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Web Search: Google Search

How Google search works

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Google finds results based on your digital profile. Using algorithms to predict the results you want for your search, Google will send out crawlers to find information and present it to you at the top of its home page. This means that Google may not be interested in what you are searching for but what it thinks you want to see. Google is a fantastic starting place to find information, however, you need to be aware that its goals may not align to yours. 

  • "How Google Search Works" A 5:16 video published by Google on 24th October 2019:

Advanced Search

Google has its own command words you can use within your search in order to advanced search using the search bar. Refer to our Google advanced search page for useful tips on search syntax to retrieve the most out of your Google results. The Google Advanced Search form allows you to refine your search so that you can retrieve more relevant results.


  • Check what Google is tracking about your use and edit via
  • Word order matters – more weight to words that appear first in search string
  • Use as many words as possible in your search.



  • Great results, fast. Most popular search engine, leading the pack.
  • Innovation – new resources, search tools e.g. Google Translate (and Lens app) very useful for machine translation of text!
  • Personalisation: it learns your preferences and tailors results to you. Same with search suggestions as you type.



  • Money and ad revenue driven; cuts functionality/tools that aren’t profitable enough even if they are good e.g. Google Reader; synonym search symbol ~ (tilde)
  • “the tools come and go and the search experience can change not only from week to week but from hour to hour.”
  • Personalisation: results/ranking are affected by your previous searches, which can be problematic particular when searching the literature. Log out to search without personalisation. “…it’s very easy to end up in a filter bubble; only seeing material that reaffirms your beliefs.”
  • The only way to remove personalisation is to use DuckDuckGo which uses the Google database to run searches but Google cannot identify you as the user.
  • “Google is poor at nested logic, so it might entirely misunderstand complex searches that use several operators”
  • The real users are those that pay to advertise on Google. Generates revenue with successful matching to products you buy via ads. The more time you’re on Google, the more ad revenue it can generate, but you also need to successfully find what you are looking for – it’s a balancing act between the two imperatives. Search functionality has actually been removed over time! E.g. can no longer by ‘reading levels’. Advanced search is more hidden.
  • Searching for multiple words – should find them all, but sometimes it drops a few words and strikes them out under the page in the results.

Quotes taken from chapter 3 of Bradley, P. 2017. Expert Internet Searching. 5th edition. London: Facet Publishing.