Search Smarter: 30+ Google Search Tricks You Might Not Already Know

Melanie Pinola
Melanie Pinola / July 7, 2016

Google seems to have the answers to everything. Want the weather forecast? Ask Google. Need directions to a restaurant? Search Google. Have a weird rash or wonder why dogs eat grass? Yup, Google it.

In a fraction of a second, Google gives you links to hundreds of millions of webpages. But if you've ever clicked through to the second or third page of search results, you know that basic Google searches will only get you so far. You need advanced Google search skills to find exactly what you're looking for.

Thankfully, Google provides built-in tools to narrow down your search and get those answers in no time at all. Here are all the tips and tricks you need to improve your Google-fu.



Get Instant Answers in the Omnibox or Search Results

Google's search results get better every day. Sometimes you don't even need to click through to a website to get an answer; it'll be right there in the first page of search results or even in your browser's address bar.

Below are some of the things you can get instant answers for from Google.

Calculations and Solutions to Math Problems

Google Math
Get instant answers inside the search box or address bar in Chrome, Firefox, IE, and Edge

No need to open a calculator app: Just type in an equation in the browser address bar and Google will immediately show the result in the search suggestions. This works in Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Internet Explorer, and Firefox, but not Safari. Also, Firefox users will need to go into the browser's preferences to check both "Provide search suggestions" and "Show search suggestions in location bar results" in the Search settings for this to work.

You can also access calculators directly in Google Search results. Search for "tip calculator," "mortgage calculator, or just "calculator" to calculate directly on the page.

Google mortgage calculator
For more advanced calculations, Google Search results include custom calculators

Google even has advanced calculators that can graph functions such as sin and cos, or solve geometry problems such as "area of circle with radius of 4."

Google graph

Conversions

Google conversions

When you need to convert from one unit to another, such as temperature in Celsius to the equivalent temperature in Fahrenheit, search with this formula: [value of first unit] to [second unit]. Or search for "unit converter" and use the drop-down box to change the type of measurement.

You can convert:

  • Area (for example, square foot to square mile)
  • Currency (for example, British Pounds to US Dollars)
  • Data transfer rate (for example, kilobyte per second to gigabyte per second)
  • Digital storage (for example, megabyte to gigabyte)
  • Energy (for example, joule to kilocalorie)
  • Frequency (for example, hertz to kilohertz)
  • Fuel economy (for example, kilometer per liter to US miles per gallon)
  • Length (for example, foot to yard)
  • Mass (for example, pound to ounce)
  • Plane angle (for example, degree to radian)
  • Pressure (for example, pascal to bar)
  • Speed (for example, miles per hour to kilometers per hour)
  • Temperature (for example, Fahrenheit to Celsius)
  • Time (for example, second to minute)
  • Volume (for example, tablespoon to fluid ounce)

It's handy–whether you're a physicist, engineer, mathematician, or just cooking in your kitchen.

Travel and City Information

Google travel

Google has smart search features for travelers and those interested in what's going on in other places, too.

Search search for "[city] to [city]" to see information from Google Flights. Or you can search "[city] to [city] distance." The distance search will give you a map and an time estimate for driving, taking public transportation, walking, or biking. (You might be able to walk from New York City to Los Angeles in 913 hours!) If the two cities are far apart, such as New York to London, you'll just see the distance in miles (or kilometers, based on your locale settings) between them.

Other city-specific searches include looking up things to do in the next few days (for example, enter "las vegas events" to learn Cirque du Soleil is performing at Treasure Island) and finding out what time it is (enter "time [city]").

And if you want more help planning a trip, do a Google Search on your smartphone: Add "destination" or "vacation" after a location you're planning to visit (such as "Europe" or "Bangkok") and Google will offer popular itineraries, weather reports, airfare and hotel price comparisons, and more.

More Quick Info

Other things you might not know Google Search can help you with include:

  • Shopping: Search for a company's name plus "customer service" to get the customer service phone number. Or enter your tracking number for a package to get a delivery update.

  • Language: Add "define" before a word or phrase to get a definition of it. Add "etymology" before a word to see its origins. (Except for "etymology define," which gives you the definition of etymology.) And add "in [language]" after a word to get the translation from your language, as detected by Google, to the language of your choice.

