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A Dozen Sweet Things You Never Knew Google Could Do

This isn’t really related to SEO or web design — it’s more of just a super sweet article that I couldn’t avoid writing. We all love Google, but Google just keeps adding functionality, and a lot of it goes totally unnoticed by the masses. So here’s a dozen amazing things you probably had no idea Google could do for you.

Count Down to Oblivion (or whatever you want)
By typing “Set Timer for” and then either a number of minutes (159 minutes) or a specific time (14:30), Google will start a big-font countdown just under the search bar. Leave that tab untouched until the timer zeroes out, and Google will beep rather assertively at you. Pretty sweet, huh?

Unit Conversions
I used to use Wolfram Alpha for all of my unit conversions — when you have clients from the UK or Japan, you have to convert. But then Google added the functionality to the search browser, and now if I need to know how many millimeters there are in a yard or how many yen there are in a pound, I can just slap it into Google and get the answer immediately.

Detailed Flight Information
This one is minor, but cool: type in your airline and flight number for an instant, up-to-the-moment flight information including departure and expected arrival times.

Time Check
Google is good with times. You can just type “time” to get the accurate time in your location, or you can ask it a question like “what time is it in Detroit?” to figure out whether or not it’s a good time to call me when you’re in Paris.

Translate On The Fly
Everyone knows about Google Translate by now — but not many people realize that you don’t have to load up the interface if you’re in a real hurry. If you type in “translate “, you’ll get it right there in the search results. It’s not perfect, though — there are always minor translation errors “Translate the closed mouth swallows no flies spanish” gives you “las golondrinas boca cerrada no entran moscas”, which literally means “The swallows closed mouth flies don’t enter” — treating swallows as a noun (the bird) rather than a verb. But it’s still quite useful for minor, on-the-fly (no pun intended) translations.

Search For An Unknown Word in a Phrase
Google calls this “Wild Card Searching”, and it’s pretty simple. Just put an asterisk in a phrase where your unknown word should go. It’s a great way to see if some new service your considering signing up for is good or not — just plug in “ is *” and see what you get. Just for fun, I did this with “Net Profit Marketing” and got results that ranged from “Net Profit Marketing is accredited by…” to “Net Profit Marketing is popular.” (Thanks,!)

Search For A Broader Definition
If you want to get a looser version of the same search, you can just add a tilde to the beginning of a word. That tells Google to look up not only that word, but all of it’s known synonyms and include those results in the search as well. That makes it pretty useless when you’re looking up a pop culture item, but great if what you’re looking for is inexpensive running shoes, but ~cheap ~marathon ~sneakers will do just fine.

Site Search
I use this one all the time. Let’s say I forgot the URL of the article where I last talked about Pinterest. I can type in “site: Pinterest”, and I’ll only get results from my own site that have the word Pinterest in them.

Either-Or Searches
Use the pipe (“|”) to create an either-or. Let’s say, for example, you want information on the song ‘Loser’, but you want to know about both the Beck version and the Rizzle Kicks cover — putting in “Loser Beck|Rizzle Kicks” will get you what you want.

Date Ranges
Let’s say you want all of the news relating to your industry from 1999 to 2009. “Web design|SEO 1999..2009”, using two periods between the relevant dates will do the trick.

Find URLs Containing Certain Terms
Let’s say you’re looking for some content to inspire you about a certain subject. You don’t care what it is, but you don’t want to waste your time looking at something that wasn’t intended to be consumable content. Add “inurl:article” to your search, and you’ll only get results with “article” in the URL, which are almost all intended to be consumable content. Similarly, if you’re looking for people’s genuine opinions about a product or service, “inurl:forum” will give you lots of message boards (where people have a tendency to express themselves honestly about crap they just bought.)

Find Specific File Types
Here’s one that almost no one uses, but it’s pretty sweet under the right circumstances: “filetype:” The search command can take any three- or four-letter extension (.xls, .docx, .pdf, etc.) as an argument — so if you want to find a PDF written by the White House about terrorist attacks between 2000 and 2004 (getting tricky here!), “site: filetype:pdf 2000..2004 terrorist|terror” is a very good place to start.

This was long and crazy and fun — hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed learning all of this stuff, and may you find whatever it is you’re searching for!

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