Google n00b - don't be this guy.

You’ve probably heard that there’s no such thing as a stupid question. However, these days this expression might need a bit of an update – there are no stupid questions, but there are clumsy Google searches.

Search engines are the go-to tool for finding answers to almost anything in no time flat. But, sometimes, getting those answers can require some skill. So, we’ve rounded up some top hacks to help you optimize your search efficiency.

1. Be a Smooth Operator

Using specific search terms in your query is a good start, but adding some Google operators can really help you narrow down your results. Here are a few of the most powerful operators:

” “ Performs an exact phrase search instead of searching for each separate word in your query
 site: Restricts your search to the pages of a particular site
 –  Excludes a word from your search
 ~  Includes related words in the search

So, if you want to search for Washington Post articles about college test scores, but you don’t want articles about the SAT, you could formulate a query like this: “test scores” ~college -SAT

2. Play the Wildcard

The asterisk operator can be your secret weapon, if you know when and where to deploy it. This wildcard acts as a placeholder that Google fills in later. It’s perfect if you’re trying to track down a song lyric or quote, and you only know a few of the words. Test this one out and see how Google fills in the blanks in its search suggestions:

Where there’s a *, there’s a *

3. Speak Like a Website

This is a big one. Most people perform Google searches using the same language they use when they’re speaking. While search engines have gotten better at figuring out these natural-language queries, you’ll often get more accurate results if you use the kind of words that websites use. For example, instead of entering this:

I need someone in Boston to fix my broken refrigerator

You’ll have better luck with this:

Refrigerator repair Boston

4. Be a Scholar

When you have to cite studies and reports in an article, sometimes you need credible, academic sources. Some of these come up in regular Google searches, but you’ll need to filter through a lot of not-so-scholarly material to find them. Enter Google Scholar: a search engine that focuses on content from academic publishers, peer-reviewed journals, court opinions and universities. You still search the same way you would on Google or other search engines, but you’re more likely to find the research and statistics you’re looking for.

5. Don’t Sweat the Spelling

Google is pretty forgiving about spelling and can usually recognize what you’re trying to search for. Type this phrase into Google and see what happens: “Nvr gona giv yu up.” See? Google’s never gonna let you down, never gonna tell a lie and hurt you. This flexibility in spelling is especially helpful when you’re using an obscure word or name in your search. Google is also easygoing about grammar and capitalization.

Cutting Through the Clutter

Search engines are powerful tools, but with so much information out there, it can be hard to find exactly what you need. Hopefully these tips can help you expand or narrow your searches, so you can track down the right information for your content.