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6. About Google Search Operators



Perform a Basic Google Search

Refine Your Search

Perform an Advanced Google Search

About Power Searching Strategies

Google enables you to search using search operators, special words and symbols that make it easy to get search results that match as closely as possible the information for which you're looking. You can combine search operators with search terms to form a query, like this:

zeppelin -"Led Zeppelin"

The minus sign in this search string means not, so this search would bring back pages that had the word zeppelin on them but did not have the term Led Zeppelin on them.

Key Term

Search operator Special words or symbols you can use in concert with search terms to make it easier for you to narrow your search.

Table 2.1 contains the common operators you can use with Google (you do not have to use all capital letters when you type the operators).

Table 2.1. Common Google Search Operators




You don't need to use this operator because Google adds it by default to searches in which you use multiple terms. It returns results that contain all the terms in the search. So a search for cow collagen (with the implied operator ANDcow AND collagen) returns only those pages in which both cow and collagen appear.


When you use this operator, Google returns pages on which any of the words are found. So a search for cow OR collagen returns pages in which the word cow appears and pages on which the word collagen appears. An OR search returns many more results than an AND search.

The minus sign is called the exclusion operator; it returns pages on which the specified search term does not appear. You can combine it with other operators and terms to exclude certain words from the search results. The search for cowcollagen returns pages on which the word cow appears but only if that same page does not include the word collagen. The operator must go next to the word (or the phrase within quotes) that you want to exclude; there can be no spaces between them, like this: cow "skim milk".


The plus sign is called the inclusion operator and serves an interesting purposeit tells Google to use stop words in a search that it normally ignores. If you wanted to make sure that Google included the word to in a search (Google typically ignores this word when searching), put it in the search as + to. As with the inclusion operator, the plus sign must go next to the word (or next to the quotes surrounding a search phrase) you want to include; there can be no spaces between them.


The asterisk is called a wildcard. For those who are familiar with searches on a computer, Google uses the asterisk in a search similarly to a computer wildcard search. The asterisk must be used in a quoted phrase, like this: "I * New York". When you use this character, Google returns pages that have any words in place of the * on them. A search for "I * New York" would return pages with I Love New York, I Hate New York, and so on.


The tilde is called the fuzzy operator or synonym operator. When you use this operator, Google searches for pages that contain the specified term as well as synonyms for the term. For example, a search for ~generous would return pages on which the word generous appears, as well those pages that contain synonyms of generous, such as munificent and charitable.


Google does not recognize the NOT operator; instead, use the operator.

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