Make Google behave: techniques for better results


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Edited version of the presentation given at the UKeiG workshop on 30th October 2013 in London. Covers Google search options and advanced search commands, and Google databases such as Google Finance, Public Data Explorer, Google Finance.

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Make Google behave: techniques for better results

  1. 1. Make Google behave: techniques for better results Wednesday, 30th October 2013 London Karen Blakeman, RBA Information Services, 29/10/2013 This presentation is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License1
  2. 2. Google for search? 29/10/2013 poetical/homer_simpson_poster.htm 2
  3. 3. Problems? Why do we use Google? Often gives 'good enough' results with minimal effort from the searcher Google thinks it knows best when it comes to the search strategy Great coverage Too much information Personalisation Personalisation 29/10/2013 3
  4. 4. Five things you need to know about Google search 1. Google personalises your search Personalises search based on – – – – – location past search history past browsing activity activity in other areas of Google e.g. YouTube, blogs, images content from contacts in your personal networks may be given priority – what you and others have „liked‟, g+1 29/10/2013 4
  5. 5. Five things you need to know about Google search 1. Google personalises your search Non-personalised search 29/10/2013 Personalised search 5
  6. 6. Google's Privacy Policy "Our new Privacy Policy makes clear that, if you’re signed in, we may combine information you’ve provided from one service with information from other services. In short, we’ll treat you as a single user across all our products, which will mean a simpler, more intuitive Google experience." "we're more excited than ever to build a seamless social experience, all across Google" Toward a simpler, more beautiful Google 29/10/2013 6
  7. 7. How to “Un-personalise” your search Switch off web/search history Log out of your Google account Clear cookies Use private/incognito browsing 29/10/2013 7
  8. 8. Private browsing - quickest way “un-personalise”search Chrome - New Incognito window - Ctrl+Shift+N FireFox - File, New Private Window - Ctrl+Shift+P Internet Explorer – Tools, InPrivate Browsing [location varies depending on which version you have] - Ctrl+Shift+P Opera – File, New Private Window - Ctrl+Shift+N Safari – click on Safari next to the Apple symbol in the menu bar, select Private Browsing and then click on OK. Will not remove country personalisation
  9. 9. Five things you need to know about Google search 2. Google automatically looks for variations on your search terms and sometimes drops terms from your search – Google does not tell you it has ignored some of your terms – “..” around terms, phrases, names, titles of documents does not always work – To force an exact match and inclusion of a term in a search prefix it with „intext:‟ public transport intext:algal biofuels – Use Verbatim for an exact match search
  10. 10. Google Verbatim
  11. 11. Five things you need to know about Google search 3. Google web search does not search everything it has in its database – two indexes: main, default index and the supplemental index – supplemental index may contain less popular, unusual, specialist material – supplemental index comes into play when Google thinks your search has returned too few results – Verbatim and some advanced search commands seems to trigger a search in the supplemental index
  12. 12. “Normal search” 1,555,500 29/10/2013 Search after Verbatim is applied 35,500,000 12
  13. 13. Five things you need to know about Google search 4. Google changes its algorithms several hundred times a year How Google makes improvements to its search algorithm - YouTube
  14. 14. Hummingbird Not just an update but a completely new algorithm Tries to make “sense” of your query and put it into context, natural language queries Not just search history but also your location, device being used Announced September 26th 2013 but had already been in use for about a month Many aspects had been tested over the previous months and past year 29/10/2013 14
  15. 15. Five things you need to know about Google search 5. We are all Google‟s lab rats Just Testing: Google Users May See Up To A Dozen Experiments Mostly minor effects on search but sometimes totally bizarre results Google decides that coots are really lions google-decides-that-coots-are-really-lions/ Update on coots vs. lions update-on-coots-vs-lions/
  16. 16. What I see on my screen will not be what you see on your screen, will not be what your colleagues see on theirs, will not be what your users see. Google Scholar more consistent – stuck in a time warp? 29/10/2013 16
  17. 17. Google gets personal All searches lead to Google+ (they wish!) Emphasis on individuals/authors Author verification – linking Google+ profiles to other network profiles, websites, blogs, social media Travel and local search results displayed in Google+ Searches on locations in Maps – information from Google+ YouTube users forced to set up Google+ profiles [videos made unlisted/private if you refuse] Individuals and businesses “encouraged” to become active on Google+ 29/10/2013 17
  18. 18. 29/10/2013 18
  19. 19. Search features are device dependent 29/10/2013 19
