How to Search & Do More With Google

7 years ago
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Searching on Google goes way beyond typing in a few key words. And getting skill-savvy is actually easy. Here are some dazzling, easy ways to step up your game. These tips took me beyond my comfort zone to be more jazzed about online research. I hope this post will inspire you too.

So get ready for an exciting tour. Our guide is Sean Carlson, Google's manager of news industry relations.

His job is to teach time-pressured, deadline-driven journalists to use Google more effectively and efficiently. Sean recently spent 90 minutes with my New School class. Highlights from his visit are below.

Since there's a lot here, I set up the post to be a treasure trove of Google-y goodies. Like any decent stash of jewels, you can rummage in this space at your leisure. Pick up whatever sparkles for you in the moment. Maybe you'll bookmark this post; come back to it whenever you need more resources and ideas.

Sean Carlson

As for Google basics:

  • Google prefers that you search a few words or a phrase. This narrows the search.
  • Google doesn't care if you type in upper or lower case letters.
  • Googles tries to anticipate what you want. It will serve up options even while you're still typing. If it guesses right, then click on that option.

Okay. Now let's dive in...

"Help Google understand your intent," Sean advised us. This means that if you type in a search for t-u-r-k-e-y, Google is wondering if you want info on the country or the bird. If you want the nation of Turkey, then tell Google to filter out references to recipes and the Thanksgiving gobbler. So refine your search by typing in: "turkey -food." Now Google knows you want turkey, but minus the food links.

a minus sign narrows your search

****The search section lets you set time parameters****

"Being able to refine your search by time can be really important, especially for journalists," Sean said. On the left side of your screen is Google's logo. Under it is a vertical column of options that function as a search-related tool belt.

Selecting a time period for your search is especially useful in tracking breaking news events. You can google for the "latest" news or results from the "past week." If you simply want general info, then choose "anytime."

search by timeframe

****A "Realtime" search serves up live tweets and hot links****

If you're not into Twitter or don't feel like leaving Google to check out Twitter news, just go to "Realtime." You'll get a live stream from Twitter and other sources about your search topic.

In the upper right corner of your screen is a chart showing Twitter traffic volume at specific times. Directly under it is useful non-Twitter info: "Top Update." Here, you'll find a running list of the most cited web links at that particular moment. For a "Realtime" search, go to "google real time" > then type in your search word(s).

realtime search

Watching Google scroll in live time can get hypnotic.

****"Site Search" plucks info out of a specific website****

As Sean said, "'Site Search,' at its core, is a most basic and awesome tactic." I totally agree! What if I want to find all references to Stephen Colbert on "The Daily Show" website? The neanderthal approach to this mission is to go to and type in "Stephen Colbert," like this:

the slow way to search

The result? gives me are links to a bunch of Stephen Colbert videos clips from past shows. But thanks to Sean, I am now smart enough to go to Google and type in: "Stephen Colbert"

Go to: "google site search" > type in your key words > leave a space > type in the word "site:" > then without making a space, type in the website that you want to search.

you'll love this

Guess what -- all the videos are delivered in the very first link!

site search

But then, the search serves up much more useful info. There's Colbert's bio, threads to various chat forums that mention him, plus endless additional video segments. Just remember that the trick to this search is typing in the terms properly.

site search

On the right is what you get form searching "stephen colbert" within Compare that to the Google site search. Those same videos pop up in the first link. The rest of the search offers much more useful and varied info culled from

****Google Scholar does more than pull up research papers****

Google Scholar offers a way to search books, theses, academic articles and abstracts. To start, google "Google Scholar." If we are interested in soccer in Brazil, we could continue by typing in "brazil soccer."

The result pulls up more than just the documents. You can see how many times an article or paper has been cited -- that could provide clues to its quality and relevance. This is what comes up:

Google Scholar

****"Insights for Search" can create informative charts****

This feature is crazy! Don't be scared by the clumsy name for this elegant tool. You can use it to figure out what folks are googling -- and then, you can turn that info into a snazzy-looking chart.

Go to: google "insights for search" > click on the link > type in your search words > you can search for up to five different topics on a single search > set time framework for the search. Remember, you must define your search by topics, location and time period.

searching google insight

Let's try a search: How popular is Mexican food in New York City these days? "Burritos" and "tacos" each get typed in as a search term. There's no immediate room to type in "tortillas." But when I click on "+  Add search term," a new space opens up for me to type in "tortillas."

From here, look to the top right of the screen and fill in the filters. What do I want -- a search of the entire web? If so, click on "worldwide," which presents the option to drill down the search to: United States > New York > New York. With that done, hit return to get a chart that provides an idea of which of these Mex food items is searched most often on Google. The red line for tacos is on top, a sign that they're hot!

Note to bloggers: You can impress readers by embedding this chart on your post. Under the chart to the left is a link for "embed your chart." Click on it, copy the code and drop it on the html side of your blog post.

insights for searches

****Google "Trends" tracks fastest rising searches****

Reporting and researching doesn't always lead to clear answers. But like in all detective work, the more clues the better. And perusing Google's trending topics never hurts.  Go to Google: type in "google trends" > click on "google trends" > type in your key words.

How about taking a look at trends for the hit TV show, "Glee?" I wonder how much intrest there still is in this program.

Google Trends

With one click, "Search Trends" delivers two graphs. The top one charts the volume of worldwide googling for "Glee." It also pinpoints moments when googling increased around the publication of specific news articles. The bottom graph charts "news reference volume," which shows a decline in how often "Glee" is appearing in media stories.

Glee is a trend

Lots of material to mull over here. More reporting is required!

Hmmm. Even though the media is covering "Glee" less, there's more Googling than ever on this show. What does it actually mean? To find that answer requires more reporting beyond googling. But at least Google "Trends" give us material to think about. (Btw, why is there so much googling of "Glee" in the Philippines??!)

Sean actually covered loads more with us. It was tech and sensory overload,  but in a good way. Just like you, we were left with enough information to go on and have our own future reporting/researching adventures. My New School class of a dozen students includes several documentary filmmakers, artists, musicians, teachers -- plus one professional comedian. Look for them to get more google-y in their respective worlds. Thanks again, Sean!