Desk research is a key way to get to know a client and what’s happening in their world. Search engines provide a series of useful, if somewhat hidden, shortcuts that help you to get more effective results.
Here’s a round-up of the seven search tips covered in the video. They provide a useful starting for UX designers and content strategists when doing desk research in the discovery phase of a project. You can mix and match them as you need.
Use this to limit results to those from a specific website. It gives you an indication of the size and contents of the website.
Using a search term (Clearleft) and then excluding a site from the results (clearleft.com) is useful to see where else online the client appears.
This syntax returns pages with clearleft in the url (*clearleft.com) with the exclusion of anything on the www domain (-www). This is a useful way to see what sub-sites sit on the same domain such as side projects, campaign microsites or pattern libraries to explore.
The search operator ‘related:’ returns a list of websites based on similar content and user searches. It’s a good starting point for competitor research.
Search term -exclude
As an alternative to getting more precise with a search term (i.e “exact phrase”), you can remove phrases from results by adding a minus symbol ahead of a word. If you combine this with a wildcard asterisk your results will include stemming on a phrase (e.g. -photo* will remove photography, photosynthesis etc).
Predictive search terms
The suggested search terms are a useful shortcut to see key volume search queries. When referenced against a website you can see if the queries represent missing or hard to find content.
You can either use google.com/imghp or the tab for images on the results page. This gives a flavour for how the client or a topic is visually represented. I find it useful to think about what is missing that I’d expect to see and what is surprising.
Search engines regularly update their syntax both adding and removing operators. The supported search operators for some popular search engines can be found at: