You may have spotted a piece in The Guardian last week offering hints and tips on how to “search like a pro” using Google (you might also be interested in checking out this critique of their tips). Thing is, despite its ubiquity in terms of how we talk about the internet, Google isn’t the only search engine out there. There are alternatives that are just as effective.
Although I do still use Google from time to time, the default search engine in both my main browsers (Firefox and Chrome) is DuckDuckGo (DDG). Yep, it’s not quite as catchy a name as Google, and it does sound kinda odd when you say the name out loud, but it is a very good search engine for a number of reasons. Primarily, if you are concerned about privacy and the sharing of your personal data, DuckDuckGo commits to neither collect nor share personal information (see their privacy statement here).
So, how about some tips on using one of the lesser known, if more secure, search engines that are available…
1. Set region specific results
The first thing you need to do when you use DDG is set up the country you are searching from to ensure the results are tailored to you. To do so, click on the three horizontal bars in the top right of the web page, then choose Advanced Settings, then select the appropriate country. If you are searching in the UK, you should then find UK based results are prioritised.
2. Get instant answers
DDG can provide instant answers to some specific questions. So, for example, as well as a basic calculator function, you can also ask it to provide words that rhyme, look up flight information or even get the full “cheat sheet” for your operating system.
3. Search a specific site direct from DDG
Rather than going to a specific website and conducting a search, you can search that website direct from DDG using !Bangs. So, for example, if you want to search for results on the BBC, just search using !bbcnews and you’ll be taken directly to the search results page on the BBC website (as soon as you type a “!”, DDG will offer popular options). A full list of !Bangs is available here.
4. AND and OR
Like most search engines, DDG adds the AND for you so you don’t need to. If you want to search for two different terms then you need to use OR. If you use parentheses to frame your searching you don’t need to put spaces between the parenthesis and the word and you need to double up on parentheses at the end. For example, ((positive psychology)AND((wellbeing)OR(mindfulness))) will search for positive psychology and either wellbeing or mindfulness.
5. Remove a word from results
If you want to exclude certain terms from your search, just use a ‘-‘ immediately before the term you wish to exclude. So, for example, if you were interested in drug therapy but not in relation to alcohol, you would enter the search terms “drug therapy” –alcohol (the term to be removed from results must always be at the end of the search string).
6. Search a particular domain
To only look on a specific domain (eg gov.uk, the UK government’s domain) simply add site:[domain] to your search. For example, psychology site:gov.uk. If you want to search multiple domains, simply separate the domains with commas, eg dementia site:theguardian.com,telegraph.co.uk
7. Search results for a particular region
If you only wanted results from a particular region, add site:uk to your results using the domain codes for that specific country.
8. Find particular formats
If you want to look for pdf documents (often used for official reports etc), add f:pdf to your results. For example, the search term counselling site:gov.uk f:.pdf will find PDF documents on the UK government’s domain (gov.uk) that include the term “counselling”.
9. Search for a term in the title of a web page
When you want to find pages with a particular term in the title, use intitle: before the terms you are looking for. For example, intitle:mindfulness AND counselling will bring you results where both mindfulness and counselling are in the title of the webpage.
10. Search news
If you want to search for news stories, just add news to your search terms eg mental health news. To view more news stories, just click the nine dots forming a square on the right of the screen.