How to get better Google search results

Updated August 29th, 2019.

Fifth in a series of Google search tips.

Read them all:

  1. How to restrict your Google search to a single website
  2. How to search Google Images by color
  3. How to search Google for different kinds of pictures
  4. How to search Google for the newest results
  5. How to get better Google search results

Sometimes Google finds too much. You look for information about making a carrot cake and it gives you seven million results. That’s overwhelming.

Searching Google for how to make a carrot cake: 7 million results!
Searching Google for how to make a carrot cake: 7 million results!

Maybe you want to make a carrot cake for your friend who doesn’t like raisins. You don’t want to search through seven million articles, looking for the ones without raisins. Turns out it’s easy: if you want to exclude something from your search, put a minus in front of it, like so:

Google search results, excluding those with raisins (via minus sign)
Google search results, excluding those with raisins (via minus sign)

Now we’re down to 1.8 million results.

Maybe your friend is allergic to butter (poor thing). You’ll need a recipe without butter. That’s easy– put a minus sign in front of the word “butter” and you’re all set.

Note: put a space in front of the minus sign, and no space after. Them’s the rules.

Google search for how to make a carrot cake, no raisins, no butter
Google search for how to make a carrot cake, no raisins, no butter

By excluding raisins and butter we’re down to 1.4 million results. But we can narrow things down further by putting our original search term (how to make a carrot cake) in quotes. Putting things in quotes tells Google you want those words, in that order, and ideally with that exact phrase.

Google search improved by putting search string in quotes
Google search improved by putting search string in quotes

Notice how the search results are all titled “How to make a carrot cake” or some variation on the phrase– but always, the words are in that order.

The quotation marks get Google’s results down to 29,400 items. But we can do better yet! If you’d rather read about making carrot cakes than watch someone else make one, you’ll want to eliminate the videos. That’s easy: it’s our old friend the minus sign again, and the word “video.”

Google search results: no raisins, no butter, no video.
Google search results: no raisins, no butter, no video.

We still have 15,000 results but they’re very focused. You can be pretty sure that these results will all be pretty much what we want.

So what have we learned here?

  1. Use the minus sign to eliminate terms you don’t want, and
  2. Put your search string in quotes if you’re looking for a phrase.

Don’t hog all the knowledge– share this with a friend. Your friend will thank you and so will I.

How to search Google for the newest results

Updated August 29th, 2019.

Fourth in a series of Google search tips.

Read them all:

  1. How to restrict your Google search to a single website
  2. How to search Google Images by color
  3. How to search Google for different kinds of pictures
  4. How to search Google for the newest results
  5. How to get better Google search results

Sometimes Google gives you articles that are too old to be useful to you. For example, if you’re searching for restaurant reviews you probably don’t want articles that are ten years old. Here’s how you tell Google you only want the new stuff.

Let’s say you’re looking for the best tacos in Austin. You go to Google and search. You get almost 6 million results– way too many.

Almost 6 million Google search results
Almost 6 million Google search results


You need to narrow things down. With restaurant reviews, “newer” is usually better than “older,” so let’s restrict Google’s search results to the newer ones..

  • Step 1: Click “Search Tools”
  • Step 2: Click “Any Time” and change it to something else. (I chose “within the last year”)
Restricting Google's search results to articles from the past year[
Restricting Google’s search results to articles from the past year[


This is a set of results I can work with!

Google search for best tacos in Austin, restricted to articles from the past year
Google search for best tacos in Austin, restricted to articles from the past year

Note: you can set a custom date range. If you want to read articles written during the presidential election of 2000 you can.

You can sort the results by date or by “relevance” (as secretly defined by Google):

Sorting Google search results by relevance or by date
Sorting Google search results by relevance or by date

Pro Tip: the best tacos in Austin are at Torchy’s. Here’s their menu.

How to search Google for different kinds of pictures

Updated August 29th, 2019.

Third in a series of Google search tips.

Read them all:

  1. How to restrict your Google search to a single website
  2. How to search Google Images by color
  3. How to search Google for different kinds of pictures
  4. How to search Google for the newest results
  5. How to get better Google search results

You already know how to search Google images by color. Here’s how you narrow down Google image search results by type.

For example, let’s say you start by searching for birds and you’ve restricted the results to “red”

Google image search results for "birds" restricted to red
Google image search results for “birds” restricted to red

Now you click the “Cardinal” button and you get this:

Google Search Tips: search for birds, restrict to red and cardinals
Google Search Tips: search for birds, restrict to red and cardinals

Maybe you don’t want photographs– maybe you want art. So click the “Art” button.

