How to Use Google Like a Pro

Tech Talker teaches you shortcuts to searching Google faster and smarter.

Eric Escobar
4-minute read
Episode #20

Today I’m going to teach you how to use the world’s biggest search engine, Google. Now I know what you’re going to say “Eric, don’t be silly, I use Google all the time! You just type what you want to search and hit enter!”

And that’s how most everyone uses Google. But there are much more efficient methods that you can use to improve your internet searches. So today, I’m going to teach you about operators. Operators are functions that a computer uses to understand what you want. In this episode, I’ll teach you to use these operators to spend less time searching the internet and more time finding what you want.>

Operator 1: The Minus Sign

Let me give you an example of how operators can make your life easier. Say you type “salsa” into Google and hit search. What will you see? Probably a lot about salsa the food as well as about salsa dancing. What if you just wanted to find out more about the stuff you put on your tortilla chips? Simple, just type “salsa,” leave a space, type a minus sign, and then the word “dancing”

The minus sign will tell Google to exclude “dancing” from any search results for the word “salsa.” Using the minus sign is one of my favorite operators but there are a ton more to make your life easier.

Operator 2: The Tilde Sign

Next there is the tilde (~), which looks like a little mustache and often used in writing to signify an approximate amount of something (~30 feet long means approximately 30 feet long). The tilde allows you to search for words that are similar to one another. So if you put a tilde directly in front of a word, Google will find other search terms that have similar meanings, sort of like a thesaurus. For example if you put a tilde in front of the word “cat,” your search might return results that have to do with kitten, feline, kitty, etc. You get the idea.

Operator 3: The Quotation Marks

Say you’re trying to find an exact phrase. For example, who said “Those are my principles. If you don't like them I have others”? Just type the whole thing with quotation marks around it, and Google will only search for that exact phrase instead of each word individually. This is extremely useful for movie quotes and famous speeches. And in case you were wondering, the author of that wise phrase is Groucho Marx.

Operator 4: Math and Conversion

In case Math Dude isn’t around to help you with a math problem, Google will come to the rescue.  Try putting 3 x 5 in the search bar. Google will interpret this and solve it for you. It can even convert most types of units. As an engineer, I can’t tell you how useful it is to be able to type “3 cubic meters to cubic inches” for a quick conversion.

This feature of direct answers goes even further. If you type “movie,” “define,” “stocks,” or “weather” followed by a colon and your search term, Google will bring back show times, a definition, a stock quote, and even the weather of your search term. This may save you valuable time and clicking effort…and it gets even better!

Operator 5: Site-Specific Search

Google can search within websites, too. So if you want to search for a tip from one of my earlier Tech Talker episodes, all you have to do is type the word “site” followed by a colon, and then the website you wish to search in. This will bring back results only from that website. It’s an invaluable tool that I use for research all the time.

Operator 6: File Search

If you are looking for a specific file, maybe a pdf of a product manual or a Word template, type “filetype” followed by a colon and the extension of that file into Google and it will return files with your specifications. So instead of having to hunt through a website to find the file you want to download, you can get to it in one easy click.


Here are my 3 Quick and Dirty Tips for faster and easier Google searches:

  1. Use the tilde, minus, and quotation mark keys to narrow down your results.

  2. Use Google for instant math solutions and even value conversions in one click.

  3. Search within individual websites to find a direct path to the content you’re looking for.

To those of you who have never used these special tricks to search Google, I highly recommend going to the Tech Talker website so that you can see an even more extensive list of other search tools that will save you time and frustration in the future.


Do you have nagging tech questions? Post them to the Tech Talker Facebook wall and I will be happy to answer them. I’m going to be dedicating an entire episode to listener questions soon, so make sure to let me know what you want me to tackle in the future.

Have a question about anything in this episode? Or a suggestion for a future podcast? Send me an email at techtalker@quickanddirtytips.com or post it on the Tech Talker Facebook wall.

Until next time, I’m the Tech Talker, keeping technology simple!

Google Search image courtesy of Shutterstock

Google and Man on Computer images from Shutterstock - See more at: http://prod.quickanddirtytips.com/tech/computers/how-troubleshoot-your-technology#sthash.2s5N891W.dpuf

About the Author

Eric Escobar

Tech Talker demystifies technology and cutting edge devices so that even the most tech illiterate can understand what's going on with their computer or gadget — and what to do when something goes wrong.