Surprising Things You Can Do With Google Search

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The company’s flagship product is powered by a plethora of algorithms designed to dole out the most relevant results for anything we type in the search box. But sometimes, it takes special syntax and a little digging to find exactly what you’re looking for. To wrangle Google search, you must first understand how precise you can get with the tool, then learn what to type in or what settings to adjust to achieve that level of precision.

Set a timer.

If you often find yourself getting distracted online, consider setting a timer to keep you on track. Google “set timer for” and specify the amount of time, then click “start.” When your time is up, you’ll hear the beeping from the other tab.

Search within a time range.

There are two ways to do this. Search for something, then click “Tools” under the search bar. You can specify a period of time using the drop down that says “Any time” (that’s the default), from “past hour” to “past year,” or pick a custom range.

Or, you can specify a range of years generally using the following syntax: “2014..2016.” Google will then show you results from these years.

The “..” works for other numerical ranges, too, such as price.

narrow your image search.

Add some personality to that all-staff email. Google images has a drop-down filter that allows you to specify “face,” “photo,” “clip art,” “line drawing” or “animated.” There are also drop-downs for size, color, usage rights and, as with regular search, time (period within which someone uploaded the image).

Convert currency.

Simply search an amount of money with the currency or its symbol specified with “in,” “to,” “converted” or another term that suggests comparison (e.g. “$45 in euros”) and Google will present a currency conversion calculator at the top of the results page. You can toggle to change the type of currency. Google also displays a graph that shows the exchange rate over time.

Google Translate works similarly for language translations. You can also Google measurement conversions using Google search.

Learn what others are searching for.

Visit Google Trends to learn what people around the world are Googling in real time. This site can help with SEO, as it reveals related searches and shows which is most common. It also provides insight into which topics are buzzy, for those who want to keep up or incorporate them into any content they’re creating (in a non-contrived way, of course). Take the guesswork out of figuring out what’s trendy and putting some numbers behind your claims.

You can filter by category (business, health, etc.) or country, as well as see how interest in the currently most-searched articles and topics has fluctuated over time.

For example, Google Trends reveals that searches for the word “backpacks” peaked around the end of July — right before back-to-school. Related topics include a list of brands and among related queries is “cute mini backpacks.” You can even download a CSV spreadsheet file of the info if you’re so inclined.

Precised search

If all of these tricks don’t get you what you need, try Advanced Search. (Simply enter “Google Advanced Search” to access the tool.)

The first field lets you type in a series of words, all of which you want to appear in your results. You can also specify an exact word or phrase, or that a query should yield results with “any of these words” or “none of these words.” It also lets you filter by language, region, site or domain, file type, usage rights and more. Plus, it allows you to turn on SafeSearch so results exclude sexually explicit content.

At the bottom of the page, under “You can also,” Google provides links to “find pages that are similar to, or link to, a URL,” “search pages you’ve visited,” “use operators in the search box” and “customize your search settings.”

Look back

Maybe you want to see a day-old version of a website if something changed or if you’re unable to access it for a brief period of time. Google stores old versions of pages, which you can access by searching “cache:example.com”. (Fill in your desired URL, make sure the word “cache” is lowercase and don’t include a space after the colon.)

Searching “cache:amazon.com” on Dec. 15 takes us to a Dec. 14 snapshot of the site’s homepage, with a header note that reads, “The current page could have changed in the meantime.”

Easter eggs.

Google’s engineers have had a lot of fun programming the search engine with some jokes, many of which are pretty nerdy. One good one is, when you Google “recursion,” Google comes back with, “Did you mean: recursion,” a subtle joke about the dragon-eating-its-own-tail nature of the concept. Another great one, for a taste of nostalgia, is “Google in 1998.” (Click the link to see for yourself.)

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