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Google is the gateway to endless amounts of information. The same attribute that makes Google useful — its vastness — also makes it daunting. Using the techniques below will make it easier for you to find relevant information from reputable sources.

1. Tell Google Exactly What You Want

Google responds to the precise keywords in your search. Zone in on exactly what you want to know. The more specific you are, the more accurate your results. If you want to know the best way to remove cat hair from clothing, don’t limit your search to “cats” or even “cat hair.” Those broad terms will bring up results about living with cats, adopting cats, feral cats, cat health, cat grooming and many other concepts. Type in exactly what you want to know: how to remove cat hair from clothing.

2. Limit Your Results to Specific Websites

Almost anyone can create a website. Few sites stand out as reliable and authoritative. You can focus on those sites most likely to provide the information you want by limiting your search results to a certain domain name or extension. The extension “.edu” is reserved for academic institutions, “.org” non-profits and “.gov” state and local governments. Enter your search term followed by the string “site:.edu” to get results only from colleges and universities, or “site:.gov” only from governments. If you want to search only a specific website, put in the full address. If you want tax information from the IRS, for example, type in your query plus “site:irs.gov” and you will only get results from that site.

3. Recognize the Ads

The first site you see in Google search results is often a paid advertisement. Google identifies ads with a yellow box that says “Ad” next to the result. Depending on what information you require, the most reliable source may be in the organic or “natural” results, which appear in the body of the page and are the regular search entries we all know and love. These are valuable because Google is ranking them based on relevancy and quality, not the website’s ability to pay for exposure.

Sometimes advertisements may be just what you need, but it is important that you recognize which results are natural and which are paid for.

4. Use Google Images

If you want to find a specific piece of information but can’t remember the exact word to use, Google images might help. If you are trying to remember the name of an actor in a movie, for example, you can place the name of the movie in the search box. Click on “images” and you will see a selection of photographs from websites on that topic. When you see the actor whose name you can’t remember, click on the photo and you will be taken to the site to get more information.

5. Use Quotes

When that song won’t get out of your head, or you’re trying to find the movie that goes with that famous line, put what you know into the Google search box. If you are sure your quote is correct, put quotation marks around the full phrase. Your search results will only include those hits that have the complete phrase you are looking for.

Regardless of how you get there, remember to read any website with a discerning eye. Check out the “about” pages, read author biographies and listen to your common sense before relying on any information you find.

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