. If this seems useful, ask your ISP whether they provide Usenet access.)

    For a listing of groups organized by topic, region, language, activity level, and (for non-Usenet groups) the number of people who belong to the group, see the Group Directory.

    Many of the Google Groups are part of Usenet. Usenet newsgroups (forums) are grouped into several large areas, each of which is broken into subareas. The different parts are always separated by a "." (period). The first part of a name is called its hierarchy. Consider, for instance, the name rec.sport.tennis. The newsgroup is in the rec or recreation area, in the sports subarea. Within each newsgroup, there are messages (also referred to as articles or postings) that look like email from one user to another. But instead of just being exchanged between two people, these messages are available to everyone who accesses the Usenet or Google Groups. The top level Usenet hierarchies are:

    alt. 
     Alternative discussions (any conceivable topic)
    biz. 
     Business products, services, reviews, etc.
    comp. 
     Relating to computers
    humanities. 
     Fine art, literature, philosophy, etc.
    misc. 
     Miscellaneous topics, e.g., employment, health, etc.
    news. 
     Relating to Usenet netnews itself
    rec. 
     Relating to recreation, e.g., games, hobbies, sports
    sci. 
     Relating to the sciences
    soc. 
     Relating to social issues, culture
    talk. 
     Long arguments, current issues and debates, frequently political 

    Below are some examples of Usenet newsgroup names.

    alt.graphics.photoshop misc.jobs.offered
    alt.atheism.moderated      rec.aviation.soaring
    alt.fan.letterman rec.food.recipes
    alt.personal.ads rec.music.classical.guitar
    biz.books.technical soc.feminism
    misc.invest.real-estate talk.politics.misc

    Discussion groups can be unmoderated (anyone can post) or moderated (submissions are automatically directed to a moderator, who edits and filters out inappropriate and irrelevant material). Some discussion groups have parallel mailing lists, with postings to a group automatically propagated to its mailing list and vice versa. Some moderated groups are even distributed as digests, groups of postings periodically being collected into a single large posting with an index. The names of some moderated groups include the suffix .moderated, e.g., rec.martial-arts.moderated.

    Click on a topic (hierarchy) or enter your query.

    Google Groups search box with [ compact digital camera recommendations ].  

    Google Groups

    Note that the results are sorted by relevance — that is, how closely they match your query — rather than by the date they were posted. Each result includes the date it was posted, shown in green next to the group name. To sort results by date, click "Sort by date" above the Sponsored Links.

    Click the title to view the original article with your search terms highlighted. The article may be part of a discussion thread or topic — the original article together with any preceding and followup articles — as this example shows.

    A thread from Google Groups

    Want to participate in a discussion? For information on how to post messages, click on the "Groups Help" link above or to the right of the Google Groups' search box or visit the Google Groups Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about posting at groups.google.com/googlegroups/posting_faq.html. Also be sure to read the first answer in Google Groups Posting Style Guide. Usenet has a very strong culture, and well-established ways of doing things. In order to get the best responses to your post, you should try to conform to Usenet standards.

    Google Groups Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

    If you post to Usenet via Google Groups, your email address will be distributed widely and you may receive lots of spam as a result. (Google Groups will make your email address difficult for spammers to find, but other Usenet servers may not.) Consider getting another email address from Gmail, Yahoo, or some other free service to use for your public postings. If you get a separate email address, though, do remember to check it periodically: some Usenet readers may send you a question or other private reply.

    Want to search for a specific message or those written by a certain person? Click on the Advanced Groups Search link or visit www.google.com/advanced_group_search.

    Advanced Google Groups Search

    For more information on Google Groups visit groups.google.com/support.

    Exercises

    These problems give you practice in searching Google Groups. For hints and answers to selected problems, see the Solutions page in the Appendix.

    1. Find recommendations for sites for booking flights online.

    2. Find travel tips for places to stay and visit in central London.

    3. Find reviews of online banking services.

    4. What are some ways to automatically block spam?

    5. How can you remove varnish from a maple coffee table?

    6. Click on the link "rec." and browse the names of the recreational subgroups.

    7. Find the list of especially memorable articles and threads from Usenet that Google has compiled.

    News Search

    After the tragedies of September 11, 2001, Krishna Bharat, a Google engineer, built a tool to crawl news sites and organize news into ranked clusters. Because of its popularity, Google expanded the demo into Google News.

