Google is by far the most popular Internet Search Engine. Google’s closest competitors, Yahoo and Microsoft Bing, have a far smaller market share of the Web Search market. The reason for Google’s popularity is that the search results returned in its Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) are more accurate and delivered faster than other Search Engines. Google is constantly improving how it determines the most relevant results to show in the SERPs however there are a few things that can be done to help Google in returning the best match for your search.
Search Scenario and Default Search
For this tutorial here is the example scenario we’ll be using: A student is renting an apartment in New South Wales (Australia) and the landlord has given a one month written notice that the rental is to be increased. The student wants to know if the landlord is within his rights to do this.
Typically, when using Google, a person will type something like consumer rights into the Search field to learn about their rights in regards to the scenario.
Sure, this is a valid search term however this returns 69,000,000 results of which many won’t relate to the students needs. Below are three simple ways which will vastly improve the search results which appear on the SERPs:
Select the Best Search Term
A term like consumer rights is very broad and doesn’t specifically describe what the student wants to know. The first thing to do therefore is to phrase the Search term specifically enough; a search term such as landlord increase rent consumer rights nsw is far more descriptive. The results on the SERPs for the better defined term is now 22,800 which is far better than the original 69 million however is still too high.
Operators are simple ways of instructing Google to use or not use certain words in a search or to group terms or words. The common Operators are briefly described below:
- + means use the following specific word and not it’s plural, synonyms etc.
- – means specifically exclude the following word.
- AND means include the following word (AND however is redundant as Google by default assumes AND where no other operator is specified before a word).
- OR means the results must include either the preceding or following word.
- “” means include the exact phrase, as entered in the quotes, in the search.
(Boolean logic may also be used in place or addition to the operators).
We can therefore be far more specific about what we want Google to search for by using the Operators. A search for landlord increase rent “consumer rights” nsw has reduced the results on the SERPs to 20,600. Still way too many results so let’s keep going …
The Australian Federal Government as well as state governments have some excellent information on their websites. As the student wants fast facts without endless commentary our student is well advised to search the New South Wales (NSW) government websites for information. The site: Operator will therefore be useful.
The site: Operator is generally recommended for searching a specific Internet address however I use it mostly for searching specific domains e.g. .edu for education domains and .gov for government domains. For our student to search only Australian Government domains all he/she has to do is enter site:gov.au after the search term in the Google search box. Google will only return results on Web pages which end with .gov.au. The full search syntax is therefore landlord increase rent “consumer rights” nsw site:.gov.au
Google now returns 313 results which is far more manageable than the 69 million originally returned. Clicking on the first result on the first SERP page from Google has taken our student to a site which answers his question.
Other Useful Search Function and Operators
Three hints have been provided above which have significantly improved the search results returned by Google. There are numerous other simple ways of assisting Google to return the most appropriate search results for you such as searching by date and file type. Most of these may be accessed using the Advanced Search which may be found by clicking ‘Advanced Search’ next to the Search button.