Ten tips from Google…on Googling

May 11, 2009, 11:51 PM UTC

by Beth Kowitt, Fortune reporter

The folks from Google came into Fortune‘s offices last week to offer tips for journalists. As a Googler and Gen-Y-er, I expected the talk from Jane Bliss, a Google manager of global communications and public affairs, to help me brush up on some search skills — maybe learn about a just-launched tool. But most of what Bliss and her colleague Jennifer Bloch, Google’s senior manager for consumer and broadcast media, presented was fresh.

The thing is, Google products are ever evolving. So even if you think you know how to Google, there’s more to learn tomorrow. Here, courtesy of Bliss and Bloch, are tips on smarter Googling — for today at least:

1. Give in to Google.
Some website search functions are lousy. So let Google take over. Example: If you’re searching for green initiatives at the White House, search “green site:www.whitehouse.gov.” You’ll get results exclusively from within the www.whitehouse.gov site.

2. Know what to eliminate.
If you don’t want a particular word to appear in your search results, use a minus sign right before that word. So, if you’re traveling to Paris but you’re not interested in Paris Hilton or Paris, Texas, type “Paris -Hilton -Texas.”

3. Narrow your sites.
Say you want to read up on the economic stimulus but avoid news stories and commentary from bloggers. Search www.google.com/unclesam and your results will include content only from sites that end in .gov. Also, www.scholar.google.com lets you search scholarly literature — not just sites that end in .edu. That includes peer-reviewed papers, theses, and articles.

4. Go public.
A new Google tool delivers data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau. In the Google search bar, type “unemployment rate” or “population” followed by a state or county. You get the most recent estimates, with an interactive chart. This data isn’t anything that’s not already out there, but “it let’s you slice and dice in ways you probably can’t if you’re getting it from the Census Bureau,” explains Bliss.

5. Match an image.
Google’s new “similar images” search is in Google Labs mode, which means it’s a prototype. Google describes the function as allowing you to “refine your image search with visual similarity.” Example: Search Similar Images for “Yankees logo.” What do you get? Anything with a Yankees emblem. If you want only the plain New York Yankees pattern, click on “similar images” beneath the thumbnail; you get a page of images that are close matches. You can  refine your query by selecting image size, content (i.e. photo or clip art), and the color you want to appear.

6. Know the super shortcuts.
On its “Improve Your Search Experience” page, Google provides a bunch of tips. A few that I found most useful:

– Definitions: Type in “define” followed by a word, and Google gives definitions from a variety of sources.

– Calculations: Google calculates and converts currencies. Type your equation or conversion into the search bar.

– Weather and time: Type “weather” followed by the city…or “time” followed by the city.

7. Keep tabs on a topic.
Personalize your Google News page by clicking “Personalize this page.” Sci/Tech and Business interest you most? Drag those icons to the top. Don’t care about sports? Delete that category. To keep tabs on news in your neighborhood, set up regional news. Or create a new category with a keyword.

8. Search the past.
Google has been working with newspapers to digitize historical content and make it searchable. Not all of the content in Google News Archives is free — but if you want just the free results, select “no price” on the Advanced News Archive Search page.

9. Google on the go.
You don’t have to be out of the loop if you don’t have a BlackBerry or iPhone . Need directions? Call 1-800-GOOG-411 or text 46645 with a question.

10. Get a tip a day.
If you’re already a Google pro, add Tip of the Day to iGoogle, your personalized page.