February 13, 2023
min read

13 Google Search Tips For Developers to Search Like a Pro

Eli McGarvie

Google. We all know it, and we all semi-love it. The product is great, just not a massive fan of all the data privacy stuff. You know, where they read all of your emails and share them with some three-letter agency in America. I guess there are some things we just have to accept in exchange for convenience and faster delivery times. 

A quick Google search will tell you that the average person uses Google three to four times a day. But what about you, the guy in tech? 20 times? 30 times? You’re using search all the time to help you with work, solve complex problems, and troubleshoot errors. With that much screen time, I’m sure you’re well aware of how to use Google. You probably even know some of these Google tips I’m about to share. But on the off chance that you don’t know, here’s a list of all of the advanced google search tips to help you when you’re on the job. 

File extensions

filetype google search tip

This is a common one that can help you narrow down your search to a specific file type. Say you’re looking for a pdf or PowerPoint on a specific search term. Use filetype. In this example, I’m looking for an e-book tutorial on React so this is what I’ll type:

  • React.js Filetype:pdf

Specific words

Since Google search is a very complex algorithm it understands words and terms that are closely related, presenting these to us if it thinks they’re relevant. That’s great if we are being vague, but if we are being specific, it can hinder our search. If you want a specific word to be in the header or the meta use quotation marks around that word (or term). 

  • React error “boundary”

This is great if you are looking for something that might be buried deep inside the pages of Google search. This search will also override Google’s page ranking system so you won’t get what Google thinks is best.  

Site-specific search

So you’re testing a piece of code and it’s not working for some reason. The answer is on StackOverflow but you forgot where. You can use this Google tip to search a specific site (StackOverflow) for your query. 

  • My code is broken site:stackoverflow.com

You can also use this method to search for a type of domain. Government, education, organisation, etc.

  • mkultra site:.gov

Filter results by time

Not really a crazy hack but a helpful feature you might not be aware of. On the right-hand side of the search bar, you’ll find the Tools button, if you click it, you’ll see a time filter appear. 

Now you can narrow down your search to a specific timeframe. Say I want to find the most up-to-date beginner's React tutorial (as a downloadable PDF). I’ll search for filetype and then exclude results older than a year. 

Exclude words

Use the minus symbol before a word to exclude it from the search. For example, if you search “frontend frameworks” you’re probably going to see something related to React but you desperately hate React, so you want to exclude all results with the term “react” in them. It looks something like this:

  • Frontend frameworks -react

Find out who is linking to your website

There are plenty of apps out there that will tell you who’s linking to your website, but it’s handy to know you can find this at any time in your search bar. Use it in conjunction with the time filter for better results.

  • link:wearedevelopers.com

Asterisk as a placeholder

You are looking for a page that talks about a specific phrase but you’ve forgotten a word or two in the phrase. The best example is a song lyric, where you remember the popular words but have forgotten the name of the song. So what you do is put an asterisk on either side of the word(s) you are not sure about and that lets Google know the word is a placeholder and can be replaced with anything. Try this one:

  • WeAreDevelopers *event* 2023

Find similar sites

I use this all the time for competitor research. Use the related tag and find all the websites Google thinks are similar.

  • Related:wearedevelopers.com

The only problem with this Google tip is that the results are greatly affected by the site's popularity. So with smaller sites, you might not get a list of competitors but instead, get results that talk about similar sites. SimilarWeb is usually the top example.

Search multiple words and phrases 

To search multiple words or phrases use quotation marks around the words and separate them by OR:

  • “Developer event” OR “developer conference” 

Range of numbers 

It could be that you are looking for a specific date or number in the title. To narrow search results down to a number or date put two dots in front, like this: 

  • Developer conference ..2023

What if you want to search a range of numbers? Easy, just put the two dots between the values like this:

  • Developer conference 2019..2023

Image size

Google is a great place to source images but often the resolution is low or the size is too small for what we need. So instead of wasting time checking every image to see if it fits your requirements, use this Google search tip to filter images by dimensions.

  • Imagesize:widthxheight

Search social media

This Google search tip is probably more relevant for stalkers rather than developers but I’ll share it anyway. Nothing groundbreaking — if you are looking for someone or somethings socials put an @ symbol in front of the term. 

  • @wearedevelopers

Cached version of a site

Google stores a copy of websites in its archives, even if the site is no longer available. You can access the cached page for relevant and familiar content, especially if the site is no longer related to your search or has undergone major changes.

  •  cache:yoursite.com

Advanced Search

And of course, if you are struggling to find anything else via Google search you can 1. use a different search engine or 2. use Google’s advanced search feature. Go to Settings and then Advanced Search, and you’ll find a form with all of the search options I’ve mentioned in this list. 

That’s all! I wish there were a lot of crazy Google secrets to share (which is what I kind of expected when I started writing this article) but no, there are only a handful of simple Google search tips to share. I hope and pray that you’ve at least learnt one thing today 🤞

13 Google Search Tips For Developers to Search Like a Pro

February 13, 2023
min read

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