    Google News:

    Click on the News link above Google's search box

    Web    Images    Groups    News    Froogle    LocalNew!    more »

    or visit news.google.com.

    Screen shot of Google News home page.

    Google news indicates how fresh a story is by listing how long ago it was posted, e.g., 30 minutes ago for the top story on the left in the screen shot above. Click on the title to display the article. Notice the "and 1007 related" link at the bottom of the entry of the story on the left of the above screen shot. If you click an entry's "and XXX related" link, you'll see a page listing all articles related to the same topic.

    Search news by entering your query and clicking on the "Google Search" button.

    Google News search box with [ google ].  

    Use Google News to search for the latest on a particular topic.

    By default, results are sorted by relevance to your search terms. When you wish to see articles ordered chronologically, click on the "Sort by date" link, located in the upper right corner of the results window.

    A screen shot of the "Sort by date" link that you can find in the upper right corner of the results window

    Advanced News Search, accessible from the Advanced Search link on the News page, lets you search by news source, location, date range, and other criteria. It's also available at news.google.com/advanced_news_search.

    International versions of Google News are available for countries including Australia, Canada (English and French), France, Germany, India, Italy, New Zealand, Spain, and the U.K.

    Making Google News Your Home Page

    If you like keeping up with the latest news, consider making Google News your home page and/or setting up Google Alerts.

    Make Google News your home page by following the instructions listed on www.google.com/options/defaults.html, changing http://www.google.com/ to http://news.google.com/ (or copying the URL from one of the non-US versions that we just mentioned). If these instructions don't work for your browser, check your Options or Preferences settings for a "home page" box; paste the URL into that box.

    For more information on Google News visit news.google.com/help/about_news_search.html.

    If you're a news junkie, check out Topix.net, which you can find at http://www.topix.net/ and Columbia Newsblaster, which you can find at http://newsblaster.cs.columbia.edu/. Like Google News, Topix.net and Newsblaster are systems that automatically track the day's news. Why are we including non-Google sites in a tutorial on Google? To make you aware of sites offering capabilities different from Google News's and to publicize a friend's site.

    A screen shot of the Topix.net home page.

    According to the About Columbia Newsblaster page, which you can find at http://newsblaster.cs.columbia.edu/faq.html, "There are no human editors involved — everything you see on the Newsblaster main page is generated automatically, drawing on the sources listed on the left side of the screen." Unlike Google News, Newsblaster summarizes clusters of articles about the same topic. "The end result is a Web page that gives you a sense of what the major stories of the day are, so you don't have to visit the pages of dozens of publications," according to About Newsblaster page.

    Screen shot of Columbia University's Newsblaster

    Exercises

    This problem set gives you practice with using Google News. For hints and answers to selected problems, see the Solutions page in the Appendix.

    1. Find today's current top stories listed on Google News.

    2. Find the latest news about Google.

    Froogle (Search and Browse Items for Sale)

    Froogle is a searchable and browsable shopping index tuned to finding products for sale online. Click on the Froogle link above Google's search box

    Web    Images    Groups    News    Froogle    LocalNew!    more »

    or visit froogle.google.com. Search results include price, brand, description, and, if available, a photograph. Note that unlike other online shopping services, Froogle doesn't actually sell things.

    Froogle obtains listings for products from vendors and by scouring the web. When Google finds a page that appears to sell something, it feeds the information it collects to Froogle. Vendors don't pay to have their products included in Froogle's search results. However, they can purchase sponsored links, which appear along the right side of Froogle's results pages.

    Froogle Home Page: Find products for sale from across the web.

    You'll find a link to Froogle on the Google home page. Or go to froogle.google.com.

    You can browse products by clicking on a category or you can search by entering your query in Froogle's search box. Interested in buying a watch for a child? Try searching on Froogle for [ watches children ].

    Screen shot of what Froogle returned when searching for [ watches children ]

    The results included the verb "watch" and pages selling children's jewelry. Study results to get ideas for more effective search terms. Consider searching for specific brands.