Google image search for pictures of birds, that are red, and are art.
Google image search for pictures of birds, that are red, and are art.

Maybe you want line drawings, like in a coloring book, so you have something to pass out to your 2nd-graders. That’s easy too: turn off “Art,” click Search Tools, and then, under “Type”, choose “Line Drawing.”

Google image search for pictures of birds, that are red, and are line drawings.
Google image search for pictures of birds, that are red, and are line drawings.

Finally, let’s say you want to be sure you’re allowed to use the picture in your project. How can you know? This is also under Search Tools— you’re looking for “Usage Rights.”

Google image search for pictures of birds, labeled for reuse.
Google image search for pictures of birds, labeled for reuse.

There’s a lot more under “Search Tools.” The Size menu helps you find pictures that are big, for your desktop picture, or small, for a website project. The Time menu helps you find pictures that are very new, or very old, or from a specified date. You should click around and experiment.

How to search Google images by color

Updated August 29th, 2019.

Second in a series of Google search tips.

Read them all:

  1. How to restrict your Google search to a single website
  2. How to search Google Images by color
  3. How to search Google for different kinds of pictures
  4. How to search Google for the newest results
  5. How to get better Google search results

You know you can use Google to search for images, yes? Just click the “images” label at the top of your search results. But, did you know you can filter your search by color? It’s easy, and it’s fun.

For example, let’s say you search for “birds” and get this:

Google image search results for "birds"
Google image search results for “birds”

If I change my mind and want to see blue birds, I can click the “X” next to “red” to remove the red filter, and then click “blue,” like this:

Google image search results for "birds" restricted to blue
Google image search results for “birds” restricted to blue


*Sometimes the nice big buttons are there for you, and sometimes they aren’t. If they aren’t, click “Search Tools” and then “Color.”

How to bring up the color choices
How to bring up the color choices

The results:

Google search results for "famous paintings" filtered to green
Google search results for “famous paintings” filtered to green

How to restrict your Google search to a single website

Updated April 13th, 2020.

First in a series of Google search tips.

Read them all:

  1. How to restrict your Google search to a single website
  2. How to search Google Images by color
  3. How to search Google for different kinds of pictures
  4. How to search Google for the newest results
  5. How to get better Google search results

[Google_Responsive_Ad1]

Let’s say you’re using Google to search for something, and you know where on the web to look. You can tell Google to search a specified site exclusively– often getting better results than if you went to the site and searched it yourself.

For example, let’s say you’re looking for an article about freeway sound walls in Los Angeles, and you only want articles published in the Los Angeles Times. You go to latimes.com and search, and you get 113 articles, none of which seem to be about sound walls.

Screenshot showing search results for "los angeles freeway sound walls"
Searching latimes.com


If you go to Google and search for “los angeles freeway sound walls” you get 245,000 results. That’s too many, and they’re not all from the Los Angeles Times. You need to restrict the search to articles on latimes.com. The trick: add “site:latimes.com” to the end of your search. That is, make it look like this:

Screenshot of Google search with "site:latimes"
Google search with “site:latimes”

Seearching Google for “los angeles freeway sound walls” with “site:latimes.com” at the end gives you 1,990 articles, all at latimes.com.

Search results for Searching Google for los angeles freeway sound walls on latimes.com
Searching Google for los angeles freeway sound walls on latimes.com

You’d think that latimes.com would be the best place to search for articles published at latimes.com, but obviously it just isn’t so.

[Google_Responsive_Ad1]

You have to do it right: first the word “site” and then a colon, and then no space, and then the domain you care about. No “http” and no “www.” Just the domain. Want to search Apple’s site? Put “site:apple.com” at the end of your search. Want to search christianboyce.com? Put “site:christianboyce.com” at the end of your search. You get it.
(Want a list of everything on a site? Search for “site:” and the domain name, and nothing else. Try it now: see what Google finds on christianboyce.com.)

The “site:” technique helps you find more of what you’re looking for, but it can also help you find less. For example, let’s say you’re looking for Apple’s 10.11.5 combo update. If you add “site:apple.com” to the end of your search you’ll you’ll filter out everything that isn’t from apple.com, so any download links will be “official Apple.”

Whether you’re looking for more Google search results, or fewer, the “site:” method is a nice thing to know about. Give it a try next time you don’t find what you’re looking for.

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