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Search tips

This page will help you to use the search tool on this website. It introduces basic search concepts, and describes advanced techniques that produce more efficient search results.

Getting started with search

To search for a document, type a few descriptive words in the search box, and press the Enter key or click the magnifying glass icon. A results page appears with a list of documents and web pages that are related to your search terms, with the most relevant search results appearing at the top of the page. By default, only pages that include all of your search terms are returned. So to broaden or restrict the search, include fewer or more terms. You do not need to include "and" between the terms.

The search appliance uses sophisticated text-matching techniques to find pages that are both important and relevant to your search. For instance, the search appliance analyses not only the candidate page, but also the pages that link to it, too. The search appliance also prefers pages in which your query terms are near each other. Every search result lists one or more snippets, or excerpts from the document, to display the search terms in context. In the snippet, your search terms are displayed in bold text so that you can quickly determine if that result is from a page or document you want to visit.


For searches in some languages, a single spelling suggestion is returned with the results for queries where the spell checker has detected a possible spelling mistake.

The spell checker feature is context sensitive.

Your browser's language setting affects how the search appliance handles spelling corrections.

For information about how to change your browser's language setting, read the help system for the browser.


The search appliance searches are not case sensitive. All letters, regardless of how you enter them, are handled as lower case. For example, searches for "council tax," "council Tax," and "Council tax" return the same results.

Common words

Because they tend to slow down your search without improving the results, the search appliance ignores some terms, including:

  • Common words and characters, such as "where" and "how," when they are used in conjunction with other search terms

For example, if you search for "who," the search appliance does not ignore it. The search appliance returns results for "who." However, if you search for "Councillor who," the search appliance does ignore "who" and only returns results for "Councillor."

  • Certain single digits and single letters

If a common word is essential to getting the results you want, you can include it by putting a plus ("+") sign in front of it. Include a space before the "+" sign, but not after it.

Date Sort

By default, search results are sorted by relevance, with the most relevant result appearing at the top of the page. If you want to sort the documents by date instead, click the Sort by Date link. The most recent document appears at the top of the page and the date of each file is returned in the results. Results that do not contain dates are displayed at the end and are sorted by relevance.


When you search for numbers, do not use exponential numbers, such as "1e10," or negative integers, such as "-12."

Numbers that are separated by commas are treated as separate figures, not fractional numbers; that is, the comma is treated as a term separator, not a decimal separator. For example, if you type "3,75", the search query is treated as a search for two separate terms, "3" and "75", not the decimal fraction, "three and three quarters." Commas that separate every three digits are ignored and are not necessary. For example, both "10,000" and "10000" are treated alike.

Widening your search

You can expand your search by using the ORoperator. To retrieve pages that include either word A or word B, use an uppercase OR between terms.

Refining your search

Since the search appliance returns only web pages that contain all of the words in your query, refining or narrowing your search is as simple as adding more words to the search terms you have already entered. The refined query returns a subset of the pages that were returned by your original broad query. If that does not get the results that you want, you can try to exclude words, search for exact phrases, or restrict the search to a range of numbers. These techniques are described in the following subsections.

Word exclusion

If your search term has more than one meaning, you can focus your search by adding a minus sign ("-") in front of words related to the meaning you want to avoid. Make sure you include a space before the minus sign. You can daisy chain a list of words you want to exclude.

Phrase searches

Phrase searches are useful when you are searching for famous sayings or specific names. You can search for an exact phrase or name in the following ways:

  • By enclosing the phrase in quotation marks. The search appliance only returns documents that include the exact phrase you entered.
  • By using phrase connectors—such as hyphens, slashes, periods, equal signs, and apostrophes—in between every word of your search query.

Phrase connectors and quotation marks join your search words as a single unit.

Range searches

You can confine your search query within a certain range. You can set ranges for dates, weights, prices, meta tags, and so on. The following subsections describe ways you can refine your searches with ranges.

Date ranges

You can search for documents that contain dates that fall within a time frame. To use date range search, type all of the following:

  • The search term
  • The daterange: operator
  • The start date
  • The range separator (which is two periods if you are using a YYYY-MM-DD format)
  • The end date

Do not add a space between the search operator and the date range.

Metadata and meta tag ranges

You can search only for documents that include metadata or meta tags that contain numbers within the range you specified. To use metadata range search, type all of the following:

  • The search term
  • The inmeta: operator
  • The name of metadata or meta tag
  • The range of numbers separated by two periods ("..")

For accurate date range searches with inmeta the meta tag content must contain only the date and no other data. Suppose your documents have metadata called "modified" that contains the last modified dates of the documents.

Advanced search operators

The search appliance supports several advanced operators, which are query words that restricts your search to a smaller set of documents. Find out how to use advanced search operators at www.googleguide.com/advanced_operators.html.