Search Tips: Get Better Results

by Robyn Wright on June 17, 2014

in Tech

One thing I think is critical for everyone to understand is how to use search engines better. Everyone knows you can type in some words and you will get related results, but there are several tips that will help you get better results. Just like with other lists of tips I have shared it can be hard to remember all of them. Just start with one or two that you think will be the most useful and make a conscious effort to use them for a week to help them sink in. Then come back to this post and pick another tip to try the next week and so on.

search image

My default search engine is Bing. Because I am such a Windows fan and part of the Windows Champions team I love how integrated Bing is into my Windows devices. The tips I’m sharing will work with Bing and many will work with other search engines as well – but try Bing.

  • Get Broader or Narrower
    When you search if you get too many broad results then you need to narrow your search parameters by adding more words or special notations. However, if you get very few results then you need to go the opposite way and broaden your results a bit more.
  • Use quotation marks
    When you add “quotation marks” around a phrase the search looks for that entire phrase as you typed it.
  • Use NOT or the – (minus) symbol
    Sometimes we are searching for something that pulls up a lot of other similar results. If you want to find something but exclude something use NOT (in all caps) before what you want to exclude or use the “-“ (minus) symbol before the word.
  • Find PDF files
    Are you searching for PDF files? I did this when I homeschooled frequently. Put in your normal search term and then include filetype:pdf to return only results of PDF files.
  • Search only on a specific site
    Big sites have tons of information and while many have a search tool incorporated into them, not all do. You may want to search just a couple of sites also. To do this put in your original search terms and then (or whatever site you want) to pull up only results from that site. If you want to search on more than one you need to include OR (all caps) like this, your search term and then OR
  • Define words
    If you need a quick definition, simply include the word define before your word. Example: define hippopotamus
  • Adjust your settings
    For Bing, go to to adjust your settings. Here is where you can set your SafeSearch level, location, languages and turn suggestions on and off. You can also see your history and your Bing Rewards information here.
  • Get free stuff
    Specific to Bing is the Bing Rewards program. It is optional, but you get points just for using Bing and you can trade them in for Microsoft services, gift cards, and sweepstakes entries. I generally use my Bing Rewards to get my Xbox Music monthly pass for free. If you set Bing as your default search engine it is easy to reach goals to actually use the points. If you want to use my referral link so I get some bonus points, feel free! Robyn’s Bing Rewards Referral Link.

Do you have any search engine questions? How about any tips of your own to share?

Oh, and don’t forget the Comment & Win Giveaway is happening until August 31, 2014 – your comment on this post gets you an entry to win a Nokia Lumia 2520 Tablet Computer!


© 2014, Robyn Wright. All rights reserved.

Comments on this entry are closed.


1 coupontammy June 17, 2014 at 6:39 pm

Wow great list! I am going to print this and give each of my kids a copy. It should make their lives easier when they are working on a paper for school. Thanks!

2 Robyn Wright June 18, 2014 at 5:21 pm

Teaching kids how to do great searches will help them tremendously with research for school projects!

3 Rust June 17, 2014 at 6:42 pm

excellent tips! i had no idea about the pdf specific search.

4 Robyn Wright June 18, 2014 at 5:21 pm

Thanks – glad you found a tip you could use @sgschm:disqus

5 Robin June 18, 2014 at 6:39 am

These are helpful tips. I probably don’t put enough thought into the search process, which is why I sometimes don’t find what I’m looking for… Often I will type in a question, but then my search results in sites on which other people who have asked the same question (not necessarily the answer).

6 Robyn Wright June 18, 2014 at 5:22 pm

I hate getting results that include things for Yahoooo questions and such. Ugh. While the search engines are great for comprehending question formats now, they still don’t always bring the best results.

7 tannawings June 18, 2014 at 12:33 pm

I actually am pretty good at searching. I learned alot when I first got the internet, gosh I searched everything back then! About the only one I dont use alot are the quotation marks. I hve lso been a Google gal for years but have been hearing more and more about Bing- if / when I switch I will use your link!

8 Robyn Wright June 18, 2014 at 5:24 pm

We had to search for everything back then because there was a lot less out there LOL. I use the quotation marks every day. Nothing wrong with Google either, I just prefer Bing these days. You can compare Google vs Bing on the Bing It On Challenge site too

9 Kristina Saler Sullins June 20, 2014 at 12:52 pm

I prefer google over Bing. I have used the ” marks and got some good results myself.

10 GlArthy July 1, 2014 at 6:16 pm

I’ll be incorporating this into my searches. New is ‘site: …’ I like that!! I too use Google by default but anything for loyalty points I could switch to Bing ;)

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