Google Better!

Google is a very powerful tool, particularly if you know how to use it correctly.  Try a few of the simple tips shared here, and you'll be on your way to Googling better!

All locations of the Denver Public Library will be closed on Monday, March 26, in observance of Cesar Chavez Day. Wait. Cesar who? Let's use Cesar Chavez to practice some advanced Google search techniques.

Let's start with a search for Cesar, as if you've forgotten Cesar Chavez's last name. Go ahead. Just type it in the Google search box. You'll end up with a list of results starting with Cesar Milan, the famous dog trainer, at the top of the list. We call this our list of search results, and the better you craft your search, the more relevant your results will be. There are some easy tricks for narrowing down your results to stuff you can really use:

Trick #1 -- suggestions at the bottom of the page. Scroll down to the bottom of the search results and you'll see ​Searches related to ​cesar​. And in that list you'll see the name cesar chavez. Yay! Click it and you're on your way!

Trick #2 -- spelling suggestions. You mistakenly assume that Cesar​ Chavez's first name is spelled ​Caesar​, like the salad, or the Roman emperor. In your Google search you type ​Caesar Chavez. ​Do not fear! Google is smart. It will automatically assume that you meant Cesar Chavez, and will tell you "Showing results for ​cesar chavez​." It also gives you an out, just in case you really did mean what you typed. Right underneath you can "Search instead for ​caesar chavez​," if you're sure that's what you want (which, in this case, you don't!).

​Trick #3 -- searching for a phrase. All this research about farming reminds you of a song that goes: "Shine on, shine on harvest moon..." But you can't remember who sings it! This one is easy. Just put the lyrics in a ​phrase search​, which means put quotation marks at the beginning and end of this string of lyrics. This forces Google to search for results that have all of these words together, in that order. Without the quotation marks it searches for the words, but the words need not be next to each other for Google to think they're relevant. Leave out punctuation when you do this type of search. (If you test the search, you'll discover that Nora Bayes and Jack Norworth wrote this classic!)

​Trick #4 -- limit your search. After you do a Google search, check out the stuff on the left side of your screen, next to your search results. If you just want pictures of Cesar Chavez, select Images. Want some recent news regarding Cesar Chavez, maybe including some upcoming events? Click Past Week and start scrolling!

​Trick #5​ -- Advanced Search options. If your first search is unsuccessful, and this is all starting to feel like too much for you, quickly navigate to Advanced Search by clicking the little gear icon in the top right of your screen. This will give you a drop down menu. Just click on the second choice, ​Advanced Search​, and start filling in boxes. There are shortcuts on the right side of the page that you can use right in the main Google search box -- you don't even have to navigate to the Advanced Search if you remember them!

The stuff I use -- favorite shortcuts. I use the quotation marks for phrases quite a bit. One of my other favorites is searching for certain types of websites, like .org sites (short for organization, usually non-profit or not for profit), .gov sites (created by a government agency) and .edu sites (created by an educational institution). You can always use Advanced Search​ if you'd like, but I prefer the shortcuts. Type ​ or or ​ after the search terms you choose. So if we're looking for information published by a government agency on Cesar Chavez, we would type:

cesar chavez

As you scroll down through your search results, you'll see that each result is ​limited​ to sites created by government agencies. All of them have the extension​ .gov. Awesome, huh?

There are many more ways to do complex Google searches, and I encourage you to explore the Advanced Search. But through the years, Google has made most of these search tools unnecessary for the majority of searches. Google is good. It tries to figure out what you mean, even if you misspell something, even if you almost have the lyrics of a song right. It gives you suggestions and tries to correct typos. But once in a while you'll need to be really specific. Or you'll need to limit a search to .govs or .edus for your child's homework assignment. When you do, I hope you will have found this post useful.

Please, share your favorite Google search tips here, and happy Googling!


Written by Melanie on March 11, 2012


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