Hiding in Plain Sight? How to squeeze the most from a Google search

Last modified: Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Google search engine is an amazing tool … until it lands you in a swamp of random references that are useless to you. I’ve come up with a few tactics to counter that - including one that seems off-the-wall but actually works (see #5). Let’s say you’re looking for a local snow plowing service. You enter snow plowing western Massachusetts in the search field, and a few local hits pop up among all the megasites that aggregate information. But you can do better.1) Enter the current year: 2013. That helps weed out listings that have been languishing online for years and have never been updated.2) Enter our area code: 413. That helps narrow the results to our region.3) Use quotation marks: Western Massachusetts should be “western Massachusetts.” Google will search for the phrase rather than the individual words. 4) Don’t click on the first result that surfaces. Scan all of Page 1 - and Pages 2 and 3, too. It only takes a few seconds - and often reveals local businesses that don’t have a big web presence, but can do the job.5) Finally - and this has nothing to do with snow plowing - I have discovered a magic word when I’m searching for items that are clever and well-designed.

The word? Cute.

Let's say I'm shopping for a new pepper mill. My initial search - "pepper mill" - turns up serviceable but unremarkable choices. Then I add “cute” to the search field. Amazingly, that word does not direct me to pepper mills adorned with pictures of fluffy kittens. Instead, I end up with choices like the one shown here - a certain famous Sergeant.