  20. 20. Google Now Google Now: Taking the Search Out of Search - Search Engine Watch 29/10/2013 20
  21. 21. What does Google know about you Sign in to your Google account and go to Check your ad preferences at If you do not have a Google account there will only be information about you in the right hand column 29/10/2013 21
  22. 22. Changes to T&Cs 11th November 2013 29/10/2013 22
  23. 23. Voice search getting better 29/10/2013 23
  24. 24. Google Instant Tries to predict what you are searching for as you type, and displays results as you type 29/10/2013 24
  25. 25. Google Instant Only displays 10 results at a time Disable Google Instant in Search Settings under the cog wheel (upper right hand area of a Google results screen) or go to 29/10/2013 25
  26. 26. Google Knowledge Graph and carousel 29/10/2013 26
  27. 27. Google carousel 29/10/2013 27
  28. 28. Google can get it wrong Google "Henry VIII wives": Jane Seymour reveals search engine's blind spots jane_seymour_reveals_search_engine_s_blind_spots.html Image courtesy of Will Oremus 29/10/2013 28
  29. 29. Yet more changes! Results page preview with cached copy and similar pages has gone Instead we now have ..... 29/10/2013 29
  30. 30. Google tries to work out your location Country based on your IP address Town/city based on your IP address/network provider – Google can get this wrong – Google switches between Bristol and Exeter for my location (I‟m in Reading) – Tell Google your location in Search settings (hidden under the cog wheel in the upper right hand area of your results page) 29/10/2013 30
  31. 31. Country versions of Google and local information Country versions of Google give priority to local content Useful if you are researching a person, company, or sector in another country Go to the relevant country version of Google, for example,, Google International Domains - List of Country and Language Codes – 29/10/2013 31
  32. 32. 29/10/2013 32
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  35. 35. Choosing your search terms Google automatically looks for synonyms and variations on your terms – biofuels will find biodiesel, biogas, bio-ethanol etc. – but do not get the same results if you use biodiesel instead of biofuels – run separate searches using alternative terms – no information on how the synonyms are identified or implemented The terms you use can radically change results – copper mining north wales – copper extraction north wales 29/10/2013 35
  36. 36. Choosing your search terms 29/10/2013 36
  37. 37. Google Trends Compare how often search terms are used over time and by location 29/10/2013 37
  38. 38. Google Trends 29/10/2013 38
  39. 39. Two old tricks that still work Both of these often change the results and the order in which they are presented Repeat important search terms in your search strategy renewable energy biofuels wave wind wind wind Change the order of your terms renewable energy biofuels wave wind wind renewable wave biofuels energy 29/10/2013 39
  40. 40. Nutrition facts Information from Wikipedia and USDA 29/10/2013 40
  41. 41. Compare compare spinach with cabbage Do not always need „with‟ Can only compare two similar entities 29/10/2013 41
  42. 42. Compare 29/10/2013 42
  43. 43. Google commands "" - around phrases "Metadata mega mess in Google Scholar" to exclude a term Caversham –otago OR to specify alternatives oil OR petroleum (sometimes better to run separate searches) * to stand in for one or more words solar * panels Picks up solar PV panels, solar photovoltaic panels, solar water heating panels 29/10/2013 43
  44. 44. Google commands Think file format – PDF for research documents, government reports, industry papers, company reports – ppt or pptx for presentations, tracking down an expert on a topic – xls or xlsx for spreadsheets containing data Use the advanced search screen or the filetype: command zeolites environmental remediation filetype:pdf "north sea" deep water drilling filetype:ppt "north sea" deep water drilling filetype:pptx annual average global temperature 1960..2012 filetype:xls annual average global temperature 1960..2012 filetype:xlsx 29/10/2013 44
  45. 45. Google commands Site search For searching large websites, or groups of sites by type for example government, NHS, academic Can exclude sites using -site: Use advanced search screen or site: command organ donation statistics Wales organ donation statistics Wales organ donation statistics organ donation statistics Wales -site:au 29/10/2013 45
  46. 46. Google commands Numeric range search Anything to do with numbers and quantities: years, temperatures, weights, distances, prices etc Use the advanced search screen or type in your two numbers separated by two full stops as part of your search TV advertising spend forecasts 2014..2020 world oil demand forecasts 80..100 mb/d 2015..2030 toblerone 1..5 kg 29/10/2013 46
  47. 47. Google commands Words in the title – can be single words or phrases Ensures subject is the main focus of the article Use advanced search screen or intitle: intitle:”diabetic retinopathy” Words in the URL – can be single words or phrases Use advanced search screen or inurl: inurl:”diabetic retinopathy” 29/10/2013 47
  48. 48. define 29/10/2013 48
  49. 49. Google Reading level Changes the type of material that is returned Nothing to do with publishers assigned reading age Run the search and from the menu above the results select Search tools, All results, Reading level 29/10/2013 49
