Google Power

Google Super Hero

by Steve Deal on October 17, 2012

We get lots of ‘computer questions’.  Sometimes we know the answer immediately, and that’s great for everybody!  But just as often, people escalate the tough issues to us.

Fortunately, it’s pretty rare that you have encountered a truly new or unique problem.    There are probably around 900 billion computers / users in the world.  Most of the time, somebody else has already had the problem, and figured out the answer.

Ahh… But how do you find that person / answer?    People tell me I have some kind of ‘Search Super Power’ – that I find things they just cannot find.  So here’s how I search.

Google It

The Google search engine is my first stop, and usually all I need.    I’ve used other search engines (Yahoo, Bing, etc.), but Google’s results tend to be better for me.

First choose a few relevant words.   How many computer users are there?

I usually let the suggestions guide me – in this case I click ‘number of computer users in the world 2012’.

Rule 1: Let the suggestions guide you.

I looked at the first few results — but they were more about how many computer users are in particular countries.

Revise it

So I’m close, but not quite there.    But one of the entries had this:

“about 500 million computers in the world, with perhaps an average of two people using each one, totaling about 1 Billion computer users in the world”

That inspired my next search: ‘number of computers in the world’.   This leads to several relevant articles, suggesting 900 million to 1 billion computers.  In this case, the answer is on the search page, and I don’t even have to visit the article.

Rule 2: Use multiple searches – don’t work entirely from your first search.

Give a Little, Take a Little

Let’s search for a solution to a computer problem – say “Windows Defender won’t update and gives me error code 0x80240016”

You can just search for this whole string:

As Google so patiently explains,  don’t use quotes.  Let Google loose to search for close matches.

But even without quotes, these results are ‘muddy’ – lots of partially relevant stuff, and heavy reading.  After a first pass like this, you might remove or add terms – in this case, less is more.

And just the error code alone in this case produces the most streamlined results, with recommended steps from Microsoft to address this specific issue.

In practice, I usually start with a small search, and ADD terms as necessary.   I would Google just the error code, and if I got irrelevant results, narrow the search by adding ‘updates’ or ‘windows updates’.

Rule 3: Add or Subtract search terms to improve results.

Use Tabs

I find using browser tabs makes the whole process easier.  Tab 1 has your first search.  Open the results in subsequent tabs (Ctrl-click the links to open in a new tab).  If you decide to start a different search, start it in a new tab .  So you might have a search in Tab 1, and results in Tabs 2,3.

Then a refined search in Tab 4, a result in Tab 5, and a third search in Tab 6.

If a subsequent search proves fruitless, it’s easier to close those tabs and return to an earlier search.  When you’ve found your answer, just close the browser to close all the tabs.

Rule 4: Use Tabs to organize the search process.

The Other Secrets

Well, that’s really it.  The key to effective search is really just crafting the right search string.  Use the suggestions from Google, and then the results you find to modify your searches.

I hope this helps you develop ‘Google Super Powers’ too.  And please remember, like we tell the kids:

Only use your Super Powers for Good!

photo by: Mrs. Gemstone

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