Surfing the web looking for a specific or more technical piece of information can be tricky! Sometimes a simple google search doesn’t get you the answer you are looking for, and you find yourself asking what am I doing wrong? Most of us had this thought at least once, let me explain to you how to search the web like a pro.
How to Search the Web (resumed)
The best way for you to perform successful research on the internet is to provide the search engines the information they need. Usually, you get a more satisfactory result using long-tailed keywords specifying exactly what you are looking for. Finding the sweet spot between too broad and too narrow can be a challenge sometimes.
Broad vs Narrow Keywords
Let’s say you are preparing for your wedding and you want to rent some chairs for the ceremony, the wedding party will be in the vicinity of Los Angeles. Let’s check below the different search options.
Usual John doe would search for party rental company, the thing is if you just want chairs you don’t need to waste time browsing party company websites.
You could also search google for wedding furniture (this might get broad) and you will most likely stump into websites selling furniture for weddings, wedding planner blogs, or Pinterest pins about weddings.
Check the example below, that was way too broad and because of that only 1 rental company showed up.
Let’s try a different approach, what if instead of furniture I search for the exact terms? I want to rent a (some) silver chair near Los Angeles.
Pro Tip: don’t place for, to, in between the main keywords, the search engines like it simple 😉
See how a little change in the way I performed the google search gave us a more relevant result? What I did was, I wrote a long-tail keyword referring to the item I needed, the type of service I’m looking for, and the location I wanted. What I got was much more targeted Google results.
Long-tail keywords are also used in affiliate marketing to target specific audiences/niches. If you want to learn more about affiliate marketing and how it works, make sure to read my wealthy affiliate review.
The trick is not to be too broad, but you can’t add too much detail either.
In this example, I will research for a pizza sauce, the thing is, If I only type Pizza sauce, Google comes up with 507,000,000 results wich is quite a lot!
I came up with a new search query for my pizza sauce, this time I used a long-tail keyword describing exactly what I’m looking for. Even though I managed to narrow it down to 1,520,000 results, I noticed a new problem!
I wanted a fresh tomato recipe but the top queries are showing me canned options :/ Maybe I’m confusing Google with too much information!
It seems like we need to find that sweet spot between “too broad” and “too narrow”.
Let me try a variant and choose the recipe I feel like it suits me the best! I can now head to the kitchen 😉
Refine your google research by using wildcards
Google has been around for quite some time now, it was formally launched in 1998 and like wine, it only gets better with age!
To help us find what we are looking for faster, we can use certain codes and symbols to enchant our Google searches.
The use of ” ” Quoted Search
Let’s say you are looking for a song lyric but you only remember a couple of words from the song, this is the perfect time to use ” “, also known as QS, which in common language means quoted search also known as an exact keyword search.
Check below how I used the ” ” and placed the 3 words I remember from the song in between next with the word lyrics.
The – Subtraction
Especially useful when dealing with homonyms, words written the same way but with different meanings, this wildcard can save you a ton of time by not showing irrelevant results.
I’m searching for the best bat, but I’ve not specified what type of bat I’m looking for, with a purpose 😉
What comes up on my Google query is tons of cricket bats. Guess what?! One thing I know, I don’t want a cricket bat!
So, the thing to do is to type in “best bats -cricket“. By placing the – symbol and something in front of it, it will tell the search engines to ignore web pages that have that word.
The .. Range of Numbers
How many times do we find ourselves looking for phones, computers/tablets, cars under a range of prices? Well, this operator is the perfect fit!
Let’s say I’m looking for a new desktop monitor, I want to find a curved monitor somewhere between $500 and $750 to use as my secondary monitor! This is how I would search it on Google, curved monitor $500 .. $750, let’s see how it looks on screen!
The * Asterisk
This is one of my favorite wildcards, I use it a lot especially when I’m brainstorming for content. When you use the * in a search query, Google will replace it for different words and you can use more than one asterisk on a search.
To better understand how this works, check the examples below.
