Over the course of the last two weeks I’ve been taking an interesting online class that Google offered called Power Searching with Google. The class was aimed to educate anyone interested in learning how to become a better internet searcher. As a person that relies heavily on using Google on a day to day basis I decided that it was to my best interest to enroll. In the end, I’m glad I took the time to go through it all because surprisingly I learned a lot. If you were not able to attend the class, here is a brief synopsis of the types of things I learned.
The course was taught by Search Research Scientist, Dan Russell. There were a total of six lessons spread across two weeks. Each lesson took about an hour to get through. Within the lessons, there were about 4-6 Chapters. Each chapter began with a video of Dan explaining how to approach a particular search. Videos were typically 3-9 minute long followed up by a short activity to practice. All in all, the pacing was great and the narrative was easy to understand. If Google ever offered a similar course in the future, I highly recommend you to sign up. The better and faster you find what you’re looking for the better off you’ll be in this day and age.
Google Image Search
One thing that surprised me about the class is the large emphasis on Google Image search. I’ve often ignored this feature of Google search simply because I have never found much use for it, but the class quickly changed my mind. One of the most powerful features you can do with image search is the ability to drag and drop an image of anything you can ever imagine and find out what it is. For instance, if you’re unsure what an object is, take a picture of it against a white background. Drag and drop it into Google Image search. Refine the results with a few keywords that describe the image to the best of your ability and the results will more or less return with an answer!
Take for example this random image of a wrench I grabbed from the internet. Save it to your desktop and drag and drop it into image search. Google recognizes it is a striking wrench and gives you similar photos of the one you just uploaded. Try it.
Many people simply type in keywords that don’t really matter in their search. Sometimes the search requires a different aprproach, which is why the class taught us a few additional tricks to refine our searches to get better results. For example, if you typed in “movie:The Dark Knight Rises” (without quotation marks) it shows you the movie times playing in your area. The search operator “movie:” gives you refined search results of movie times. Another cool site operator is “site:” The “site:” operator lets you hone your search for a specific site. For instance, if I wanted to search for Christian Bale on IMDB.com I would type in “Christian Bale site:imdb.com” The results will only display pages from imdb.com. If you’re interested in learning more about search operators, here is an awesome guide that lists all of them. If you really want to be a search ninja, you can show off by combining search operators together in a search query.
An often neglected feature is Google’s ability to filter search results. Many would agree that Google is the world’s best web crawler. It indexes every piece of content on the web to the best of its ability. Google is essentially a data warehouse that prioritizes relevant information really really well. When you conduct a search, Google spits out information they currently have in their index and sometimes that information is not really relevant to what you are searching for. When you have gobs of data, you need a way to sort or filter the data that you don’t want. Google gives you plenty of options to filter and refine your results to pinpoint that information that you are really searching for. A great example that Dan taught in class was the cats example. Type in “cats” in Google. If you navigate to the left hand side you’ll see Web, Images, Maps, etc….. Click on “more” After you click on more you’ll see more search categories such as Discussions, Applications, and even Patents. As instructed in the class, if you filter the “cats” query by Patents, you’ll be able to browse all of the pending cat patents in the United States. How cool is that?
After I’ve gone through all of the classes and taken the mid and final assessment I received this fancy certificate below. Will it get me places? I’m not sure. Does it help boost my self esteem as someone who can conduct better searches? Definitely. In my opinion, Google did a fantastic job of educating people of their most beloved product on the internet and I hope they make more of these classes available.