Google search tips

Sometimes Google's 'good enough' search results are simply not good enough.

Google may well be the search engine that information professionals 'love to hate'.  After all, it has great coverage and more often than not gives good (or 'good enough’) search results.  It also offers personalisation – it learns from your search patterns and behaviours and can personalise your search results even if you are not logged into a Google account.  And this is what we need to be aware of, especially if we are searching on behalf of others. 

If you want to see how much your results can be affected by personalisation, read Mary Ellen Bates describing what happened when she asked asking 37 fellow information professionals to take a screenshot of their results for 'Israel' in Google News.  She discovered that only 12% of searchers saw the same three stories in the same order.

HINT – you can depersonalise your search though (in Internet Explorer click Tools, InPrivate Browsing; in Firefox click Tools, Start Private Browsing). 

Google is always changing its search algorithms (this YouTube video outlines the process) and its search menus.  Even information professionals can find it hard to keep up to date. Thank goodness that we have fellow professionals like Mary Ellen Bates, Marydee Ojala, Phil Bradley and Karen Blakeman keeping a watchful eye on the ever changing search landscape.  Sitting with delegates at Karen Blakeman’s Make Google Behave workshop, I realised just how much I didn’t know or had forgotten. 

  • One of Google’s 'best kept secrets’ is the Public Data Explorer which helps you search open data sets. 
  • And did you know you can now find cycle friendly routes on Google maps?
  • Or that you can use a whole series of Google search commands to focus your search?
  • Or that you can bias your results (towards research for example) by using the 'reading level' option?

Karen captured the delegates top tips at the end of the workshop and blogged them here.  If you are in London in October, Karen is running her workshop again.  Meanwhile, for those wanting to keep up to date with search developments, keep an eye on Karen’s blog, Phil Bradley’s blog or Search Engine Watch