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Advanced Google Searches

Google has made search easy and effective, but that doesn't mean it can't be better. Learn how to effectively use Google's Advanced Search operators so you can get what you're looking for without wasting time on irrelevant results. I know you already know how to use Google to search the web, but do you know how to really use Google to search the web and answer your questions?

For example, if you search, "What time is it in Hong Kong?" Google will give you the answer right on the result page.

Or, if you're more concerned with financial figures, simply enter the stock symbol into Google's search bar and you'll get real-time prices. The ticker even updates as you watch it.

But those are just party tricks compared to the truly impressive things the search giant can do.

Search operators

Google has a bank of advanced search operators -- terms that are used to help broaden or narrow a search -- that can make your search more specific and successful.

One such operator, "site:URL," allows you to confine your search to a specific website:

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Often, this method of searching inside of sites works better than using a site's own search tool.

You can also use an operator to narrow what kind of files Google should be searching. In other words, you can tell Google to look for only Excel spreadsheets, Word documents, text files and many others. Just use the operator "filetype:XXX."

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Mix and match

Of course, you're not limited to using just one search operator at a time. You can mix and match them to craft narrow searches. For example, maybe you want to search for CSV, or comma-separated value files on the Sunlight Foundation's website. No problem:

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Boolean booyah!

Another way to search Google is to use what are known as the boolean operators, better known as "AND," "OR" and "NOT."

By default, Google uses the "AND" operator to connect all of your search terms, which could eliminate some valuable results that the "OR" operator would catch. Here's an example:

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(Tip: If typing "OR" is too tedious, you can use the pipe character -- that's the | on the backslash key -- instead and save a keystroke!)

Meanwhile, the "NOT" operator helps you eliminate unwanted results. For example, let's say you're interested in the planet Saturn. Simply searching for "Saturn," could yield all kinds of unrelated results, such as the car or the Roman god. That's where the "NOT" operator, which can also be expressed with the minus sign, comes to the rescue.

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Google's gone wild

One of the limitations of search is the variation in language. If you're interested in car accidents involving teenagers, what should you search for? Teen? Teens? Teenagers? That's where the wildcard, or asterisk, comes in.

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The tilde (typed as ~) is another powerful character in search, as it allows searchers to find similar words. Just put a tilde in front of the word you are willing to exchange and let the search results flow.

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Math tutor

Given Google's engineering roots, it's not surprising that the search engine is also a mighty calculator. Simply type in your math problem and let Google solve it for you.

You can learn about Google's other hidden powers, or see the site's advanced search page that organizes all of these operators into a simple form.