How to use Google

Google is a deceptively simple, yet extremely effective search engine. When you ask it to search for something, it examines billions of websites worldwide in a matter of seconds. So it’s important that you ask it the right question or you could find yourself with millions of suggestions to look at before you find the page you want.

Before you begin web browsing make sure you are vigilant of the potential dangers that lurk online. 

  1. Certain keywords that you can search for on search engines such as Google may carry the risk of unwanted adware, spyware, and other malicious software.
  2. You can adjust your browsers settings to prevent unwanted programs being run without your permission.
  3. Through your browser settings you can control your cookie preferances. 
  4. Make sure you are aware of any personal information you might submit online
  5. For more information read our guide on How to search the internet
This guide will show you how to use basic search techniques with Google to get exactly the information you need.
Follow these step-by-step instructions to search using Google
Step 1: Go the Google website and click in the search box.
Step 2: Type in words that are relevant to what you’re looking for – that is, keywords. In this case, you’re looking for a holiday in France so your keywords would naturally be ‘holiday’ and ‘France’.
Note that, if you type in all lower-case letters and not use capitals, this won’t change the number or kind of results you get. However, if you reverse the words in a search or just add an ‘s’ to the end of one of them, the number and type of results will change.
As you type, you will notice that Google offers you suggestions of words or phrases that it thinks you might want to type. If you wish to choose one of these suggestions, click on the suggestion with your mouse, or use the arrow keys to move up and down the list and press the enter key on your keyboard.
If you don’t wish to take advantage of the autocomplete suggestions, carry on typing.
Now you can click the icon of the magnifying glass to do a Google Search. However, as you type the search criteria, the list of results will dynamically change to reflect changes to what you are typing.
(You can also click on I’m Feeling Lucky next to the suggestion. This will take you automatically to the very first search result that would appear if you did a normal search. This might be helpful if you’re looking for something that will produce only a single result – for instance, Google itself. But as the internet has got more complicated, it’s almost impossible to ensure that the best result will always be the first, so using this button is not recommended.)
If ‘holiday’ was the first word you entered in the search box, you would get 709,000,000 results:
However, if ‘France’ was put in first and ‘holiday’ was changed to ‘holidays’, the results would drop to 295,000,000.
Step 3: There are still far too many results to go through, so your search terms need to be more precise.
At the top right hand side of the Google page is the settings icon. Click on this and choose Advanced Search.
In the window that now appears, you can not only say what you do want – gites or cottages and websites in English – but also what you don’t want: websites that offer camping.
Then click on Advanced Search.The result of this advanced search is shown in the search box below. Note the minus signs (–) in front of ‘camping’ and ‘tents’. This means that Google has excluded web pages containing those words from the search.
Step 4: This advanced search produces 1,920,000 results to consider – still a lot to go through. The best way to reduce these further is to be even more exact – in this case, to consider where in France you want to go rather than specifying the whole country. Say you want to go to Provence: type this into the search box after ‘France’,  being sure to keep all the other keywords and exclusions. Then click Search again.
Step 5: As you can see, this has now given a result of just under 6 million websites: still quite a lot but Google will often sort them in the order of their relevance to your query, so the ones at the top are more likely to match what you’ve asked for.
Remember that many companies spend a lot of time and money tweaking their websites so that they appear as close as possible to the top of search engine result pages, even if this means that they aren’t as relevant to your search as they should be. It can be a good idea to look at search results some distance (even 10 or more pages away) from the first ones, to find something that might be less commercial but more desirable from your point of view.
In addition, in this example, the top three results are on a coloured background. This is because advertisers have paid to have their websites placed at the top of relevant searches. They may match your request, but other sites that haven’t paid for a prominent position may match just as well or even better.
If you find that you don’t like the autocomplete suggestions as you type in a search phrase, these can be turned off by going to the Google Settings and choosing Settings from the menu.
On the settings page, click on OFF to change the instant predictions.
Remember that you can use Google to search for a huge variety of things – not just holidays, but for shopping, finding out about something, places of interest, directions as well as images, videos and much much more!
Debbie Brixey is a Digital Unite tutor in south London.