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Periodic Contributor

Google Search Tips

Google has search options that other search engines don't. These options can result in more meaningful results, saving you time from scrolling through thousands of links that aren't useful.


First, it's tough coming-up with a search example that's useful and not political, and being political isn't my intention. So I'll use NHS wait times. Please limit discussion to Google search parameters - my/our opinions on universal healthcare belong in another thread!


Second, ALL PARAMETERS BREAK if you add a space after the colon!!! Please practice safe typing.


A quick summary of the available Google parameters in order of most-often used (by me):

  • site:domain
  • before:yyyy-m-d
  • after:yyyy-m-d
  • intitle:

A General Search
If I go to Google and search for:
nhs wait times


I get 30,100,000 results (your exact results may vary slightly). Google is pretty good at putting useful results at the top, but I do see results going back to 2019 on the 1st page - I'm sure there's older articles on the following pages. I'm happy, sort-of.



I'd like to limit the results to articles found just on the BBC. So I add:
nhs wait times


Wow! Only 7,420 results to look at! That's quite a reduction.



I'd like only results from this year. So, I add:
nhs wait times after:2021-1-1


I'm down to only 1,030 results.



Now, I'd like last years articles, so we modify the search:
nhs wait times after:2020-1-1 before:2021-12-31


I get 1,300 results from last year. Note: the order of before: and after: isn't important!


BONUS: double quotes matter! Change the last search to:
nhs "wait times" after:2020-1-1 before:2020-12-31


I'm down to 5 results! The quotes tell Google to use the exact phrase, "wait times". It doesn't ALWAYS work as expected, but when it does, it can be a real time saver.



Lastly, "intitle:". The word/words/phrase (phrase uses double quotes) must appear in the title of the page. If I change my search to:
intitle:nhs "wait times" after:2020-1-1 before:2020-12-31


I get ONE article: "Transgender patients self-medicating over NHS waits". So, as threatened, the double quotes around "wait times" wasn't totally enforced. But if that happens to be THE article I remembered reading, then Houston - we have a BINGO!


I hope this makes your searches more meaningful. The "site:domain" is especially useful for searching authoritative pages, such as specific government sites (e.g. the CDC, FBI, Justice [DOJ], etc).



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