Time is precious. No one wants to waste it needlessly. Google searches can be needless wastes of time. But they don’t have to be. There are many tips and tricks that can be used to give Google good information in order to get back the best possible search results.

Google tries to give people what they want. First, it looks for Web pages and sites that have all of the words in a search term. If it can’t find good sites with all of the words, it will start showing pages that have most of them. Results will be listed from best to worst, based on how many other sites refer to them. Wikipedia, for instance, is a credible site that other credible sites often link back to. This is what search engine optimization (SEO) is all about.

Two search tips that some people already know how to use are quotation marks (“ “) and the plus sign (+). Quotation marks are used when searching for phrases instead of individual words. For example, typing “thumbs up” in the Google search bar will yield Web pages containing that phrase. Without the quotation marks, every page with the word “thumbs” or “up,” including those with the phrase “thumbs up” will appear in the results. Using a plus sign in front of words indicates that they are important. For example, new album + Justin Bieber or cars + safe tells Google that it is important to find Justin Bieber’s new album or that you are specifically looking for cars that are considered safe, like Volvo.

Using hyphens between the words in a phrase, such as ice-cream-sundae has a similar, but less restrictive use than using quotations marks. And just as a plus sign in front of a word means it’s important, a minus sign (-) in front of a word means that Google should avoid that word when it lists results, such as pets –cats. Using the word “OR” or a vertical line (|) between two words means results for either word would work, such as “coat” OR “jacket.”

If all else fails, go to Google’s Advanced Search screen. Read the tips before starting a new search. Doing so could save time and energy. Google also has a Search Help screen that could prove useful. To avoid having to use the browser back button, open each page that looks interesting in a new tab or hit Control-N to open up a new browser window. Speaking of browser windows, the Internet has several from which to choose:

  • Internet Explorer (IE9 is the latest version) is one of the safest, especially when used in Protected Mode, though it can be slow at times.
  • Opera is one of the safest. It’s reasonably fast but has limited functionality.
  • Firefox, Google Chrome and Safari are all fast.

If a speedy browser is more important than a safe one, there are ways that people can keep themselves safe when surfing the Web. One is by avoiding “trashy” looking sites. They should avoid anything that offers to “tune up” their PCs, and make sure that they have antivirus software and Microsoft updates that are current. They should be careful about what they download to their computers. Domain names that end in .ru could be dangerous, so could sharing software like BitTorrent and LimeWire. Websites that pop up and offer to remove viruses ARE viruses.

Google searches don’t have to be studies in frustration, and surfing the Web can be safe. By using a few tips and tricks to focus searches and avoid malicious sites, the Internet can be fun and informative.

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