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Using the Advanced Search Function in Google

Updated on May 7, 2014
Public Domain Images courtesy of Pixabay
Public Domain Images courtesy of Pixabay

Getting More from Your Search - Advanced Google Searching

All a search engine basically does is indexes web pages by keywords that appear in a given page. The searcher enters a keyword into the Google text box and presses return or clicks the 'search' button, and the keyword is transmitted to a Google server and used by Google's software to retrieve a list of web pages containing that keyword. Thousands, or even millions of pages may contain that keyword.

For example, using the keyword, 'education', Google returns around 90 million pages indexed for the word education. If you are just wondering what sort of pages would answer to that keyword, your work is done, but more than likely you have a more specific interest in education: such as adult education; homeschooling education; education in Texas or the like. In such a case, you would enter other additional, modifying keywords for your search. Entering a list of keywords, such as “adult education” is a basic query.

Most people do not use the advanced Google search function. These advanced Google search techniques allow you to be more specific in your search query. The first of these advanced Google search techniques is the use of quotes "" as a search query. A search phrase will contain two or more words between quotes. For instance, if you want pages with the phrase “adult education”, Google will return a list of pages in which these two words are found in the exact order given. Google appropriately warns you that only pages with the words given in that exact order will be returned.

Using the Plus Symbol

An alternative to the use of quotes is the use of the plus sign +, immediately before the second and subsequent words. So, instead of “continuing education”, you could enter continuing +education. The plus sign should not be followed by a space, only the next word.

Another advanced Google search technique is the “site:” parameter. This parameter instructs the Google search engine to look for the keywords you first enter only in the site you specify. For example, you may want to search the University of California San Diego for continuing education. This university's site is www.ucsd.edu. So your search query would appear as follows: “continuing education” site:ucsd.edu

One advanced Google search technique is extremely useful when you are getting pages that do answer to your search query, but are not exactly what you are looking for. Say your search query is continuing education. Google may return a load of listings for online continuing education. Rather than search through all the listings to find one that is not online, you can instruct Google to return listings that do not have the word “online”, by preceding the word by a minus sign “-”. Your query would look like this: continuing education -online. You can exclude more than one keyword, preceding each by a minus sign. Remember, do not include a space after the minus sign. The word or phrase you want to exclude must immediately follow the minus sign.

Advanced Search for Google Tutorial

Search and You Will Find

The advanced Google search also allows submitting a query that uses the terms, “AND” and “OR”. When you use these terms, they must be in capitals.  So, if you wanted to find pages that answer to the phrase, “continuing education” or to the phrase, “continuing adult education”, you can simply join the two phrases with an “OR”: “continuing education” OR “continuing adult education”.

What if you want Google to return a list of various kinds of continuing education? You could use the OR between each phrase as you did above, but you'd have to know what kinds of continuing education are available, such as continuing legal education or continuing medical education. Rather than create a phrase for each type of continuing education, the advanced Google search allows you to use an asterisk between the words “continuing” and “education” to hold the place of any word that might appear between these two words.


To return a list of all types of continuing education, you'd use the following query: continuing * education. This asterisk, also called a wild card character, tells the search engine to fill in the asterisk with any word that is found between those two words. Google would return a list of pages with phrases such as “continuing professional education, “continuing medical education”, “continuing legal education”, and so on. Note, the asterisk may be used with single words as well. For instance, if you want a list of pages with any kind of recipe, you'd type: * recipes. Google would return a list of pages with phrases such as “healthy recipes”, “vegetarian recipes”, “easy recipes”. Use of the wild card gives you a broad search which you can use to narrow subsequent queries.

In addition to using these advanced Google search techniques, the Google home page provides a link to its advanced search form. The form has three sections and links to more options. The first section is entitled “Find web pages that have...”. The options are all text boxes. The first box is labeled, “all these words”. You enter each word that you want as a required keyword, separating each word by a space. This is the same as querying: continuing education.


The second box is labeled “this exact wording or phrase”. You enter the keywords in the exact order they should occur in the document. This is the same as using the quotes. Of course, in this box, you do not enter quotes. The third labels reads, “one or more of these words”, and is followed by three text boxes separated by “OR”. You enter a keyword in each box. Again, this is the same as using the “OR” in a straight query as discussed above.

The second section of the advanced Google search form is entitled, 'But don't show pages that have...”. A text box follows where you enter each keyword you don't want included in the search. You may enter more than one word, each separated by a space. As you might have guessed, this performs the same function as using the minus operator discussed above.

The third section of the advanced Google search form is entitled “Need more tools?”. The first label reads, “Results per page:”, followed by a drop-down list box that allows you to select the number of entries you want to appear on each page. Your choices are 10, 20, 30, 50, or 100 results per page. Select the one you want. This section also allows you to narrow your search by language, starting with any language and then a list of languages from which you select the language desired. This section also allows you to narrow your search to pages that match a specific file type, such as “pdf” or “doc”. The final option in this section allows you to specify which site you want to search, performing the same function as the “site:” parameter as discussed above.

The fourth section of the advanced Google search form is entitled “Date, usage rights, numeric range, and more”. Date allows you to choose how recent the page should be: the past 24 hours, week, month or year. You may also limit the pages returned by usage rights. The options are “not filtered by license”, “free to use or share”, “free to use or share even commercially”, “free to use, share, or modify”, and “free to use, share, or modify, even commercially”. You can even specify where you want your keywords to show up on the pages returned. The options are “anywhere in the page”,“in the title of the page”, “in the text of the page”, “in the URL of the page”, or “in links in the page”. You may also specify a region the page may come from, which includes “any region”, or any country presented in a drop-down list. You may also limit the number of pages returned. For example, if your search was for “cheap cars”, you could enter a price range, such as $100 ... $1000.

Finally, the advanced Google search page allows you to select the SafeSearch feature of Google. This search will not return adult sites.

Advanced Google Search - Your Comments

Submit a Comment

  • profile image

    Brumnick 

    8 years ago

    Great info - ive learnt something today - thank you

  • infoguider profile image

    infoguider 

    8 years ago

    There are a lot of great little jokes that Google has set if you search for something and press the "are you feeling lucky" button.

  • Cheeky Girl profile image

    Cassandra Mantis 

    8 years ago from UK and Nerujenia

    The search facility for finding stuff in Gogle is hard to beat. I'm gonna miss it on my iPhone if Apple decide to pull the plug and go for the Microsoft "Bing" thing instead. This is a great hub, and anyone looking for useful info on Using the Advanced Search Function in Google would do well to read this! Cheers!

  • markcraw profile image

    markcraw 

    8 years ago from Iowa, USA

    I have used the advanced search many times when i couldn't remember the syntax for just putting it in the search box myself.

  • 2uesday profile image

    2uesday 

    8 years ago

    Useful and time saving information in this hub, thank you.

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