An August 28 2021 Twitter thread by Chris Hladczuk (@chrishlad) described “8 Googling tips you probably didn’t know” — and in addition to the thread’s popularity in tweet form, it also was virally popular on Facebook and in two discrete Imgur posts.
The thread described what are known as “Google search operators,” defined as:
… special characters and commands (sometimes called “advanced operators”) that extend the capabilities of regular text searches. Search operators can be useful for everything from content research to technical SEO audits.
In the thread’s first post, Hladczuk said:
If you use it right, Google is the most powerful tool in the world.
But the truth is most people suck at it.
Here are 8 Googling tips that you probably don't know👇
— Chris Hladczuk (@chrishlad) August 28, 2021
Although the thread mentioned tips you “probably don’t know,” the second tweet’s tip was reasonably common:
Put quotes around search terms to let you search exactly for that word.
All results will have your terms in it.
Example: “James Clear”
Gives you all James Clear search results without just “James” or just “Clear”.
As indicated, using quotation marks around two or more words tightened search parameters in a typically more efficient fashion. That functionality would be helpful in specific searches involving very common words, such as “yellow striped pajamas.”
In the third tweet, Hladczuk addressed use of “dashes” to “subtract” certain unnecessary results:
If you want to exclude a term from your search, include a hyphen before that word.
You just want dolphins the animal not dolphins the professional football team.
In that example a dash was appended to “dolphins” in a putative search for “dolphins the animal,” and a dash before “football” would ensure that results related to the Miami Dolphins (or other dolphin-related football stories) be excluded.
Exclude words from your search
Put – in front of a word you want to leave out. For example, jaguar speed -car
However, several Google help center threads from 2019 and 2020 suggested the feature was buggy or no longer working. We did an example search using “Big Apple -‘New York,'” and the returned results seemed to favor mentions of “Big Apple” not related directly to New York City.
A fourth tweet in the thread pertained to the “tilde,” or “~,” and how it could be used to diversify search results:
Use tilde when you want synonyms to appear in the result.
Example: music ~classes
Here you only get music classes, lessons, coaching, etc.
Determining the efficacy of the tilde as a Google search operator was inconclusive. A 2013 post on Search Engine Watch, “Google Kills Tilde Search Operator,” included confirmation from a Google employee about the search engine’s retirement of the “tilde” function:
When you placed the tilde sign immediately in front of a keyword, Google would also include synonyms for that word in their search results. This was useful for webmasters determining additional keywords by seeing what words Google associates together.
Unfortunately, Google has quietly dropped support for the tilde sign in Google search results.
Google’s Dan Russell confirmed the deprecation, as Google Operating System reported:
Yes, it’s been deprecated. Why? Because too few people were using it to make it worth the time, money, and energy to maintain. In truth, although I sometimes disagree with the operator changes, I happen to agree with this one. Maintaining ALL of the synonyms takes real time and costs us real money. Supporting this operator also increases the complexity of the code base. By dropping support for it we can free up a bunch of resources that can be used for other, more globally powerful changes.”
A fifth tweet referenced Google’s “site:” functionality, a way to restrict results returned to those from a single site — in other words, using Google for site search. We searched for “folklore site:truthorfiction.com,” and all results returned pointed back to our website.
Sixth, Hladczuk mentioned the “|” symbol, and how it might serve as an “or” modifier:
| Vertical bar
Same purpose as OR.
Example: Netflix | Hulu
Netflix OR Hulu
We searched “waterparks California|Oregon,” and our search results reflected the claim in the tweet. A similar search for “pools Sacramento|Philadelphia” returned results for pool-related content in or around both cities.
Seventh was “two dots” between number ranges, a tip floating around for at least a decade:
.. Two Periods Use two periods to search within 2 number ranges. Example: movies 1980..2000
To test this tip, we searched “snowstorm 2010..2012.” Results returned indeed covered only content about snowstorms published within that two-year range.
In the eighth tweet and seventh tip, Hladczuk described a search operator to restrict content to a location:
Find news related to a particular location.
Example: Elon Musk location:sanfrancisco
We used the “snowstorm” search, but removed the “two dots” operator. In its place, we used “location:Paris,” and Google returned results relating to snow in Paris, France.
The final tip related to the format of results returned:
Filter by a certain file type related to your search.
Example: warren buffet filetype:pdf
This filters out all the click bait news Buffet news article you don’t want to read.
Hladczuk used “PDF” as a modifier, restricting results to files or pages in that format. We tested the “filetype” search operator with “recipes filetype:doc,” and search results were indeed restricted to .doc files.
Hladczuk’s “8 Googling tips” thread was popular across social media platforms after it was published in late August 2021. With the minor exception and possible retirement of the “tilde” or “~” function, most of the tips checked out — and based on the thread’s traction, many readers were unaware of some or all of those functions at the time it was published. Other guides to optimize search provided additional operators, useful for a number of everyday searches involving common words. As pages on the subject frequently noted, less popular operators were sometimes retired or “depreciated,” with the tilde function as one example.