“Just Google it.” When the name of a company becomes a verb, it’s time to take notice (that happened a few years ago so do try to catch up). Google is an incredible resource but in the hands of someone who knows what they are doing, its value increases dramatically. Have you ever Googled something and found the results to be completely irrelevant? Or even worse, after a significant effort, have you ever come up completely empty? If so, this post is for you.
As a rule of thumb, start with a broad set of search terms. Find a few results in the search that are either relevant or at least close and then add more specificity to the search. By way of example, you might start with ‘fish recipes’ and then narrow the search to add ‘pan fried’ or ‘snapper’. The goal is to start with a large data set (your first search) and then pare it down by increasing the specificity until you find your answer.
The above method will work on nearly any type of search but Google is also pretty smart and, if you know some really simple tricks, you can get your answers much faster. One method is to use what I call ‘flags’. Flags give context to your search. If you Google ‘toilet repair’ you will receive a large variety of results ranging from toilet repair kits to ads for plumbers, and maybe a couple of ‘how to’ videos. If, however, you Google ‘how to toilet repairs’, your results will be instantly narrowed primarily to sites focused on how to repair your toilet.
The operative terms here are ‘how to’. Other similar flags are ‘where can I find’ (I’m always looking for a cable or connector that I threw out last week), ‘closest’ (great for gas stations, etc.), ‘best’ (this often returns top ten lists), ‘reviews’ (more on this later), and ‘funniest’ (almost always returns one of my blogs…not). There are many others and, if you give your search terms a bit of thought, they’ll become pretty obvious.
Another useful search approach is to simply ask Google a question. Don’t try to think like a researcher. Just ask in plain English. You can, of course, ask Google ‘what is the circumference of the earth’ and the first result will be “24,901 miles”. But, if you ask ‘how big is the earth’, the second result will provide that same information as well as information on its radius, diameter, and mass. Either way, you get to the result you want with one search.
If you want to impress your friends and find a mate, you can use what are known as operators to ask Google very specific questions. Let’s say you’re planning a first date and you know she doesn’t like Italian food (why go on the date at this point). You can search restaurants but how do you eliminate Italian food (again, why)? To exclude Italian restaurants from your results, put ‘-italian’ in your search. Notice the hyphen, or more accurate here, the minus sign immediately before the search term. The minus sign tells Google to find restaurants that do not serve Italian food. I don’t like Amazon reviews and using the ‘-Amazon’ term is the easiest way to avoid them. If you want to get really sophisticated in your searches (to attract said mate), check this out.
Finally, Google often categorizes its results. If you Google ‘Jennifer Lawrence’, at the very top of the results will be categories including ‘All’, ‘News’, ‘Images’, ‘Videos’, ‘Books’, and ‘More’. While I would never look at images of Jennifer Lawrence (no reason to get the wife upset), if you really need to see her image, why waste time on ‘All’. Just click on images and, well, not sure where to go with this.
Google makes anyone who knows how to perform an effective search a genius. In seconds, I’ve found answers to the most esoteric questions using the techniques described above. You just have to know how to ask the question.
Allen Friedman is the owner and CEO of Techaerus LLC, an office efficiency consulting firm. He is also a licensed attorney. Allen founded and managed one of the largest consumer collections law firms in the country and managed over 50 attorneys as well as hundreds of non-attorney staff. Prior to founding that firm, he opened and managed the New York and Michigan operations for the largest consumer collections firm in the United States. Throughout his career, Allen has always placed great emphasis on ensuring that investments in office technology provide the greatest possible returns. In order to achieve these returns, he focuses on three pillars of office management; asset management, training, and automation. His expertise includes document/image management, software and hardware integration, training, and process management and automation. Allen lives in Scottsdale, Arizona with his wife Amy, his children Cassidy and Gideon, and two adorable dogs named Roxie (a labradoodle) and Bentley (an Old English Sheepdog).