Making Your Web Searches Smarter

Recently, The Wall Street Journal ran an article about “hidden features of Google and Yahoo engines” that make research on the Web faster, easier, and more rewarding. Neanderthal though I am with regard to technology, I was actually aware of several of them:

Using two or three words instead of one to get more relevant links

Surrounding your search terms with quotation marks when you are looking for an exact name or phrase (such as “To Kill a Mockingbird”)

Combining quotes with extra words (“Kill a Mocking Bird” and Harper Lee)

And here are some things I didn’t know:

You can enhance searches in Google by telling the search engine to exclude items that might confuse or overwhelm the search. This is accomplished by following your search terms with a space and then a minus sign followed by the topic you want to exclude. (For example, if you want information about Jiu Jitsu but not Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, you can enter: Jiu Jitsu – Brazilian.)

You can get the name and address of a land-phone owner by typing in the phone number.

You can get a map of any location by typing the street address in Google’s search field.

You can solve simple math problems by typing them in.

You can perform conversions of weights, measures, and currencies. (In Yahoo, begin such searches with the word “convert.” In Google, just type in the question.)

I asked members of our own team here at ETR for online research tricks they have discovered. Here’s what they had to offer:

Jon Herring, ETR’s health guru, says that his favorite search strategy is to use Google “news alerts.”

Let’s say there is a topic you are following where it would be beneficial to receive an alert every time there is a new article or new research published on that subject. Or maybe you just want to keep track of things that are written about you and your company.

On the Google main page, select “News.” Then select “News Alerts” from the menu on the left side of your screen. All you have to do is enter the search term you want to watch, select how often you would like to be notified, and enter your e-mail address.

Now, every time there is some new information posted online that includes the search term you listed, you will receive an e-mail notification.

Suzanne Richardson, ETR’s Managing Editor, likes the Google Book Search feature.

Let’s say you need to find information about goal setting. You type the term into the search field, and Google finds all the books in its database that mention “goal setting.” Choose among those titles by narrowing down your search (by number of hits or by adding additional terms). Google Book Search also allows you to look through individual books for references to “goal setting,” and gives you the chance to read two or three consecutive pages surrounding the term.

You can get to Google Book Search from the Google home page. Just click on “more” at the top right of the search field. You’ll be transferred to a list of Google functions. “Book Search” is currently fourth on the list.

Andrew Gordon, our resident wealth expert, likes Yahoo! Finance for updated stock information.

Whenever you need financial information on a specific company, go to and click on the “Finance” link. Once there, you can type in a company’s symbol and find out everything from their balance sheet to their company profile to the latest headlines featuring news about them. Type in “Nke,” for example, and in a few moments you’ll know that shares are up 0.32% so far that day, that the company had a net income of $456,700 in the third quarter (the last quarter reported) of last year (the” Income Statement” link), and that Nike stock costs $74.81 more today than it did 15 years ago (the “Historical Prices” link).

By the way, Andrew’s favorite link is “Key Statistics.” You get 55 different numbers, including price to earnings (both trailing and forward), price to book, operating margin, return on equity, and cash flow.

ETR’s Editorial Director, Charlie Byrne, says his favorite “trick” is to try to find the most unique word or phrase related to what he’s searching for.

“Many times for Early to Rise,” Charlie says, “I have to locate newspaper or magazine articles for which we only have a vague reference. Example: ‘Charlie … remember that story in Forbes about those guys with the widget company? Do you think you can find it?’

“In this case, I might be lucky to remember that they were located in, say, Tyngsboro, Massachusetts. So if I search for ‘Tyngsboro’ and ‘widgets,’ chances are very good that I’ll find the article.

“Here’s another example: If you want to find stories about great thoroughbred horses, ‘Alydar’ would be a better choice for a search word than ‘Affirmed,’ simply because it’s so unique.

“Unusual proper names are always good to try.”

Keep these tips in mind the next time you’re doing an Internet search. I guarantee that you’ll find what you’re looking for much more quickly.

[Ed. Note: Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]