In this example I have no clue what I’m looking for, I’m just surfing the web! Here what I will type on google, “biggest * in *” and let’s see what happens 😉
See how we got results going from the biggest snake in the world, to the biggest dam in India or the highest level in 15 years of Central America Migrants crossing the US borders.
How awesome is this?! Google replaced my * with different words that are not even related! He kept the word Biggest or a synonym, then throw words away to replace the Asterisks.
The Site: Search
Do you know you can perform a site-wide search? Instead of “googling” for keywords you can scavenge a full site to see what’s ranking under a certain domain.
The way to use this is simple, just type in site: and then the URL you want to scan 😉
It will look something like this site:www.forbes.com
The inURL Search
This query is useful when you are performing a site search but want to filter out URLs. Using this wildcard Google will only show the URLs that have the search query you entered.
Note: if you want to use more than one “inURL” on the same query you must place them between ( ).
Check the example below to better understand how this works, like they say, one image equals 1000’s words 😉
In example 1, I only performed a facebook.com site search, obviously, it gave me loads and loads of pages to scroll, it needs a fine-tune!
I just wanted to search for affiliate marketing pages so I used the “inURL” wildcard, which allowed me to filter out a lot of unwanted content by making sure affiliate marketing appears on the URLs as you can see in example 2.
How to Perform an X-Ray Search
Now that we learned lots of different ways to search the web, how about take this to another level and apply some of the techniques described above and make a super targeted research?!
I want to find a Local SEO specialist on Linkedin how do you think we can do it!?
I will do a site search using site:linkedin.com but, like the Facebook example above it will give me loads of profiles.
So, here’s what I’m going to do:
- I will place an InURL to make sure I target both Linkdin’s profiles (simplified and business cards).
- I want to hire a local (Portuguese) agency so I will use the subtractor wildcard to remove pt-br (Brasilian Portuguese) from the query
- I will use an exact match search query with a couple of asterisk wildcards inside
Let’s see how this works out 😉
This is how to perform a Google Site X-RAY Research!
As you can see there are a lot of different ways you can use Google. This can be useful for regular/daily researches but also for finding that “needle in the haystack”.
Drop me a comment down below and let me know what you think about this article, after reading it, I’m pretty confident that you know how to search the web like a pro 😉 Cheers!
7 thoughts on “How to Search the Web Like a Pro”
Excellent post on how to properly conduct proper web searches. I liked the tip on using quotation marks, I find this helps greatly in targeting results. With so much information on the internet that is essentially useless, it is good to know how to search properly. I find also that inserting a plus between words is a good way of finding affiliate programs. Have you used this particular strategy?
hi Cole, yes I have, is a very good way to find afiliate programs
I will update this post with couple more tricks including that one, thank you for bringing it up 😉
Thank you for helping to demystify one of the biggest uses of the internet: searching for information. Are the shortcuts you mention specific to using the google search engine, or are the codes standardized across all search engines? I find that the google algorithm is consistently providing the best results, but knowing these shortcuts can really help to refine the search so that more time is spent using the information rather than looking for it.
Thank you for your comment and valid question!
Most of the wildcards/codes can be used across search engines, they are pretty much standard.
One that I tested and doesn’t work is the site X-Ray, (the full code).
It seems that Google handles multiple wildcards better than Bing and Yahoo.
This is a very helpful post on how to search the web. I love the tips on using wildcards with inserting an asterix or inverted commas. It would be interesting to know if these shortcuts are only applicable to Google, or also the other search engines like Bing and Yahoo. Thanks for taking the mystery out of searching the internet and I will certainly implement your tips next time I do a web search.
Thank you so much on this informative topic on searching the web like a pro. I have not heard of many of these ways of searching the web, and so I am glad that I came across this post. The X-ray search sounds very precise, and it seems like something that would get you a precise search. Would I be correct to assume that?
Thank you for your comment.
Most people have no clue we can tune-up Google searches.
This comes in handy because there so much content out there that we need to refine our searches in order to find what we need.