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 How to Become a Search Ninja: Harnessing the True Power of Google - Part 1

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PostSubject: How to Become a Search Ninja: Harnessing the True Power of Google - Part 1   Fri Sep 28, 2012 11:24 am

The information in this post is a lot to take in if you have
never performed advanced searches in Google, so please be patient and
don't treat this post as a "read once and done" deal! You may well get
confused, so please ask questions via the comments if you do and I will
be happy to clarify what I can for you. Don't worry about feeling
stupid, either. I truly want you to understand this stuff since I know
how much it will enhance your search experience! Make sure you click on
all the examples I've provided throughout the article as they will
really help you visualize much of the information I discuss --
especially if what you're reading
becomes confusing. Seeing it really can make it "click" for you. Take
this post in bits and pieces if you need to, add it to your favorites,
etc. but just remember to be patient, keep an open mind, experiment on
your own, and most of all, HAVE FUN!



Now, before we proceed, I want to give you a scenario to consider. I
will use this as the series-wide example for you to reference for all
points to come. With that said, let's say you're interested in C++
programming. You type "C++ programming"
and a couple of similar queries into Google but you're just not
satisfied with the results you've looked at. It's not Google's fault,
because they do seem to be returning extremely relevant results, but
they're just not the ones you feel cater to your method of learning. So,
you think to yourself, "I know I should probably just take a class or
buy a book, but I really wish there was a way to find "Introduction to
C++" presentations/documents from colleges online."

Well, if you were a search ninja, you would realize the cornucopia of
results surely awaiting you for such a query, and as such, your initial
query on that train of thought may look something like this: site:edu intitle:Introduction intitle:C++ filetype:ppt | filetype:pdf | filetype:doc

Now, just what does that query tell Google? My fellow search ninjas
out there know the answer to this, but this series isn't catered to
them, so let's break it down! I'll delve into the site:, intitle:,
filetype:, AND and OR operators, and more. A very critical point to
remember is that your search terms should be placed directly after the operator with no spaces.

For example, site:edu funny is correct where site: edu funny is not. All the same, intitle:funny is correct where intitle: funny is not. Of additional note is that Google operators are case-sensitive but your search terms are not! siTe:edu funny will not work where site:edU fUnnY and site:edu funny will work one-in-the-same. Lastly, the order in which you specify your search terms doesn't matter. For example, site:edu funny will work exactly the same as funny site:edu
(you may see a different total number of results, but if you actually
clicked through every single page of results, they would match and they
would both end at exactly the same total number of results).

" (Quotes)


Keeping this section "short 'n sweet," the usage of quotes tells
Google that you want it to return results for your *exact* search term.
This applies to using 2 or more separate words/letters/numbers. For
instance, searching for Windows 7 is different than searching for "Windows 7"
in that the first example will return results that could include the
number 7 and the word "Windows" *anywhere* within a page and not
necessarily grouped together. The second example, however, will return
results that contain Windows 7 as an *exact* phrase. Google does a great
job of guessing what you're searching for with or without quotes most
of the time, but certainly not all of the time -- especially if you're
searching for an exact phrase that includes a word like "the" which
Google has a tendency to ignore. For instance, if you're searching for
lyrics that contain the following phrase, the cat on the fence will yield drastically different results than "the cat on the fence"
will. Get to know the usage of quotes if you don't already, because I
use them frequently throughout the examples here (and you'll really
start to understand why if you don't already)!

AND and OR


The AND and OR operators can be incredibly useful in your search
endeavors. Perhaps confusing at first, I urge you to give these
operators some time to marinate. I promise you they will "click" for you
and you'll be happy you stuck it out! To discuss these two operators,
I'll break them down individually.