    Froogle search box with [ watches children timex ].  

    Screen shot of results from [ watches children timex ]

    Search for specific types of watches.

    Froogle search box with [ watches children teacher ].  

    Screen shot of results from [ watches children teacher ]

    Froogle search box with [ analog watches children ].  

    Screen shot of results from [ analog watches children ]

    When Froogle finds more than one product from a site, it includes the link "See all results from vendor." Limiting the number of results from a given site to just one ensures products from a single vendor won't dominate your search results and that Froogle provides pages from a variety of sites.

    Want products with prices in a specified range? Enter a price range just above the results or fill in a field in Froogle's advanced search form. Access the advanced search form by clicking on the Advanced Froogle Search link next to the search box on a Froogle page or visiting froogle.google.com/froogle_advanced_search.

    For more information on Froogle visit froogle.google.com/froogle/about.html.

    Exercises

    These problems give you practice with shopping on Froogle and Google Catalogs. For hints and answers to selected problems, see the Solutions page in the Appendix.

    1. Find 100% cotton comforter covers on Froogle.

    2. Find unbreakable 8 oz. drinking glasses in the price range $10 - $30.

    3. Tired of putting on sun screen? Find sun-protective clothing with Froogle.

    4. Find heated toilet seats with Froogle.

    More Search Services

    Click on the more » link above Google's search box to learn about many of Google's search services and tools.

    Web    Images    Groups    News    Froogle    LocalNew!    more »

    In Google Guide, click on any of the following images or links to learn more about these services and tools.

    Google Services










         
           

    Google Tools



       


    Catalogs (Search and Browse Mail-Order Catalogs)

    After acquiring a fancy scanner, Larry Page, co-founder of Google, encouraged engineers to come up with a search service that would take advantage of its speed and flexibility. Lauren Baptist started by developing a service around mail-order catalogs because they posed the least copyright issues. Some vendors have better pictures in their catalogs than on the websites. Now you can throw out your mail-order catalogs and browse or search for their contents online, even if the company hasn't listed them on the web. Visit catalogs.google.com. But, if you don't have a high speed connection, the catalog pages load slowwwwwly.

    Screen shot of Google Catalogs home page.

    Google tries a lot of things. Some projects succeed and are supported; others fade away. As of this writing (late 2005), Google Catalogs seems to be one that may fade away. For instance, most catalogs in the Computer category are from 2002 or 2003 — an eternity in that fast-paced market.

    Another interesting point about a not-so-developed service like Catalogs is that not all search features may be supported. For instance, searching by price with the numeric range operator, like $250..$1000, would be useful in a catalog search. But that operator was developed after Catalogs, which may explain why it doesn't work.

    Still, the service is interesting — and some of the catalogs are fairly up-to-date. Since IKEA gives out their catalogs sparingly, check out their catalog online.

    View IKEA's mail-order catalog online.

    Like Froogle, Catalogs doesn't sell things. Instead, use this service to browse and/or search print page catalogs. For example, search for a sun hat.

    Google Catalogs search box with [ sun hats ].  

    Screen shot of results from a Catalogs search for [ sun hats ].

    As with other Google services, the Advanced Catalog Search gives you more search choices. Advanced search lets you choose the latest issue of a catalog or all issues. You can also name a certain merchant

    For more information on Google Catalogs visit catalogs.google.com/googlecatalogs/help.html.

    Exercises

    These problems give you practice with shopping with Google Catalogs. For hints and answers to selected problems, see the Solutions page in the Appendix.

    1. Find 100% cotton comforter covers.

    2. Find radios at a consumer electronics store. Then try a general search and notice that merchants in other categories may also have radios.

    3. Tired of putting on sun screen? Find sun-protective clothing.

    Directory

    There are two basic ways to find information systematically on the Web: browsing and searching. Chris Sherman and Gary Price offer the following description of browsing versus searching in their book The Invisible Web.

    ... think of how you use a library. If you're familiar with a subject it's often more useful to browse in the section where books [on that] subject are shelved. Because of the way the library is organized, often using either the Dewey Decimal or Library of Congress Classification system, you know that all of the titles in the section are related, and serendipity often leads to unexpected discoveries that prove quite valuable.

