Google teaches how to better use Google

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Even though Google has become an essential tool for lawyers, many attorneys use only a small fraction of its features. They would readily admit that their search skills could be improved.

If you’re looking for a small technology education investment that can pay big dividends, ramping up your Google search skills would be a great choice.

If you are a book person, I’d recommend Google for Lawyers by Carole Levitt and Mark Rosch as a starting point.

If you prefer online learning tools, however, check out Google’s own Power Searching course. The self-paced course uses a combination of short video lectures and practical exercises, and will give you a lot of tips, techniques and strategies.

Don’t even have the time for that? Check out the Quick Reference Guide for the course. Here are some tips to help you improve your Google skills:

Operators: By adding certain terms to your search, you can get better targeted results. For example, using “site:www.[desired domain name]” will bring you search results only from that domain, a great way to search a single website. Using “filetype:” will give you results of just PDFs or PowerPoint slides. Using “define:” will give you definitions.

Reference tools and calculators: Google offers features that let you make calculations; get stock quotes, weather reports, sports scores and more; and filter by categories.

Time-defined searches: When you get your results, click on the link for search tools under the search box and you’ll see an “Any time” dropdown menu that gives you a number of predefined options and a custom option so you can filter out old results or concentrate on a certain time period.

Image search: You can use Google to search for images. Even better, you can drag and drop an image into the search box in Google Image and get search results based on that image. This approach might help you find related pages, ideas or results that you might not have found otherwise.

Category filters: Under the search box on your results page, you’ll also see common categories to use to focus your search and a “More” dropdown that will let you search news, videos, blogs, books, patents and more.

One-character assistance: A tilde (~) in front of a search term also searches for synonyms. Putting a minus sign in front of a word eliminates unwanted, irrelevant results containing that word.

Translation: Using Google’s translation tools can be very useful in cases where foreign language searches are important and you don’t know the language.

I took the Google Power Searching course and found it valuable. You probably would, too. Improving your level of Google search competence, even in a few small ways, can greatly enhance your Google results effectiveness.

Dennis Kennedy is a St. Louis-based legal technology writer and information technology lawyer.

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