Use Google Like a Pro! Safely and Effectively.
[Do you get our weekly free newsletter with the latest scams and tips to stay safe? Sign up now and be smarter and safer using the Internet! ]
Most people have no idea how powerful Google is as a searching tool and how often scammers use search-engine poisoning techniques to manipulate their scam sites to appear high on the returned list of links so unsuspecting folks click on them and infect their computers. [In the summer of 2009, more than 50% of the websites listed when searching for “free lyrics” were malware sites. Scammers often target popular culture and recent global news stories. Check out the infographic on the website SocialMediaToday.com to see the number of times that Google has had to make a major upgrade/modification of its search engine to counter "black hat" tricks and misuse. Eight times between 2003 -2013] While search engine poisoning (also known as spamdexing) is only a periodic problem, you might be surprised to learn that not all links returned to you during a Google search are provided because they are the most relevant resources to your search. **GASP!** Google may list website links first, second, and so on because web site owners pay Google to place them there. This is called search engine bias. [Check out this article on TechRepublic.com by Michael Kassner about search engine bias.]
We thought we would offer up some general tips for using Google that will not only help you search more safely, but also search much more effectively! So, in no particular order, here they are...
1. Always look carefully at a web address before clicking a link
The web address appears in green under the blue LINK title provided by Google during a search. Do not click on websites that have very peculiar names, long-hyphenated names, or names that end in 2-letter country codes you are not familiar with such as “ro” or “cn”. (Eastern European and Asian countries have a higher risk of hosting malware sites.) Especially avoid websites with 2-letter country codes if you are expecting your website to be hosted in the United States. This example shows a link in blue with the actual web address in green underneath. ".cc" shows that this website is hosted in the Cocos Islands. It is a site for downloading free movies. Some people across the Internet complain that the downloads include adware/malware. While we don't know, we do believe it is important to know that you are downloading files that are hosted in another country.
Also, Google does its best to identify websites that might harm your computer and let you know. If you ever see "This site may harm your computer" underneath a blue link, take notice! It is best NOT to click that link!
2. The five most important search tips
a. Quotes “ “ (These are also referred to as literals)
Use “ “ (quotes) around multiple words to search for those words in exactly that order e.g. “chicken kiev” or "San Diego bed & breakfast" or "best technology in 2013"
Begin your search with site: followed by a website IF you want to search ONLY that website e.g. site:allrecipes.com "chicken kiev" or e.g. site:tripadvisor.com "San Diego bed and breakfast"
c. Exclude –
Use the (minus sign) – directly in front of a word to exclude all occurrences of the word from your search e.g. site:cnn.com “classifying life” -virus or e.g. "chicken kiev" -allrecipes.com
d. Range ..
Two dots between numbers means a range e.g. 1999..2006 (means from 1999 through 2006)
However, another way to include a time range after you have received your search results is to click the button at the top of your search that reads "Search Tools." Then click the link that appears as "Any time" and change it a different time span
Once you have your results, you can also choose to have them sorted by date by first clicking the button "Search Tools" and then Sorted by Date:
e. Command-F (on a Mac) or Control-F (on a PC)
(This is a command that works in most web browsers; it has nothing to do with Google)
Once you get to a web page hitting command or control F will open a small FIND window. Enter text into that FIND window to search for words on the web page you are looking at.
3. Other Google Search Tips
a. To find anything related to an author, use author: (followed by name) [include a space after the author:]
b. To define a word or look for synonyms, use define:(followed by word) Note: Google will even check your spelling if you are uncertain of the spelling of a word
c. Google will convert units if you use “to” between units e.g. 76 cm to inches
d. Google search field can be used as a calculator but be careful how you place your parentheses! E.g. (2*3)/(5*4.2)-7 = -6.71 versus (2*3)/5*4.2-7 = -1.96
1. Techniques used for spamdexing from Lanoie.net
2. ABC National News report "Experts Warn of Search Engine Poisoning Computer Schemes" - February, 2013
3. Top 10 Clever Google Search Tricks from Lifehacker.com