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June 8, 2004

"Google: The Missing Manual": Sought-After Secrets to Becoming a Search Guru

Sebastopol, CA--Most of the time, when you run a Google search, it simply works. You type in The Simpsons, press Enter, and you've got all the character bios, episode guides, and Bart hood ornaments you could ever want. That's the beauty of Google.

But what about when you want to find something trickier? Say you're a journalist writing a story on deadline for tomorrow, and you need a quote from an expert in negotiations. You have two potential sources but neither of them is returning your calls. A friend, however, recently raved about a negotiations trainer his company brought in from a place called something like Watershed Consultants. So you run a search for Watershed Consultants ... and Google gives you 120,000 results--all about saving ecosystems and revitalizing rivers. Your friend is on vacation, and your story can't wait. What do you do?

Naturally, you pick up a copy of Google: The Missing Manual (O'Reilly, US $19.95) by Sarah Milstein and Rael Dornfest, and almost instantly, you find what you're looking for. From search tricks and efficiency tools to little-known corners of Google, the book includes everything you need to find high-quality information in a hurry.

Unlike O'Reilly's Google Hacks, which was written for developers (and included a lot of programming tricks), Google: The Missing Manual has explanations, tips, and secrets for everyone from computer newbies to seasoned searchers. It's virtually code-free, but it's not dumbed down.

The readable, humorous writing covers Google in all its sophistication, describing not only how to use the myriad features on the site (many of them hidden) but also when they're useful, too. Other books on Google are woefully thin in this department, leaving readers with well-stocked tool belts but no idea when to use the hammer and when to use the screwdriver.

Google: The Missing Manual gives readers the examples they need to get the most out of Google. Whether explaining how to craft a successful search, when to use Google Answers, or how to customize the Google toolbar, the book provides juicy discussions in straightforward language, appealing both to readers learning their way around the Web and to those who already use Google eighty times an hour. This Missing Manual also includes two chapters for webmasters, revealing how to show up in search results and how to make money with Google.

Here's an example of what readers can learn from Google: The Missing Manual. Let's return to the Watershed Consultants problem. As you may know, a Google search for "Watershed Consultants" gives you every page that mentions both those terms. If you want to find only pages that discuss the phrase, put quotes around it, like this: "Watershed Consultants." This hones your results from 150,000 to about 670--not an insane number to sift through. But if "Watershed Consultants" is not the exact name of the firm, you're out of luck. You could try the same trick with "Watershed Consulting," but again, you'd need an exact name match.

Instead of quotes, you could add terms to your query to narrow it down. Since you're looking for an expert in negotiation, and your friend works in Washington D.C., rebuild your search like this: "Watershed Consultants negotiation DC." Since that still leaves you with more than 8,000 results, it's time to tell Google to ignore the pages with words you don't want. Use the minus sign before extraneous terms (you can have up to ten words in a Google query), like this: "Watershed Consultants negotiation DC -water -river -ecological -aquatic -environmental -conservation." Now you're netting a very manageable 86 results--and the first one is Watershed Associates, a Washington firm that consults on negotiating skills. A watershed moment, you might say.

It doesn't matter if you're new to the Web or an Internet aficionado; Google: The Missing Manual will help you get more out of the world's favorite search engine.

Additional Resources:

Google: The Missing Manual
Sarah Milstein, Rael Dornfest
ISBN 0-596-00613-6, 299 pages, $19.95 US, $28.95 CA
order@oreilly.com
1-800-998-9938; 1-707-827-7000

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