    If you're unfamiliar with a subject, however, browsing is both inefficient and potentially futile if you fail to locate the section of the library where the material you're interested in is shelved. Searching, [with the aid of] specialized tools offered by a library's catalog, is far more likely to provide satisfactory results.

    Using the web to find information has much in common with using the library. Sometimes browsing provides good results, while other information needs require nothing less than sophisticated, powerful searching to achieve the best results.

    Up until now, we've shown you how to choose search terms and craft your queries to locate the information you seek. This section describes how to browse by following links on Google's Directory.

    Google organizes the Directory into categories that are classifications of pages by subjects. The Directory is similar to the table of contents in a book. Browsing a book's table of contents, which includes the titles of chapters and sections, allows a reader to quickly find interesting sections of the book. Similarly, browsing a subject-oriented directory, enables a user to quickly locate categories containing related documents. However, there's no assurance that what you're seeking will be in the book or web page.

    See the top level classifications by visiting directory.google.com.

    Google Directory

    Google's web-search index is built automatically by computers that crawl the web. On the other hand, Google's Directory is created by volunteer human-subject matter experts who contribute to the Open Directory Project (www.dmoz.org). The raw open-source directory is used not just by Google, but also by Netscape Search, AOL Search, Lycos, HotBot, and DirectHit. The volunteers evaluate, classify, and annotate each entry. The entries are then ranked by Google's PageRank algorithms.

    (If you sort the results by their PageRank, you'll notice a bar scale to the left of each result. The wider the bar, the higher the PageRank. See the next screen shot for two examples.)

    Consider using the Directory instead of Google's web search whenever you want to:

    Fewer sites are included in the Directory than in Google's web search but those that are included tend to be of high quality.

    Use Google's Directory when you want to explore by clicking on topics, i.e., browse. For example, learn about travel by clicking on the Travel category, which is included in the top-level category Recreation, which in the future we'll abbreviate as Recreation > Travel.

    Screen shot showing what you see when you click on a category link in Google's Directory

    To broaden your search, consider browsing subcategories or related categories, which the Directory includes on your results page. Next to each subcategory is a number in parentheses (), which is the number of links included in that category. Names of categories with lots of entries are shown in boldface.

    With Google's Directory, you can browse and/or search to find pages of interest to you. If you're unfamiliar with a topic, browse through a few levels of categories and then restrict your search to a particular branch of the Directory by selecting the "Search only in ..." radio button before entering your query in the search box. If you're familiar with a topic, search the Directory by entering your query and clicking on the "Google Search" button. Then you can either refine your search by changing your search query or entering additional terms or browse by clicking on a subcategory or a related category.

    Google Directory search box with [ newspapers India ].  

    Results from looking up [ newspapers California ] on Google Directory

    Directory drawbacks include size, timeliness, and coverage. Since computers can crawl the web and add index entries much faster than humans can travel the web and evaluate pages, most directories, including Google's, have significantly fewer entries than searchable indices. Since directory links are maintained by hand, upkeep and maintenance are time-consuming. It's difficult for editors to keep up with the dynamic nature of the web. Because different people edit, annotate, and add entries, some categories in a directory are well-populated and others are sparse.

    For more information on Google Directory visit www.google.com/dirhelp.html.

    Exercises

    This problem set gives you practice in using the Google Directory.

    1. Find bed and breakfast sites in Florence, Italy.

    2. Find sites that focus on changing careers.

    3. What are the names of the California state parks and their points of interest?

    4. List categories where you can find lawn furniture.

    Special Searches

    Looking for an easier way to find information on a specific topic or at a specific website?

    Google provides the following specialized search engines:

    Search for Mac and Apple things
    Apple Macintosh

    www.google.com/mac
    Search for Mac & Apple things
     
    Search for the BSD operating system
    BSD

    www.google.com/bsd
    Search for the BSD operating system
    Search for Linux-related pages
    Linux

    www.google.com/linux
    Search all Linux-friendly pages
     
    Search Microsoft-related pages
    Microsoft

    www.google.com/microsoft.html
    Search Microsoft-related pages
     
    University Search
    University Search

    www.google.com/options/universities.html
    Narrow your search to a specific institution's website

    The specialized searches let you find information about a topic without getting completely unrelated results. For instance, if you want only official information from US governments about taxes, you can search all federal and state government websites from this one search box.

