You think you know Google? I doubt you know all of this!

By , September 26, 2011 9:23 am

by Robyn Hagle

Last Tuesday, I attended the WSBA sponsored course “Google Powered Law Office.”  I’m always a little skeptical about how worthwhile Google classes are for me as the instructor of two advanced Google classes at my firm.  I’ve been using advanced Google search functionality since the start of library school (now 8 years ago)!  How much more is there to learn?  How often does Google make changes to their core search functionality (not just their menus or page layout)?  Turns out, at least half the day was very worth my while.  I learned a number of new tips I’m happy to share with you.  I’ll also throw in a few of my favorite tips as well.

Tip #1:  The new search term limit for Google is 32 characters.  It used to be 10 characters.  That means Google throws out any character after 32.  If you didn’t already know this, word choice matters!

Tip #2:  Google used to archive digitized versions of print newspapers and you could search through the archive at  This archive has been discontinued.  The archive still exists and you can still search it, but it isn’t getting any bigger. The archive contents are now integrated into the regular Google News search.  So, if you want to run a search in just the archive, you must do so at the old URL.  The coverage of the archive varies greatly by publication.  For example, the Seattle Times is archived, but only 59 issues from Nov 14, 1900 – Jan 15, 1902.  The Spokesman Review archive, however, contains over 31,000 issues from Jun 16, 1889 – Dec 31, 2007.

Tip #3:  Google can perform reverse image searching.  You can either point to an image somewhere on the internet (you provide the URL) or you can upload an image.  Google will try to find the source of that image or find other images that look the same or similar.  It uses facial recognition to do this. To run a reverse image search, click on the camera icon on the images search page.

Tip #4:  Google phonebook searching has been discontinued.  The phonebook database pulled information from phone directories Google paid to license.  With so many people opting out of print phone directories, Google decided to discontinue the service.  Now when you perform a search for a phone #, the results aren’t coming from a directory.  Results are pulled from web pages containing that # somewhere on the page.

Tip #5:  Do you use the “timeline” feature under “more search tools?”  After running a search, you can click on the timeline feature to display a graphic that shows a timeline of your search.  For example, if you searched for “Rudy Giuliani,” the chart would show a dramatic increase in late 2001 and again between 2007-08.  I’m not sure how useful this feature is in filtering results but here’s what you should know about the dates logged on the graph.  The date could mean any of the following, depending on the metadata used (or not used) by the owner of the page:  the date of creation of a page (this is least often what it means but potentially the most helpful from a research perspective), the date the page was found by Google bots and added to their index (could be months or years after page was created), a date (any date) referenced on the actual page.  Use wisely.

Tip #6:  I often get asked if Google allows for proximity searching.  The answer is yes.  But now my answer is a little more sophisticated.  The proximity command in Google is:  AROUND(#). You must use all caps and the # in the parentheses probably shouldn’t be higher than 10 or 20.  For example, if you search: Robyn AROUND(5) Hagle, you will retrieve any mention of Robyn within 5 of Hagle.  In addition to looking for words between my first and last names, this search also looks for misspellings (Robin Hagel) and different orders (Hagle, Robyn).  If you want to search for Robyn Hagle (no misspellings, in that order) but still account for words between my first and last names, use quotes:  “Robyn AROUND(5) Hagle”

5 Responses to “You think you know Google? I doubt you know all of this!”

  1. Brenna Louzin says:


    Thanks for sharing these tips. I really appreciate it. Who taught the class?

  2. Robyn says:

    Thanks Brenna. It was taught by Carole Levitt and Mark Rosch. Carole has a MLIS!

  3. Pegeen says:

    Robyn, I second that. I was hoping to get to that course, as I have used Carole’s book in the past, she has some good information collected. Thanks for sharing your tips. Pegeen

  4. Warner Miller says:

    Thanks, Robyn — I thought I knew Google’s search logic pretty well but I had never heard of the proximity operator (AROUND). Great to know. — Warner

  5. Sue Mecklem says:

    Thanks for sharing – great tips!

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