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Search Tips

This reference file explains Google's search syntax for the Google Search service. Most of these topics are documented on the Google web site at: They are assembled in this file for your convenience.


The Basic Search

To enter a query, type in a few descriptive words and press the Enter key or click the Search button for a list of relevant results.

Google uses sophisticated text-matching techniques to find pages that are both important and relevant to your search. For instance, Google analyzes not only the candidate page, but also the pages linking into it to determine the value of the candidate page for your search. Google also refers pages in which your query terms are near each other.

Note: Encrypted, viewable PDF documents are converted to HTML for indexing; however, the HTML is not displayed.


A single spelling suggestion is returned with the results for queries where the spell checker has detected a possible spelling mistake.

The spell checker feature is context sensitive. For example, if the query submitted is "gail divers," "gail devers" is suggested as an alternative query. However, "scuba divers" would not return an alternate query suggestion.

Note: Currently, the spell checker supports only U.S. English.



Synonyms are other words that have the same or similar meanings. They are displayed as "You could also try..." on the results page.


Sorting by Date

The Sort by Date feature sorts and presents your search results based on date. The date of each file is returned in the results. Results that do not contain dates are displayed at the end, sorted by relevance.


Automatic "and" Queries

By default, Google only returns pages that include all of your search terms. There is no need to include "and" between terms. For example, to search for whole life insurance documents, enter:

To broaden or restrict the search, include fewer or more terms.


"OR" Searches

Google supports the logical "OR" operator. To retrieve pages that include either word A or word B, use an uppercase "OR" between terms. For example, to search for an office in either Cincinnati or Louisville, enter:


See Your Search Terms in the Results

Every Google search result lists one or more excerpts from the Web page to display how your search terms are used in context on that page. In the excerpt, your search terms are displayed in bold text so that you can quickly determine if that result is from a page you want to visit.


Does Capitalization Matter?

Google searches are not case sensitive. All letters, regardless of how you enter them, are understood as lowercase. For example, searches for "variable annuities," "Variable Annuities," and "Variable annuities" all return the same results.


Does Google Use Stemming?

To provide the most accurate results, Google does not use "stemming" or support "wildcard" searches. Rather, Google searches for exactly the words that you enter into the search box.

For example, searching for "produc" or "produc*" will not yield "product" or "products.". If in doubt, try both forms, for example: "product" and "products."


Refining Your Search

Since Google only returns Web pages that contain all of the words in your query, refining or narrowing your search is as simple as adding more words to the search terms you have already entered. The refined query returns a specific subset of the pages that were returned by your original broad query.


Excluding Words

You can exclude a word from your search by putting a minus sign ("-") immediately in front of the term you want to exclude. Make sure you include a space before the minus sign.

For example, the search:

will return pages about insurance that do not contain the word "term."


Phrase Searches

You can search for phrases by adding quotation marks. Words enclosed in double quotes ("like this") appear together in all returned documents. Phrase searches using quotation marks are useful when searching for famous sayings or specific names.

Certain characters serve as phrase connectors. Phrase connectors work like quotes because they join your search words in the same way double quotes join your search words. For example, the search:

is treated as a phrase search even though the search words are not enclosed in double quotes. Google recognizes hyphens, slashes, periods, equal signs, and apostrophes as phrase connectors.


Restricted Searches

You may also narrow searches by restricting queries in certain ways.

Restrict Type Query Syntax Example
to a given location on your site allinurl; allintitle; inurl; intitle allinurl:wslife help
see Advanced Operators for details
to specific domains site:
see Advanced Operators for details
to specific file types like Excel spreadsheets, PDF docs, etc. filetype: filetype:pdf

Directory Restricting

To restrict the directories searched, enter a URL that drills down through the directory structure to the directories or files to be searched. For example, the query [] restricts the search to everything at the manual level. If the trailing slash is not included, as in [], then all subdirectories are also searched.


Advanced Operators

Google Search supports several advanced operators, which are query words with special functions. A list of the advanced operators with explanation are provided below.


My Personal Folder

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Last Updated: 12/14/2017