  • Nutrition: Search "[food name]" plus "facts" to see the nutritional value of a food.

  • Stock prices: Enter the stock symbol, such as APPL, into Google to get the current stock price and other financial details.

  • Sunset and sunrise: Get the time the sun will rise or set by entering "sunrise" or "sunset." You can add a city name to your search to get the time for a different city than your own.

  • Timer or stopwatch: Enter "stopwatch" to use a stopwatch in Google Search or search for "set time for [amount of time]" to automatically start a timer.

  • Find your IP address or phone: If you don't know what your IP address is, just search for "IP address" and Google will reveal your public IP address. If you lost your Android phone or tablet, enter "find my phone" to locate it on a map or make it ring. To lock its screen or even erase the device, click on the Recover link to be taken to the Android Device Manager page.

  • Holidays: Not sure when Festivus or any other holiday will fall this year? Just enter the holiday name plus the year to find out its date.

  • Entertainment: Google "fun facts" to learn random trivia or search for "animal sounds" for something that might amuse your kids and yourself.

  • Time Zones: Google "[time] [location] in [other location]" to convert time zones. For example, "9AM Tuesday Bangkok in SF" will give you "7:00 PM Monday."

Drag and Drop to Search

Google Search with drag and drop

If you don't feel like typing, you can drag and drop to do things in Google instead:

  • Search for a word or phrase by highlighting it and then dragging it to the address bar (to perform the search in the current tab) or to a new tab position (to search for it in a new tab).

  • Do a reverse Google image search by dragging an image from your computer or a web page to the search box at https://images.google.com/.

  • Duplicate a tab or open a link in a new tab by dragging the URL or link to a new tab position.

Use Google's Search Tabs and Tools

The search results page contains helpful tools to further drill down to the information you're looking for. Here are some of the best slightly-hidden Google tools to refine your search results.

Filter by Type of Information

Google tabs

At the top of every Google Search results page, you'll find tabs to refine your search by category: All, Videos, News, Images, Shopping, and, under More, Maps, Books, Flights, and Apps. So, when searching for "cat gifs," for example, I can head to the images tab to view cat GIFs, or I could go to the Apps tab to download animated cat photos to my phone. (Sadly, there are no cat GIF-related flights.)

Narrow Down Search Results by Content Date

Google date search

The "Search tools" tab in that navigation bar changes depending on the tab you're on. For the All results tab, you can filter results by the time the content was posted or updated. For example, if I check for cat GIFs every day, the "past 24 hours" filter will help me find only the newest cat GIFs. Use the "Custom range" filter to find content updated in a specific period.

Search for Types of Images Faster

Google image search

The search tools in the images tab let you filter images by size, color, type (photo, clip art, animated, etc.), time updated, usage rights, and tags, such as "adorable" or "creepy." You can also click More > Show sizes to have the image sizes revealed at the bottom of the images.

View Cached or Similar Pages

Google cached pages

Next to the URL of each search result, you'll see a drop-down arrow. Click on that to choose to load the cached version of that web page–a snapshot of the page as it appeared the last time Google's robots visited that site. This is useful when a site goes down and you still want to access some of its content. You can also access the cached version of a page with the "cache:" search operator–add that in front of the URL you want to access, for example, "cache:https://zapier.com/blog/best-rss-feed-reader-apps/."

The drop-down also includes an option to find similar pages. This takes you to a list of related web pages and sites. Selecting similar pages on a Giphy cat GIFs link, for example, shows me sites such as Cat Gif Page and News Cat Gifs!.

Search Specific Sites

The search boxes on most websites frankly don't work well. Pages you're certain exist on the site don't show up, while pages irrelevant to your search do. Instead, use Google to search the website.

Search a Specific Website

It's easy to search through one site: add "site:[website address]" to your search phrase. So, for example, you could use "site:zapier.com trello" to find all the Zapier integrations and Trello-related blog posts and guides on Zapier.com, "site:retailmenot.com staples" to find Staples coupons on RetailMeNot, and, yes, "site:giphy.com cats" to find cat GIFs on Giphy.com. On many sites, you can also just enter the site address and press the Tab key and then enter your search terms to search within that site.