AND: This operator tells Google "I only want to see results that contain all of what I'm searching for." For example, doing a search for cats dogs
has the potential to return results about only cats, only dogs, or cats
and dogs. If you want to see to it that you see only results including
cats and dogs, your search query would be (you guessed it) cats AND dogs. This really comes in handy if you are interested in finding pages that contain multiple search terms, like cats AND dogs AND birds AND lizards. It's also great for building up searches using qualifiers like "beginner," "introduction," etc. For example, Introduction AND C++ AND Beginner.
Of all the operators I use, I use AND the least by far. But if I'm
going to discuss OR (which is next), then I couldn't negate AND!

OR: What this operator does is tell Google "I only want to see results based on what I specify, but not results that have to contain all of what I specify." For example, if you do a search for "Search Engines" OR C++, what you'll get are results that are about either search engines or
C++. It's entirely possible that a result from that search could
contain both C++ and search engines in the same article, but that would
be a coincidence! Remember, if you wanted to see only results that must
contain both search engines and C++, you would use the AND operator like so: "Search Engines" AND C++.

Now, it's very important to note that OR is interchangeable with |.
That means you can use either one to achieve the same end result. For
example, "Search Engines" | C++ is the same as "Search Engines" OR C++.
Personally, I like to use | because it lets Google know beyond the
shadow of a doubt that I mean OR in terms of an operator and not a word.
For instance, what if I did a search for "Search Engine" ORC? Did I mean "Search Engine" OR C as in a search engine OR a programming language named C, or did I mean "Search Engine" ORC as in a search engine fantasy creature? Because spaces don't matter with the OR operator, "Search Engine"|C is the same as "Search Engine" | C is the same as "Search Engine" |C is the same as "Search Engine"| C.

Now, try all four (1 2 3 4)
of those using OR instead of | and you will get two sets of very
different results! Lastly, it's important to note that you can have
multiple OR operators in one search query. This can be really helpful if
searching for multiple qualifiers to give you more results to go
through without having to type individual queries. Take, for instance, a
scenario where a product goes by multiple names. Let's say I want to
search for Windows 7-related stuff. Well, I may want to cover as many
bases as I can and try something like "Windows 7" | "Win 7" | "Windows Seven" | "Win Seven".

site:


Without getting all convoluted and intricate here, the site: operator
basically tells Google "I want you to only show me results from
specific Web sites or domains I specify." So, to give you an example
using just this operator, site:edu "Search Engines" would tell Google that you want to see results about "Search Engines" from .edu domains only. Getting even more specific, you could try something like site:harvard.edu "Search Engines" to see results about "Search Engines" from only the harvard.edu Web site! As you can see, just the site: operator alone
can help to greatly filter and fine-tune your results, but don't let
the edu examples above pigeonhole your creativity and thought process.
If you're looking for Windows 7 Service Pack 1-related material and you
want to see only what's on Microsoft's site, you could try site:microsoft.com "Windows 7 Service Pack 1" and BOOM, highly-relevant, fine-tuned results!

Yellow Belt Search Ninja Exercise: Think of a topic
you're interested in and try to think of a couple of sites you feel
would contain the most helpful/insightful information based on that
topic. Now, create one search query based on your topic that will show
results from both of the sites you thought of and onlythose
two sites. Hint: Remember the | operator! On the next page, I discuss
the filetype: and intitle: operators, as well as the solution to the
opening example and the conclusion of part 1.

filetype:


Next up on the docket is the filetype: operator. This operator tells
Google "I want you to show me results that are of the type of file(s) I
specify." This is probably my favorite operator to use since I just
loooove to search for documents and presentations! Some of the most
common file types that I like to search for using the filetype: operator
are ppt, pps, ppsx, pptx, xls, xlsx, doc, docx, txt, pdf, rtf, and
more. You can search for database files (mdb, dbf, et al), music files
(mp3, m4p, et al), movie files (mpg, avi, et al), archive files (zip,
rar, et al), image files (jpg, png, et al) and many, many more.

