Google is the world’s most widely-used search engine. Every day in hundreds of countries, millions of people make billions of searches to find the information they need.

While it faces competitors in some parts of the world such as Baidu in China, Daum in South Korea and Seznam in the Czech Republic, none match Google’s reach across the globe. For almost 20 years now, if the information you need is there to be found, chances are Google will find it.

Keeping it simple

Apart from the accuracy and depth of its search results, Google’s ease of use has been central to its appeal.

Early net surfers using search directories Yahoo! and LookSmart were often confronted with lists of categories as long and confusing as a Yellow Pages directory.

In contrast, Google offered after a quick and simple way to find information through a single search box in which to type a query, with no other distractions other than the company name.

While this simplicity has been Google’s most endearing quality over the years, it has also meant many people only ever type in their query and hit ‘enter,’ unaware of a whole range of simple options they could use to enhance their search.

Following are a few tips and tricks to enhance your search by targeting the information you want more quickly, and with greater accuracy.

Narrow your search by using the tabs

If you know specifically what information you are looking for, and whether it is contained in a news item, image, video or map, one of the easiest ways to find it fast is to use the tabs at the top of the search results page.

With labels clearly marked All, News, Images, Videos, Maps and More (which includes Shopping, Books and Apps), these options let you filter out the search results you know you don’t need, and focus only on what you do.

Use Top-Level Domain markers

One easy way to manually determine the relevance of search results is by looking at the website’s choice of Top-Level Domain (TLD). This is the extension of the domain name that comes ‘after the dot’, such as .com or .melbourne. Particularly in the case of newer domain names like .melbourne and .sydney, the TLD can give an extra piece of insight into what the site is about – such as the location of the business or the industry it works in – and can help you easily select whether it is relevant to you.

Tell Google where to look

Google also proves to be extremely useful when you are looking for something where there could be many choices in a defined geographic location, such as hairdressers in Melbourne. By typing in “Hairdressers Melbourne,” Google will narrow the search to this locale.

Or maybe you heard an ad on radio while driving for a hairdresser, and all you can recall is that they had a web address that ended with “.melbourne.” All you need to do is type “hairdressers site:*melbourne” and Google will find all the hairdressers with web addresses like this for you. You can do the same with any TLD such as .sydney, .study or .menu.

Apart from particular locales, Google also offers the ability to search within particular websites only. For example, if you were looking to learn kung fu you might instruct Google to narrow your search to “classes site:”

Ask a question

When less certain of the specific information you need to find, you could always ask Google a question, like “Who is the Prime Minister of Australia?”

Google not only finds the most accurate links to the answer, but curates a quick summary from the most credible sources directly on the Google results page.

Use and, or and not

Google can also look for information on more than one item when you use ‘and’ in your query; look for particular alternatives when you use ‘or;’ and leave out specific information when you preface a specific word in the query with ‘not’ or a ‘-’ minus sign.

More options than you realised

Beyond its disarming and endearing simplicity, Google offers numerous options to broaden or narrow your search, irrespective of whether you have a clear idea or a vague notion of what you are hoping to find. 

Image: ‘Dublin Atrium’; Google, Images and B-Roll