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How to Create Simple Search Queries in Google

Part of the Building Research Tools with Google For Dummies Cheat Sheet

When you type search terms (also called queries or keywords) into the Google search box, save some time by crafting simple, specific search queries. Remember these basic search rules when you use Google in its simplest form:

  • Punctuation doesn't count. In fact, it is stripped out of the query automatically.

  • Keywords aren't case-sensitive. Uppercase and lowercase letters are considered equal, so Antarctica is the same as antarctica.

  • You're limited to ten words. Everything after the first ten words is truncated and ignored.

  • Avoid misspellings: If you misspell a keyword in your search, then you won't get the results you expect. If Google thinks you've misspelled a search term, it gives you the benefit of the doubt by searching for the misspelled word and proposing a spelling correction when it presents results.

  • Be specific: The more targeted your keywords, the more likely you are to get usable search results. A search for sanitation Alameda County CA is more likely to yield results having to do with sanitation issues within Alameda County than a search for garbage Northern California.

  • A thing is not many things: Singular and plural forms are different keywords to Google. If a search using a singular form (ant) doesn't provide the results you're looking for, consider using the plural form (ants) instead. For example, the query ant Antarctica doesn't tell you anything about whether there are ants in Antarctica, but ants Antarctica returns many pages that provide this information.

  • Google ignores most common, short words: Don't bother to pose questions in your search queries; Google throws out all the stop words anyway. Stop words include most articles (such as the, and, and or), prepositions (after, in, and so on), pronouns (I), how, it, and forms of the verb to be (is, was, will be, and so on). Some single letters are also eliminated.

    These words are excluded to keep searches fast and to keep focused on the most important search terms in the query. So if you want to search for the movie how the west was won, be sure to enter your query phrase wrapped in quotes ("how the west was won") so that the stop words won't be ignored (although you'll still get some relevant results without the quotes while how, the, and was are ignored as stop words).

    When stop words are excluded from a search, Google notes the fact on the results page, just below the search box.

  • Use keywords that are distinctive and important. If you need to search using a stop word, you can wrap the phrase that includes the stop word in quotes or wrap the stop word itself in quotes.

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