Years ago I worked for an Insurance Brokerage in their Marketing department. It was only a small firm and my position encompassed many varied tasks, with Internet marketing at the time being a small piece of the overall puzzle. How times have changed!
One day all the Brokers were invited by one of the major underwriters to go on one of those Adventure Races, you know the type, there’s clues hidden around the city and teams must find them in a race to be the first to find the final clue. Not being a broker, I was illegible to attend this event *frowny face*. Instead, I was entrusted with the far more important task of being the ‘eye in the sky’, the guy in the office that my team called to ask for help in regards to the clues. This was back in the days before smartphones were ubiquitous, betraying my advancing age.
I felt like I was a better looking Tom Arnold and they were the Arnold Schwarzenegger in True Lies; they’d relay information from the clues and I would go to task on Google, translating and decoding! Well, not really decoding, but it felt like I was decoding, considering I was able to completely deconstruct the clues easily and simply, by using a few simple tricks I’d picked up well before I’d even began my stellar career based solely in the online sector.
My team won, largely based off of my Google-fu. Now, I can’t remember the clues, we’re talking almost a decade ago, but there were certainly some Googling tactics I tried which brought home gold.
The first thing I tried for the first clue was to put inverted commas around the exact wording of the clue, so for example, ‘test’.
BOOM! I got the perfect result.
The second clue was harder. The inverted commas around the search terms didn’t immediately bring up the results I needed, as they were probably too general. I noticed that the results repeated another keyword that I didn’t want, so I placed a ‘-‘ ‘in front of that word, e.g., -word.
BAM! The third result was exactly what I needed, and my team were off and running (except George, who was, shall we say, a larger gentleman).
Again the phone call came through; the third clue was intimidating, even for an internet warlock like me. This one had me stumped, so I arranged four computer screens in front of me at my desk (because I’d seen it in Swordfish), none of them flat screen, only one of them working.
I cracked my knuckles and got down to business, the sweat on my brow dripping down my nose, my furrowed brow focusing my energy on the screen in front of me. My fingers began blurring as I tried a variety of techniques.
I searched for related words to the clue using ‘~’, as in: ~search
No match. The clock was ticking. A lightbulb struck, the clue might be missing some keywords in the phrase, so I tested out the theory by placing an asterisk between the words, like thus: Search * words
No luck. Time was running out.
I remembered briefly seeing something related in the newspaper (remember, this was back in the day when printed news was still a relevant thing) related to the clue, so I typed in the name of the newspaper’s website and the clue, hence: Site: clue
Success! Just in the nick of time, my team had received the final clue and was off to the finish line.
I was hailed as a hero that day on the abandoned floor of that Insurance Brokerage. I was by myself, but still…
Google has continued to develop little tricks or ‘hacks’ as I refer to them, hoping I am out of earshot of anyone in 4chan or Anonymous. In particular the rise of the social network has resulted in a number of additions to Google Searches that make it easier to find, such as:
If you’re looking for an item with a price, just put the name of the item and the price you’re looking for with the dollar sign: Item $XX
Or if you’re looking for a price range, place two periods between the numbers: Item $XX..XXY
There are some fun things you can do, too, like typing in ‘do a barrel roll’, or ‘askew’, both resulting in some amusing changes to the page. As a lover of language, it can translate, or define, be a thesaurus or give the etymology of any of the words you put in.
Who knew Googling is so much fun!