    Why these topics? Early on in Google history, some engineers created these specialized search engines to serve their own interests. They've remained part of the site though Google has turned its attention to other types of search services and features.

    You can find links to these specialized search engines, as well as Google Book Search and Google Scholar, on the Advanced Web Search form.

    Exercises

    This problem set gives you practice in using Google's specialized search engines. For hints and answers to selected problems, see the Solutions page in the Appendix.

    1. What was special about the Apple Lisa computer, and why did it fail?

    2. What are the advantages of Linux over Windows and vice versa?

    Answers

    Having trouble creating a query to find the information you seek? Don't have time to research the topic yourself? Consider asking a reference librarian, an experienced online researcher, or Google Answers, which, for a fee of your choosing, provides assistance from researchers with expertise in online searching.

    If your query returns few results or none, there may be a link to Google Answers on the results page. Otherwise, visit answers.google.com.

    Reluctant to use Google Answers? Think you can find the information you want if you search a bit longer? If you feel that way, you're not alone. Nevertheless, many people who have asked questions of Google Answers are now fans of the service. Not only does it save them time, but the answers they get are packed with useful information and links. It's a wonderful service that's well worth your checking out, whether you're a novice or an experienced searcher.

    Screen shot of the Google Answers home page.

    Here's how it works:

    Before posting your first question, check out Google's tips for getting a better answer to your question, which can be found on the web at answers.google.com/answers/help.html.

    You'll need a Google Answers Account to ask a question. (You can search previous questions and answers without an account.) Provide your email address, a password, and a nickname. (If you already have a Google Account — to use with Google Alerts, for instance — you'll still need to choose a nickname, specify when Google Answers should send you email, and agree to the Terms of Service for Google Answers.) Your nickname will be shown on every Google Answers question, answer, or comment that you post.

    Then enter the topic of your question, your question, the amount between US$2 and US$200 you're willing to pay for an answer, and the category most appropriate for your question. For example:

    Subject: Enter the topic of your question for our researchers (e.g. "Hiking in New Mexico").
    Nina Totenberg, NPR legal affairs correspondent, birthday, education, and degree

    Question: The more details you provide, the better the results you'll receive.
    When was Nina Totenberg, National Public Radio's (NPR) legal affairs correspondent, born, where was she educated, and what degrees does she have? Did she attend law school?

    Price: Set a price between $2.00 and $200.00.
    $2.00 (Google Answers bills your credit card this amount after a researcher answers your question.)

    Category: Select the category most appropriate for your question.
    Reference, Education and News > General Reference

    The more you're willing to spend on an answer, the more likely a researcher will answer it and the more likely the answer will be comprehensive.

    When a Google Answers researcher or anyone else writes a response to your question, the answer and/or comments will be posted to Google Answers. You may request in your Google Answers' Profile to be notified by email either once a day or whenever there is new activity with any of your questions.

    A screen shot of an answer posted on Google Answers.

    After a researcher has answered your question, you are given an opportunity to rate the answer from one star (very poor answer) to five stars (great answer), provide comments that anyone who uses Google Answers can access, and tip the researcher between US$1 and US$100, if you feel that you have received an exceptional answer.

    Click on a researcher's handle to see the ratings and comments that researcher has received from users who have posted questions. You may specify which researcher(s) should deal with your question when you submit it.

    You can search or browse previously asked questions, both those that have been answered and those that haven't. At the bottom of the Google Answers home page, find questions (some with answers) by either:

    Screen shot of links for browsing previously asked questions.

    By default, Google Answers displays questions, their associated comments, and their answers in reverse chronological order (most recently asked question is listed first). Click on either the Date or Price links just above all the questions to sort on that field. When you sort by date, a triangular icon indicates whether the field is sorted with the most recent listed first (triangle points down) or is sorted with the oldest listed first (triangle points up). Click on the triangle to reverse the order.