Through my experiments, I've found that defining each file type that
you're interested in searching for -- all separated by the | operator --
yields the best results. At one point, you could define multiple file
types within parenthesis but the results were pretty wacky (example: filetype:(ppt|pptx|pdf|doc)
). In the example I provided at the beginning of the post, you can see
that I use three filetype: operator statements separated by the |
operator: filetype:ppt | filetype:pdf | filetype:doc

To note, you would probably be shocked by what kind of data you can
find based on a filetype: search alone. I once found a database file
from an online retailer chock-full of full names, addresses, email
addresses, and -- get this -- full credit card information. Scary stuff,
huh? That was back in my Google hacking days, but make no mistake that
there's a whole world of advanced Google searchers out there who can
find some very revealing information. And come to think of it, it's off
of that very premise alone that I started my own Microsoft investigative journalism blog
back in 2007! I would find confidential information sitting around on
people's servers about future Microsoft products I was interested in and
I decided I wanted to blog about them.

My methods have since then improved exponentially and branched out
well beyond finding such information contained only within documents,
but if for nothing else, it just goes to show how using an operator like
filetype: to do some experimenting can be quite fun, revealing, and
maybe even turn into an entity all its own for you. In the case of our
example at the beginning of the article, though, we're using the
filetype: operator to search for three types of files: ppt, pdf, and
doc.

intitle:


Put simply, this operator tells Google to only show you results that
include your search term in the title of a result. If you're unfamiliar
with a title, most pages and documents have them and they're typically
what you click on when you click to see a result in Google. For example,
intitle:ginormous shows the word
"ginormous" in bold in the title of each result. Using the intitle:
operator is perfect for narrowing down results to show your most
important search terms right there in the title of a page or document.

Now, if you're feeling particularly mischievous, you can try some searches along the lines of intitle:index.of mymusic
and see what all you can dig up. Naturally, I don't condone downloading
any illegal content you might find doing such a search, but expanding
out into searches like that will show you just how many people out there
are ignorant to the true power of search engines. You would be
astonished at how many people carelessly leave illegal/copyrighted
material up on their Web servers. Never mind the people who leave
personal and/or confidential information floating around directories on
their Web sites.

So, if you're one of those types of people, now you have a good
reason to check and make sure you're not serving up some things that
could potentially get you in a heap of trouble! How can you do that?
Simple! Try the site: operator using your site to see what all Google
has indexed of yoursite! You may just be surprised at what you
find. If you're an SEO, you may consider this a value-added service to
your clients. I'm sure you've undoubtedly used the site: operator to get
a rough idea of how many pages of your clients' sites are indexed,
right? Well, imagine what they would think of you if you approached them
and said, "we found a security issue with your site, but we can clear
it right up for you!" Good stuff. Wink

Solution to Opening Example


site:edu intitle:Introduction intitle:C++ filetype:ppt | filetype:pdf | filetype:doc

Do you know what that query is telling Google to show you now?
Smile If not, here's the solution: Google will return results from .edu
domains (site:edu) with the terms "Introduction" and "C++" in the title
of each result (intitle:Introduction intitle:C++) and of those results,
it will only show you ppt, pdf, or doc files (filetype:ppt |
filetype:pdf | filetype:doc). And that's it!

There's a Catch...


You just knew there had to be one, right? Luckily, it's typically not
a major one. You see, the only problem these days with performing such
advanced queries is that Google oftentimes flags such searches as
potential automated queries (queries run by programs, scripts, etc.).
Google is pretty adamant about keeping that from happening, so as you
continue to run some of these advanced queries in short amounts of time,
Google will either give you the option to fill in a captcha to continue searching
or they will simply show you a page apologizing to you that they can't
complete your search query (which I find to be very frustrating,
personally -- especially if I'm on a roll researching with advanced
queries). If the latter happens, then you can either try the same query
in a different Internet browser, wait it out, change your IP address, or
go to a different computer. The good news is that you really have to be
digging into some advanced queries like the one in the solution above
to get flagged by Google.


Source: Search Ninja

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