Create a Custom Site Search

If you often search particular websites–or even specific website sections, such as the Cats Subreddit–you might want to add custom site search to your browser. When you do that, typing just a few keys will enter your relevant search strings for any site on the web–saving yourself extra the keystrokes.

For Google Chrome: It's easiest to do this in Google Chrome, because it has custom search settings built in. Open the Chrome menu (the three-line "hamburger" menu at the top right of the browser), select Settings, and then click the "Manage search engines" button under the Search section.

Scroll to the bottom of the default search engines and then enter a name for your "search engine" (for example, "Zapier Blog Search"), the keyboard shortcut you want to trigger this search (for example, "zpb"), and the custom search string (for example, "https://www.google.com/search?q=%s+site:zapier.com%2Fblog"). You can find that string by searching for the site plus any other word (for example, "TEST") and pressing enter. Then copy the URL from the address bar, replace the word you chose ("TEST") with %s. Paste that new URL into the URL field in your new custom search.

Google custom search

For other browsers: Other browsers don't have this custom search engine functionality out of the box. However, for Safari, you can use the Safari Omnikey extension and for Firefox try the add-on Add to Search Bar. Sorry, Windows browser users, it doesn't look like there's an easy way to add custom site searches to Internet Explorer or Microsoft Edge.

Search Internationally

Normally when you search Google, results are customized to the country Google thinks you're in, based on your IP address. If you're in India, for example, you'll be directed to Google.co.in instead of Google.com. If you'd like to get results for other countries, however, you can do that with a couple of tricks.

Search Global Google.com

To use Google.com instead of your local site, visit google.com/ncr and bookmark it for future use. NCR stands for No Country Redirect. That link actually redirects to https://www.google.com/#gws_rd=ssl, but adding "ncr" to the end of the URL is easier to remember.

Alternatively, if you're redirected from Google.com to another Google site, such as Google.co.in, click the "Use Google.com" link at the bottom right corner of the page to get the international version of Google. Depending on where you are, you might also see an option to search local Google in English–handy when you're traveling to places where English isn't the primary language.

Search Global Google to get international search results

Specify a Specific Domain

You can also do a country-specific search by "site:" plus the domain for the country to your search phrase. So, for example, if you want to look for "naan" and get the information only from sites in India, the search would be "naan site:co.in" (and you'll find lots of tempting recipes for naan). Here's a list of the domain codes for countries and regions around the world.

Use Google Search Operators

Search operators are characters that narrow down your search query to get more specific results. You can tell Google, for example, to omit certain words from the results or to find pages that have all of the words you specify in the page.

Here's a little cheat sheet for some of the most useful Google Search operators, in addition to the ones mentioned previously:

Operator How to Use It Examples
* (Asterisk)Add the asterisk as a placeholder for an unknown word or factFind quotes that start with "Life is like": Life is like a *
" (Quotation marks)Look for an exact word or phrase by putting it in quotesFind pages that talk about the book One Hundred Years of Solitude: "One Hundred Years of Solitude"
- (Hyphen)Use a hyphen before a word or site to exclude it from your search resultsOmit Wikipedia pages from search results: -site:wikipedia.org. Narrow results to the band R.E.M., not rapid eye movement: R.E.M. -sleep
.. (Two Periods)Separate numbers with two periods without spaces to search for numbers within that rangeFind phones that cost between $200 and $400: Android phone $200..$400. Find computer milestones that took place between 1950 and 2000: "computer milestones" 1950..2000
allintitle:Use allintext:[search phrase] to find pages with all of those words in the title of the pageShow pages that have both "Apple" and "notebook" in the title: allintitle:Apple notebook
allintext:Use allintext:[search phrase] to find pages with all of those words in the body of the pageShow pages that mention Roth, IRA, and investments in the body: allintext:Roth IRA investments
allinurl:Use allinurl:[search phrase] to find pages with all of those words in the URLShow pages that have both "Microsoft" and "Surface" in the URL: allinurl:Microsoft Surface
AROUND(n)Add AROUND(n) between two search terms to find pages where those terms are written on the page in close proximity. The number you choose in place of n sets the maximum distance between the terms. This is useful for finding relationships between two search terms. Find pages that mention Facebook and Microsoft in the same sentence or paragraph: Facebook AROUND(7) Microsoft
site:Use site:[URL] to limit search results to a specific websiteFind pages on Zapier that mention trello: site:zapier.com Trello
related:Use related:[URL] to find sites similar to a specific websiteFind websites similar to Zapier: related:zapier.com
filetype:Use filetype:[suffix] to limit results to a certain file format, such as PDF or DOC. Find keyboard shortcuts for Microsoft Office that are shared as PDF: filetype:pdf office keyboard shortcuts
intitle:Use intitle:[search phrase] to search for pages that have at least one of your search words in the title Show pages that have "Apple" or "notebook" or both in the title: intitle:Apple notebook
intext:Use intext:[search phrase] to search for pages that have at least one of your search words in the body of the pageShow pages that mention Roth, IRA, and/or investments in the body: intext:Roth IRA investments
inurl:Use inurl:[search phrase] to search for pages that have at least one of your search words in the URLShow pages that mention Roth, IRA, and/or investments in the body: intext:Roth IRA investments
ORPerform two search queries at the same time by separating your search terms with OR. This will find pages that might one of several words.Search for pages that reference "Google Drive," "Dropbox," or "OneDrive": "Google Drive" OR Dropbox OR OneDrive

Use Google's Advanced Search Pages

Don't want to remember all of those operators? Don't worry. Bookmark Google's advanced search page google.com/advanced_search and use a form to narrow down your search results every time. There you can specify language, region, update time, file type, and more, to refine your search terms.

Google Advanced Search

Google also has an advanced search page just for images at https://www.google.com/advanced_image_search.

Google Advanced Image Search

Tweak Google Search Settings

Google's default search settings might be fine for most people, but not those who want to always see more than the top 10 results in the first page or who who are tired of workarounds to open a link in a new tab instead of the current tab. (To do that, right-click and choose "Open Link in a New Tab" or press Control or Command + mouse click to open it in a background tab).

Go to the settings page for Google Search to tweak these and other defaults. Here you can:

  • Turn on instant search predictions–necessary for doing math in the address bar, as mentioned above, and other Google magic
  • Change the number of results shown per page. You can set it to as high as 100 results per page, but that'll be slower than the default 10 results per page.
  • Choose to open results in new browser window.
  • Turn off SafeSearch, which blocks inappropriate or explicit images from Google Search results.
  • Access your saved Google Search history.

Bonus Tips

The tips above should get you started on using Google Search more effectively. But, wait, there's more…

Install the Don't Track Me Google Extension

Don't Track Me Google

The links you see in Google's search results are not the direct links to those web pages. Instead, the links are Google tracking links filled with gobbledygook referral information. This is annoying when you just want to share the page's link in email or on your blog or Twitter; to get the clean URL you have to click through to the page and then copy the URL.

Not so if you install the Don't track me Google Chrome extension. It gets rid of that link conversion in Google's search results and also hides the referral information so sites won't know which search terms you used to get to their page. With the extension installed, just right-click on a link and copy it, and it will be the direct link to the page.

Google Search Easter Eggs

Searching the interwebs doesn't have to be stale. Sometimes it can be surprising and fun. Google Search has a sense of humor too. Ask Google any of these questions for a fun surprise:

  • The answer to life
  • Do a barrel roll
  • Google in 1988
  • Atari breakout
  • Zerg rush
  • Festivus
  • Super Mario Bros
  • Blink
  • Flip a coin
  • Roll a die
  • [actor name] + "bacon number"
  • Google Pacman
  • Blink HTML

As easy as it already is to search Google, it can be even easier and save you more time when you know the advanced features baked into the search engine. For more Google search training, see Googler Daniel Russell's work and collection of resources or take the Power Searching with Google course. Share your favorite Google search tricks with us in the comments, and happy Googling!

Title photo by C_osett via Flickr.

Your Google Search Cheat Sheet

Feel free to share the infographic below on your site or via email or social media. You can also download a PDF version for future reference or sharing.

Google Search cheat sheet
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