  50. 50. Google Reading level Basic 29/10/2013 Advanced 50
  51. 51. Exclusive to – recipes! 29/10/2013 51
  52. 52. Date Restrict your results to information that has been published within the last hour, day, week, month, year or your own date range Search tools, Any time and select an option 29/10/2013 52
  53. 53. daterange: Date restriction does not work with Verbatim Use daterange: command instead Uses Julian date format (fractions omitted) Julian Date Converter Syntax – for example pages between June 20th and June 26th 2012 talking about the Statoil/Rosneft cooperation daterange:2456098-2456104 Statoil Rosneft 29/10/2013 53
  54. 54. daterange: the easy way Third party tools for the daterange: search for example then apply Verbatim 29/10/2013 54
  55. 55. Searching foreign language pages A significant amount of information is in the local language Google has removed the extremely useful “Translated foreign pages” search option  This is how it can be done now 1. Use Google Translate ( to translate your search into the required language. 2. Copy the translated search and paste it into Google search. 3. Google Chrome will offer to translate page If using another browser click on the „Translate this page‟ link next to a result to view a translation of just that page. 29/10/2013 55
  56. 56. Google News Can personalise news content when signed in to a Google account. Hidden underneath the cog wheel on the news home page. Change your location (automatically identified by Google), topics covered, sources and frequency of articles from sources. 29/10/2013 56
  57. 57. Google News Can limit results to a time period. Time options don’t always work in the ‘Archives’ Older material may be priced Can create email and RSS alerts for a search but unreliable 29/10/2013 57
  58. 58. Google News – advanced search Hidden under the arrow in the search box 29/10/2013 58
  59. 59. Creating a Google news RSS alert Has Google dumped RSS alerts or not? 29/10/2013 59
  60. 60. Google Finance - 29/10/2013 60
  61. 61. Google Finance - 29/10/2013 61
  62. 62. Google finance historical share prices Can only display and download one year at a time 29/10/2013 62
  63. 63. Google Public Data Explorer One of Google's best kept secrets! 29/10/2013 63
  64. 64. Google Public Data Explorer 29/10/2013 64
  65. 65. Blogs Run search and then click on More, followed by Blogs Once blog results are displayed can click on Search tools, Any time and select a time period 29/10/2013 65
  66. 66. Discussion boards and forums Click on More, Discussions No indication of how discussions and forums are identified 29/10/2013 66
  67. 67. Google Videos Not the same as YouTube Google Video 29/10/2013 YouTube 67
  68. 68. 29/10/2013 68
  69. 69. Images - copyright Always, always check and double check the copyright - images may have a digital watermark and be tracked e.g. Digimarc Creative Commons does not mean you can do what you like with an image – “Open-licencing your images. What it means and how to do it.” Andy Mabbett aka pigsonthewing – Karen Blakeman's Blog “Free-to-use images might not be” – 29/10/2013 69
  70. 70. Images – “free to use....” Google advanced image search - use the usage rights, but always double check the licence on the web site Licence may be assigned to another image on the page rather than the one you want to use 29/10/2013 70
  71. 71. Images 29/10/2013 71
  72. 72. Images – “all sizes” 29/10/2013 72
  73. 73. Images – use an existing image Click on the camera icon in the search box and then either enter the URL of an image or upload the image 29/10/2013 73
  74. 74. Google Art Project 29/10/2013 74
  75. 75. Google ArtProject Museum view 29/10/2013 75
  76. 76. Google Maps Post code areas, locations, directions Public transport for some countries Cycle routes for some areas Estimated fuel costs Satellite, Street View, photos, weather, videos Only as good as the underlying data – double check location 29/10/2013 76
  77. 77. Google Maps directions 29/10/2013 77
  78. 78. Google Scholar “Google Scholar provides a simple way to broadly search for scholarly literature. From one place, you can search across many disciplines and sources: articles, theses, books, abstracts and court opinions, from academic publishers, professional societies, online repositories, universities and other web sites. Google Scholar helps you find relevant work across the world of scholarly research”. • Search all scholarly literature from one convenient place • Explore related works, citations, authors, and publications • Locate the complete document through your library or on the web • Keep up with recent developments in any area of research • Check who's citing your publications, create a public author profile 29/10/2013 78
  79. 79. Google Scholar Does not cover all key journals in all subjects – no source list Top publications for subjects and languages under Metrics link on home page or Scholar indexes the full text but you may have to pay to view the whole article Groups different versions of an article together 29/10/2013 79
