Getting the best out of Google

I like Google.  It changes constantly, and while there may be many commercial reasons for Google to alter its algorithms for search optimisation, understanding how Google operates and how to get the best search results from it is pretty liberating.

In my professional life I’m constantly asked to find information with the very quick caveat from the requestor ‘it’s not on the internet’.  People spend a frustrated half hour looking frantically on the ‘internet’ before approaching me.  More often than not I find their little gem in less than six minutes, and out of respect don’t tell them for at another ten minutes… just so they feel it was a little hard for me.

Formulating quality search strategies and being able to critically assess results will always be important skills in the digital age.  Check out the Power Searching With Google guy for some great tips in this area.

You may also want to check your Google settings.  This used to be really obvious, an ‘advanced search’ feature on Google’s homepage.  Now, you need to select the ‘cog’ and drop down to ‘advanced search’ to see what parameters Google has set for you…. Remember, you don’t have to be logged in for Google to be adjusting your search results.    Filtering will adjust my search results to weed out anything the algorithm deems to be offensive. This might be great, but depending on what I’m looking for, I might be super frustrated because suddenly ‘it’s not on the internet’.  Suppose I’m looking for child trafficking statistics?  Suddenly my results are way down because safe search is removing some relevant mentions.

While you’re in settings you also might want to check whether your web history is turned on.  This will bring up results that are more ‘relevant’ based on what you’ve searched in the past.  Again – problematic, and it really depends what you typically search for. A lot of Big Day Out searches will soon negate your BDO Spicers company search…. I know this one from experience.

If you grew upwith a friendly local librarian who knew you and put books aside for you, Google is your digital equivalent.  It’s a little overeager at times, and you might need to re-set your relationship if things get a little messy, but you can largely understand it and work together quite nicely.

If you’re struggling with an aspect of search query, drop us a line and we’ll see what we can do to help.


Anita has a master’s degree in library and information science.  She has taught information literacy in tertiary libraries and the financial services professional sector.  She is now a freelance researcher.

One Comment to “Getting the best out of Google”

  1. Steve Voisey 3 November 2012 at 3:55 pm #

    Still cracking up about the BDO thing. When I was a secondary school teacher I had to do an image search for a local band: “The Naked and Famous.”

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