    You'll find answers there to many already asked questions, including

    Answers to many questions can be found on the web. Users also seek and obtain answers to questions of a more personal nature,

    Some of the answers are indexed by Google and then searchable through Google's web search.

    For more information on Google Answers visit answers.google.com/answers/help.html and answers.google.com/answers/faq.html. To see what users are saying about the service and how they are using it, visit answers.google.com/answers/testimonials.html.

    Postscript by Jerry: Nancy has been a big fan of Google Answers. (She wrote most of this page.) She told me recently that Google Answers doesn't seem to be as active as it used to be: there are fewer answers active or being answered. Before you ask a question, consider doing a little research yourself. Look at the questions, which questions are being answered, and how much questioners are willing to pay.

    Exercises

    These problems give you practice in asking questions and in browsing those that have been posted to Google Answers. For hints and answers to selected problems, see the Solutions page in the Appendix.

    1. View a recently asked question.

    2. View a recently answered question.

    3. Click on the "view all questions" link in the lower right corner of the Google Answers home page and browse some of the questions that have been answered.

    4. Look up the answer to the question "How can I rid my apartment of ants?"

    5. Look up in Google Answers whether clicking on an unsubscribe or remove link in a spam message does what it's advertised to do.

    6. Look up in Google Answers the recommended gratuity to give to the server when purchasing take-out food.

    7. Review tips for great answers, which you can access by clicking on the "Tips for great results" link that appears in the border of the box for entering your question.

    8. Find Jessamyn West's article about her experience as a Google Answers researcher.

    Prototypes and Demos (Google Labs)

    Google's mission is to "organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful." To this end, Google showcases some prototypes and products in development on the Google Labs, the web site of Google's research group.

    Visit Google Labs' home page at labs.google.com.

    Screen shot of Google Labs, which showcases a few of its favorite ideas that aren't quite ready for prime time.

    Note: Google Labs updates its site periodically. So you may find prototypes or demos different from the ones shown here.

    In Parts II and III, I mention graduates of Google Labs, services and tools that have been refined and made available through Google's home page.

           O Search by Location (Google Local)
           O Google Alerts
           O Google Glossary

    In this final lesson of the Special Tools section, I describe a Google Labs' prototype search tools:

           O Google Sets

    Google will likely refine some of these demos and make them available through Google's home page. If you want to become part of Google's development process, try out these prototypes and provide feedback to the engineers who developed them.

    O Google Sets - labs.google.com/sets
    Automatically create sets of items from a few examples.

    Enter a few items from a set of things. Then press the "Large Set" button or the "Small Set" button and Google Sets will try to predict other items in the set. For example, if you enter Golden Gate Bridge, Palace of Fine Arts, and Coit Tower, Google Sets suggests other places worth visiting in San Francisco.

    Enter a few items from a set of things in Google sets. Enter a few items from a set of things in Google sets.

    Use Google sets to suggest: people who might share interests with you, places to visit, books to read, movies to see, synonyms, food you might enjoy, stores where you can buy a particular type of item, etc.

    Exercises

    These problems give you practice in using Google Labs prototypes and demos. For hints and answers to selected problems, see the Solutions page in the Appendix.

    1. Visit Google Labs. Try two of the prototypes and demos that are listed on the site.

    2. Get suggestions for books by entering some of your favorite authors or titles and asking Google Sets to predict other members of the set.

    3. Enter some of your favorite movies and see if Google Sets recommends either movies you haven't seen or other of your favorite movies.

    Feature History

    Google is constantly enhancing its search engine. The following table lists when Google and Google Guide added services and features and links to where they are described in Google Guide or on the web.

