Raise your Google IQ: My favorite Google trick!

by Sally J.

Before I give away my all-time favorite research trick, I’d like to extend a warm welcome to new readers who discovered this blog via Family Tree Magazine. Not only was I featured in Fern Glazer’s wonderfully written article about preserving your family treasures, the Practical Archivist blog was named one of the 4 best blogs for family historians. An honor, indeed!

This Google trick is simple, but a little conceptual. So let’s take a step back…

  • When you use the phrase search box or place quotation marks around a set of words, Google searchers for that exact string of words. (For my earlier article about the benefits of phrase searching, click here.)
  • Many folks type their question in the search box. The problem is that the articles you are looking for will have the answer but not the question. It’s possible you will find a FAQ page or two, but most of the answers are written as regular sentences.
  • Solution = Type in the answer you are looking for, not your question.

Here’s an example from my days as Image Research Coordinator for American Girl:

We needed to add some color to a spread in Welcome to Kit’s World, a lavishly illustrated history of life in America during the Great Depression of the 1930s. There was plenty of black and white photography available, but certainly no color photography. My solution was to find a modern color photograph of a vintage 1930s dress…ideally a Ginger Rogers gown. But in order to track that down, I needed to know when Ms. Rogers died.

Here is what I typed into Google (remember, the quotation marks are important)

“Ginger Rogers died on”

What happened? The exact information I wanted came back as the top 5 or 6 results. Multiple sources with the same date was a strong argument for the accuracy of that date. My point here is that searching “when did Ginger Rogers die?” would not have returned these results.

In summary, to find what you are looking for, search for the ideal sentence that will answer your question, not the question itself. Happy hunting!

Other articles you might enjoy:

Raise your Google IQ in two easy keystrokes

Sally J. July 22, 2007 at 2:01 pm

And when it works, it’s like magic!

Moultrie Creek July 19, 2007 at 10:20 pm

You’re right – it’s too obvious. I had the quotation marks down, but not the idea of using the answer in my query. It was hiding in plain sight!

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