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How to Use Search Engines

Different search engines each use slightly different methods, but most of the following tips will work with most of the main search engines.

The, How, In

Common words and digits are ignored, as is (usually) the distinction between upper–case and lower–case letters. So there’s no point typing holiday apartments in the south of Spain when you can save time by typing holiday apartments south spain. If you need to include a common word or digit, put a space then a plus (+) sign immediately in front of it, e.g. pinter +the caretaker.

Combinations of Words

When you simply enter words into a search box, you are asking the search engine to find instances of each of those specific words. So holiday apartments would return pages containing the word holiday and pages containing the word apartments, in that order of importance. To limit the search to a particular combination of words, place double quotation marks around the phrase, e.g. “holiday apartments”.


Search engines recognise some common synonyms. For example, if you search for county mall crawley opening hours, the results will probably also include results for county mall crawley opening times.

To be certain, you can search for synonyms of a search term as well as the term itself by placing a tilde (~) immediately in front of the term. So ~holiday ~apartments would return search results for holiday flats and vacation apartments as well as holiday apartments.

Get to the Point

Use search terms which are relevant and which are likely to appear on the web pages you want to see. So nice clean ~holiday ~apartments spain probably won’t do as well as luxury ~holiday ~apartments spain.

Either Or

If you want to search for either of two search terms, place an upper–case OR between them, e.g. holiday apartments spain OR france.

Excluding Meanings

English is notorious for the number of words which are spelt the same but have different meanings. You can exclude particular meanings by placing a space then a minus sign (-) immediately in front of words, so that e.g. train -teach would return results for railway trains while excluding results for training courses.

Searching Websites

To search for a term within a specific website, add site: followed by the domain name, e.g. benalmádena

Ranges of Numbers

You can specify a range of numbers by placing two dots, without spaces, between the lower and upper numbers of the range, e.g. digital camera £200..£500.


An asterisk (*) can function as a placeholder for unknown characters, so that e.g. manchester uni* would return search results for both Manchester United and Manchester University.