    September 2005
    Blog Search icon Google Blog Search  
    August 2005
    Google Desktop icon Google Desktop 2    Useful links from within a site   Google Talk icon Google Talk  
    July 2005
    Google Toolbar icon Toolbar for Firefox  
    June 2005
    Currency Conversion icon Currency Conversion   Google Earth icon Google Earth    Google Sitemaps  
    May 2005
     Enterprise Desktop Search Tool    Google Web Accelerator    Personalize Your Homepage  
    April 2005
     Google Q&A    Multilingual Google Definitions    My Search History    Satellite View from Google Maps    Google Mobile - Local Search  
    March 2005
     Google Weather    Live stock quotes    Results Prefetching    Google News: Personalized News    Google Ride Finder    Google Suggest in Japanese  
    February 2005
    Google Maps icon Google Maps   Google Movies icon Google Movies  
    January 2005
     Raised search limit to 32 words   Picasa icon Picasa 2   Google Video icon Google Video  
    December 2004
     Google Library   Froogle icon Froogle Product Reviews    Google Suggest  
    November 2004
    Google Scholar icon Google Scholar   Froogle icon Froogle Wish Lists    Google Help: Cheat Sheet  
    October 2004
    Google Desktop icon Google Desktop Search   Google SMS icon Google SMS  
    June 2004
     Site-Flavored Google Search Box  
    May 2004
     Google Groups 2    Added mailing list support to Google Groups  
    April 2004
    GMail icon GMail  
    March 2004
    Google Local icon Google Local    User Interface (UI) redesign    Personalized Web Search   Google Alerts icon Web Alerts   Google News icon Images in Google News search results    Number range (numrange) command   Froogle icon New Froogle home page  
    February 2004
    Flag of Denmark Danish Google Guide  
    January 2004
     Search by Number    Orkut (Social Networking Service)  
    December 2003
     Travel Conditions   Google Book Search icon Google Book Search   Froogle icon Product Search Shortcut    Word Variation (Automatic Stemming)  
    November 2003
     Deskbar  
    October 2003
     Definitions (Google Glossary)  
    September 2003
     Search by Location  
    August 2003
    Icon that is displayed beside calculations Calculator    ~ Synonym Operator   Google Alerts icon News Alerts  
    June 2003
    Google Toolbar icon Toolbar 2.0 with a pop-up blocker  
    December 2002
    Froogle icon Froogle    Google Viewer  
    September 2002
    Google News icon Google News  
    May 2002
     Google Answers Searchable    Google Labs    Google Glossary    Google Sets  
    April 2002
     Google Answers  
    January 2002
     * Wildcard (currently not working)  
    December 2001
     + Operator   Google Catalogs icon Catalogs    Diacritics searching (terms with accents)  
    November 2001
     Search stop words in phrases    File type conversion  
    October 2001
     Home page tabs    Language Tools  
    June 2001
    Google Images icon Google Image Search  
    May 2001
     Spelling Corrections    Google Groups    Translation  
    March 2001
    Icon that is displayed beside phonebook listings Phonebook  
    November 2000
    Google Toolbar icon Toolbar  
    October 2000
     Stock Quotes    AdWords    OR Operators  
    July 2000
     Date Restricted Search    Dictionary Link    Advanced Search    Preferences    Phrase Search    – Operator  
    June 2000
     News Headlines    Street Maps  
    May 2000
     SafeSearch Filtering  
    April 2000
    Google Directory icon Google Directory  
    March 2000
     Browser Buttons  
    February 2000
     Microsoft-Specific Search Engine  
    January 2000
     Make Google Your Default Engine    Apple-Specific Search Engine   University Search icon University Search Feature  
    September 1999
     Similar Pages aka GoogleScout  
    September 1998
     Cached Pages    Google Web Search  

    Resources helpful in putting together this table include Google Press Releases, the archive of Google-Friends Newsletters, Google: Search Engine Showdown News Archive, and Google News.

    Developing a Website

    You can make your website (more) popular and generate (more) income. Learn how in this segment, which provides tips on:

    The information in this section is based on my experience in designing and developing Google Guide, which is now the top result for the queries including:

    Note: There are thousands of sites devoted to developing a website and optimizing its performance. So, should you want more detailed information, just search for it. But be careful: there are sites that charge good money for bad information.

    Want to give a presentation on developing a website or print the files in this segment of Google Guide? Then check out the links below.

    Creating Content for Your Website

    Following each tip on creating content is information about how I developed Google Guide and improved its content.

    Create useful high-quality material that is of interest to users.

    Back in 2002, I created Google Guide to get feedback on material I was developing for a tutorial book on Google search for most users' use just a fraction of Google's capabilities.

    The goal of Google Guide is to make searching even easier for novices and experienced users.