  80. 80. Google Scholar Includes open access material, pre-prints, institutional repositories (but not necessarily author self archived repositories) Includes material that is NOT peer reviewed but is structured and looks like an academic article (title in large font, authors, affiliations, abstract, keywords, citations) Pre-prints and IR copies may differ from final published version – charts and images may be redacted because of copyright restrictions 29/10/2013 80
  81. 81. Google Scholar Does NOT use the publishers‟ metadata Date and author search looks in the area of the document where those elements are usually found Page numbers, part of an address, data item may be mistaken for publication year Sometimes gets the author wrong 29/10/2013 81
  82. 82. Jacsó, Péter. “Metadata mega mess in Google Scholar.” Online Information Review 34.1 (2010): 175-191. Jacsó, Péter. Newswire Analysis: Google Scholar‟s Ghost Authors, Lost Authors, and Other Problems Jacsó, Péter. “Google Scholar Author Citation Tracker: is it too little, too late? “Online Information Review 36.1 (2012): 126-141. Jacsó, Péter. “Using Google Scholar for journal impact factors and the h-index in nationwide publishing assessments in academia–siren songs and air-raid sirens.” Online Information Review 36.3 (2012): 462-478. Jacso – Savvy Searching Columns, Online Information Review 29/10/2013 82
  83. 83. Bad Google Scholar Results | Academic Librarian Gray, Jerry E., et al. Scholarish: Google Scholar and its Value to the Sciences. Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship. Summer 2012 Hamilton, Michelle C, Janz, Margaret M and Hauser, Alexandra. Can librarians trust resources found on Google Scholar? Yes… and no. Impact of Social Sciences: Maximizing the impact of academic research .17 September 2012. Kramer, Bianca and Sieverts, Eric. Beyond coverage #ili2012. Slideshare. 27 October 2012. HLWIKI International. Google scholar bibliography. UBC HealthLib Wiki - A Knowledge-Base for Health Librarians. 29/10/2013 83
  84. 84. Google Scholar advanced search commands Use advanced search screen or commands as follows: + sign before a search term to force an exact match, for example +norne “....” around phrases for example “environmental remediation” intitle: to search for a single word in the title, for example intitle:zeolites environmental remediation allintitle: to search for all of your terms in the title, for example allintitle:zeolites environmental remediation author: to search on an author‟s name, for example zeolites environmental remediation author:rhodes site: to limit your search to specific institution for example marcellus shale Commands can be combined for a precise search, for example author:wolford allintitle:marcellus shale 29/10/2013 84
  85. 85. Patents Coverage: – – – – – – US Canada European Patent Office (EPO) Germany China World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) Patents available in original language and English (Google Translate) 29/10/2013 85
  86. 86. Google Patents 29/10/2013 86
  87. 87. Google Patents advanced search 29/10/2013 87
  88. 88. Patents – Prior Art Finder 29/10/2013 88
  89. 89. Google Patents Patent Searching 101: A Patent Search Tutorial Patents & Patent Law Compares Google patent search with other services “Holes in the database” – may not be able to find patents you know exist Does go back further than some e.g. to US patent no.1 but difficult to focus search See also Patents Searching with Esp@cenet, Google Patents and USPTO - University of Bradford 29/10/2013 89
  90. 90. Or use the Books option under More on the results page. Includes magazines, journals, newspapers 29/10/2013 90
  91. 91. Google Books Ngram viewer 29/10/2013 91
  92. 92. Constitute “The world‟s constitutions to read, search and compare” Supported by Google Ideas See for background and who is involved 29/10/2013 92
  93. 93. Create your own Google custom search engine For – regularly searched sites – selected sites on a subject or type of organisation Cannot include password protected sources or sites where you have to fill in a form to access the information Google's blog on custom search 29 October 2013 Karen Blakeman 93
  94. 94. Google‟s free alerting services Google email and RSS alerts are seriously broken – – – – do not alert you to everything that is new alerts sometimes „die‟ often bring up old material that you‟ve already seen duplicate information Email alerts becoming a rarity – some web sites and blogs offer email subscription to new content – often use RSS to email conversion tools such as Feedburner (how long will that be around?) Need an RSS reader e.g. Netvibes, Feedly, FeedReader, Old Reader – Phil Bradley's weblog: 20 Alternatives to Google Reader – -alternatives-to-google-reader.html 29/10/2013 94
  95. 95. Keeping up to date Inside Search Official Google Blog Google Scholar Blog SearchReSearch : Search Engine Land Search Engine Watch Karen Blakeman‟s Blog Phil Bradley's weblog 29/10/2013 95
  96. 96. Fact sheets The fact sheets are available at Search Strategies - Top Search Tips – Search Strategies - Selected Google Commands – Search Strategies - Google Search Tips – Search Strategies - Search Tools Summary and Comparison – 29/10/2013 96
  97. 97. 1. Remember that Google is continually changing 2. Personalisation is a key element of Google‟s algorithms 3. Explore and make use of the options in the menus on your results pages 4. Get to know the advanced search commands 5. If you want to keep Google in check keep up with changes and new developments at Google 29/10/2013 97