A quick guide to internet searching

In the hunt for a bike for my daughter the typing of “kids bikes” in Google returned just shy of 78 million results in less than on second! After years in research I still find it extraordinary the number of sources of information that are returned when performing any internet search (“kids bike bells” a meagre 1.5 million returns in 0.76). Internet searching is an important part of researching and sourcing relevant information, with most of the information we need just a few key strokes away. This though brings the opposite problem: there is just too much information to process and therefore we compensate by only clicking just a few pages in. Our time is precious so how can we get smarter at this?

Smarter searching

To help us, there are a number of features and tools at our disposal. The below are not exhaustive, but will help you refine your queries better:

  • Use specific key words and minimise the number of search terms per query: try to be precise (in the example above ‘kids bikes’ is somewhat too general); avoid redundant terms and be careful with the spelling.
  • Use quotation marks for exact phrases: add quotation marks around a phrase. This will return results in the order you typed them in.
  • Do an advanced search: Click the ‘Search Tools’ button to refine your search by date, country, amount, language, or other criteria.
  • Get improved time-based search results: if you want returns from the last hour you can hack the weblink. Just add and the end of the URL &tbs=qdr:h1. Use h for hours n for minutes s for seconds followed the number you want.
  • Use Google to perform a search within a site: search tools on websites are not always effective. If you know what website you want to look you can perform a search via Google. So if you want to find the Victoria Sponge recipe that you used from the BBC website write in Google ‘site:bbc.co.uk victoria sponge’
  • Use the minus operator (-) to declutter a search. Search terms can have different connotations e.g. Lotus will return websites relating to cars, flowers, software and more. By adding a minus sign in front of car (e.g. lotus -car) you are asking the search engine to remove links associated with cars.
  • Use the OR operator (OR) or (|) this will return results with either of the terms you want.
  • Apply a numeric range to a search:You can refine searches that use numeric terms by returning a specific range, but you must supply the unit of measurement. ‘Kids bikes £100-£200’ for example.


Overall, search engines will do their best to bump to the top the most relevant sites it finds. Entering terms that are too broad will take longer to navigate and the results may not be helpful. Whether it’s for work or for personal application I hope these nuggets of information will help make your searches faster and more effective.