Advanced Google Search Tips for Pastors and Church Staff

Craig Van Korlaar —  July 2, 2013

Most of us use Google every day, but few people know just how powerful Google’s search capabilities actually are. I spend a good deal of time doing online research for academic, work, and personal interest purposes. One of the best investments of time I’ve made in the past 3 years was taking several advanced Google search courses. I thought I would share some of the more common Google search operators I use while “power searching.”

[Non-Google] How to search within an open document, PDF or webpage

CTRL-F (Windows)  or Command-F (Mac) opens the find function. Type in a word and it searches the open document or page. I use this function at least 5 times a day for everything from email to research. If you remember to use just this simple tip, you’re better off than 90% of internet users who are unaware of it.

If you want to get even more fancy and become a search ninja, I recommend familiarizing yourself with the following Googling tips and operators.

filetype: Find documents of a specific file type

  • filetype:doc example volunteer signup forms returns volunteer signup forms that are in editable word document formats
  • social media posting guide filetype:pdf returns only pdf document versions of social media posting guides
  • sermon on the mount notes filetype:pdf is a great way to find notes and resources from other churches and seminaries to aid in the creation of yours (think inspiration not stealing)

site: Restrict your search to specific domains/directories

  • site:.gov only shows results from .gov websites (e.g. site:.gov hispanic faith )
  • site:fuller.edu only shows results from Fuller Seminary’s website. (e.g. site:fuller.edu tuition)
  • site:churchrelevance.com/resources/ only searches the “Resources” folder on ChurchRelevance.com

“keyword(s)” Restrict your search to those containing an exact phrase

Adding quotations around a word or phrase is a great way to search for quotes, scripture, song lyrics, or when trying to narrow a search that had returned too many irrelevant results.

  • “go on up you baldhead” Try it to learn the fate of the child taunters of Elisha.
  • “The mind commands itself and meets resistance.” Remember part of a quote, but not the whole thing? Enter what you know in quotes and Google will help you track down the rest.

-keyword Exclude searches containing a specific key word

  • martin luther -king shows results for Martin Luther, but exclude any that contain the word “king”

Restrict your results published within a specified date range

Select “Search Tools” located under the search bar, then change “Any Time” to the option of your choice.

Google Time Sensitive Search Example

Find the source(s) of an image

1. Save the image to your desktop or other easy to access location.
2. While on Google.com, click on “Images”
3. Drag the image file into the google image search bar and it will change to drag and drop box
4. Links to similar images and source articles should appear

Unknown Image Google Search

link: Find Indexed Pages that Point to a URL

A great way to find other articles that link to a particular webpage/article. Note: you’ll often get a strong mix of pros, cons, and inbetweens. Also, this is rarely an exhaustive list as any links with a “nofollow” tag or found on unindexed pages will not be shown.

  • link:religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/05/31/southern-baptists-to-urge-churches-and-members-to-cut-boy-scout-ties/
  • link:churchrelevance.com/resources/top-church-blogs/

Other Advanced Search Options

  • Fill in the blank –> blessed are the meek * earth
  • Find a definition of a word directly from search results –>  define:kosher
  • Search within the title only intitle:Francis Chan
  • Find results with one of two key works by using OR between them–> writings of peter OR paul
  • Find articles that include a number within a range using two dots between –> Homosexuality and the church 1800..1900
  • Only search within news articles –> Under the google search bar select the “More” dropdown and choose “News”
  • Search for creative commons licensed content –> Scroll down towards the bottom of google.com or any search result page and click “Advanced Options“. Near the bottom select your desired CC licenses from the section titled “Usage Rights”

There are many more advanced search options available, but I find these help me get to 98% of the answers/resources I need. Do you have a favorite which is not listed here?

Craig Van Korlaar

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Craig is founder of TopNonprofits.com, a curation of best practices from the world's leading nonprofits. His skills were honed as a decorated sergeant and enlisted aerial navigator for the U.S. Marine Corps and nurtured through his work at public schools, the YMCA, and Food for the Hungry. Most recently, Craig has served as operations director at Phoenix's New City Church, co-founder of SoChurch communications software, and a key player in laying the groundwork for OpenChurch.com. Craig spent much of his formative years as a missionary's kid in Kenya and civil war-torn Zaire.