Here are some tips that I often use in searching for information on Google, and after talking to my dad a month or so ago, I realized that these are not obvious things, but they do make my life a bit easier.
Search by Year
This is probably the biggest one for me, because for a lot of the information I search for, the date of the content is proportional to its value to me. It’s an undeniable fact that not only the content, but the presentation of the content online gets noticeably better year to year. So, put a year or a range of years into your query like this:
Use quotes! If you use quotes around a phrase, Google will put more emphasis on the exact phrase and not just on the individual keywords that make up the phrase. So, again, use quotes:
Sometimes I’m looking for pdf’s or mp3′s or some abscure file format, and that where the “filetype” label works its magic:
Other Powerful Stuff I Never Use
There are a few query operators that I always loved the idea of, but never find myself actually using. Here are some examples off the top of my head…
Search for terms in the title tag of the page. Basically, this is for when you know that a page you really want might have this term or phrase in its title:
You can exclude terms from a search via the – operator, but somehow I always end up doing manual pruning of results vs explicit exclusion in the query:
"African swallow" -"Monty Python"
All that said, I think that Google has been very effective at guessing at the intention of the regular user. So while you should try to help Google out, also don’t try to be clever. Try to think like an average somewhat-tech-inclined Joe Blow would because that is who Google is optimizing its search engine for.