    Design your website for the blind and deaf, not for spiders or search bots.

    Search bots can't see visuals or hear sound files. Make your titles, anchor text, and ALT tags descriptive and relevant.

    Nelson Blachman, my father, is blind and is a wonderful reviewer and beta tester for Google Guide.

    Present information in more than one way.

    People have different needs and preferences. That's why Google Guide presents material in different formats, e.g.,

    Studying Google Guide logs, I've learned which pages are most popular among users and I'm focusing my attention on providing users more of what they like.

    Design names of pages to reflect what's on the page.

    Google considers the text in the URL when indexing the page.

    A few years ago I replaced unhelpful names with more descriptive ones.

    Include words on your web pages that users are likely to specify in a query when searching for your content.

    I strive to convey information concisely and clearly, rather than incorporate particular words on my pages.

    Design your site logically. Include site maps. Link to each page that you want accessible from a search engine.

    Google Guide includes links from one page to the next and previous pages, a table of contents, a navigation bar, topic links at the beginning of each part, summaries, and links to relevant material both from Google Guide and outside sources.

    Usually Google Guide opens a new browser window when a user clicks on a link outside of Google Guide.

    Submit a sitemap so that Google will know about the structure of your website.

    Google Sitemaps provides helpful statistics and information to it's users, including:

    Strive to keep your pages short and about at most a few topics.

    A user is more likely to find what she seeks on a short page and material of interest is more likely to be on the user's screen.

    Sparingly use dynamic content, e.g., JavaScript, Flash, DHTML, etc.

    Search engine spiders are able to index plain text and html more easily than flashy pages. Googlebot tends not to crawl pages that consist only of dynamic content and pages that have dynamic content in navigation links in the page. Such pages are likely to be left out of Google's index and search results.

    I initially wrote Google Guide in HTML. Jerry Peek and I are translating Google Guide into DocBook.

    Correct misspellings.

    Users are more likely to search for the correct spelling.

    Seek feedback and use it to improve your site.

    Users and web logs are great sources for feedback. To encourage suggestions and corrections, I respond to email quickly and acknowledge those who contribute ideas that improve Google Guide.

    Learn from your logs.

    Check your web logs. Try to figure out how and why users are coming to your site. If you suspect that users may seek information that isn't on your site, consider adding it.

    I noticed that users were choosing the Google Guide Stock Quotes page after entering the query [ Google stock symbol ].

    So I added, at the top of the page,

    Looking for Google's stock symbol? It's GOOG on Nasdaq. Click here for Google's stock price or search for it on Google.

    Google  search box with [ goog ].
    Eliminate errors.

    Check your web logs and run one or more website validators, e.g., W3C Validation Service, to identify problems with the coding of your website. Remove broken links and correct invalid html. Check Google Sitemaps to find out whether search bots are able to crawl your site.

    When putting together content for this page, I came across wonderful pages on creating content for websites, including:

    Exercise

    This problem set will give you practice in developing and improving material for you web site. For hints and answers to selected problems, see the Solutions page in the Appendix.

    1. Sign up for Google Sitemaps.
    2. Find spelling mistakes by running a spelling checker. Find html errors by running a website validator, e.g., the W3C Validation Service. Check for error messages in your web logs and in Google Sitemaps. Correct your website errors.
    3. For each page on your website that consists entirely of dynamic content, e.g., JavaScript, Flash, DHTML, etc., or has dynamic content in a navigation link, create a new page without that dynamic content.
    4. Develop a high-quality information-rich page for your website whose name is relevant to its content.
    5. Present information from a page on your website in a different format, e.g., a cheat sheet or a quiz.
    6. Create a web page with names of friends and colleagues whose contact information you desire. On the page, ask these people (or anyone who has their contact information) to get in touch `with you.
    7. When these people run vanity searches, i.e., search for themselves, they may run across your page and get in touch with you.

      At the 30th Asilomar Microcomputer Workshop in 2004, Bill Cheswick suggested this approach to searching for people if you don't find them in Google's phonebook.

    Developing Links to Google Search Results

    If you know HTML, it's relatively easy to make links to Google's search results. Following each link in the examples below is the code that produces it.