So, what’s the first step? Where does a good Google Search start?
In your mind. The first step is to have mental clarity about what it is that you want. (The next step is to translate it into a language that Google understands best.) If you yourself are not clear in your mind or forget about what you want, Google will not be able to help you much (even if it uses the most sophisticated technology in the world). This is a common human frailty to guard against, nothing specific to the context of information retrieval, as Paul Nitze puts it: “One of the most dangerous forms of human error is forgetting what one is trying to achieve.”
Google’s ultimate goal is to develop the “perfect search engine”: one that “understands exactly what you mean and gives you back exactly what you want.” Until that happens, though, reducing the amount of information actually sought and acquired by “pre-filtering perceived information requirements” (specifying clear, well-defined needs) is a crucial first step to reduce the information overload that might happen otherwise.
 Should I be concerned about the CaSiNg of my search terms?
Not really. Google is case insensitive by design (Ignoring case differences increases the number of results Google finds).
Example: Google will return the same results for, say,
, [SQL Server], or [SqL sErVeR].
The preferred way, thus, is to search using lower case (Why waste precious seconds in casing your search string when your search tool does not understand casing?).
. NO: [SQL Server] or [SqL sErVeR].
Please note, however, that Google search operators ARE case sensitive. While using, say, the OR operator, if you write OR with a lowercase "o" or a lowercase "r" (Or, oR, or), Google interprets the word as a search term instead of an operator.
Example: If you want pages with either "php" or "ajax":
 How careful should I be in my choice of search terms?
Very. This is one of the most important and most ignored steps.
Start with the most common name something is known by.
Example: If you are looking for general information on SQL Server:
. NO: [structured query language server] or [microsoft-licensed database management software].
Use multiple words if they provide a stronger definition of your need.
Example: If you are looking for information regarding SQL Server Reporting Services:
Be brief. Use sufficiently specific search terms. Well-defined needs using words or short phrases generally yield the most accurate results than full sentences and questions.
Example: If you are looking for tutorials in a specific programming language:
NO: [where do i find computer-assisted instructions on how to use microsoft-licensed database management software]. (Google will try to find pages containing all the terms and won't necessarily find any pages containing all of those.)
YES: [tutorial java]
NO: [please give me a great website address with the finest tutorials on java as soon as you can]. (One need not say as much. Google's PageRank algorithm will send the best, most-respected websites matching one's requirement to the top.)
To summarize, common, well-defined, and specific search terms yield the best results.
 If I want Google to return pages that include all (not any) of my search terms (e.g. both "php" and "ajax"), what extra thing do I need to do?
Nothing. Google's default behaviour is to return pages that include all of your search terms. There is no need to include AND between your search terms. Hence, this notation is called an implicit AND.
Example: If you want pages that have both "php" and "ajax":
Please note that the order of search terms also affects search results to an extent.
 What do I need to do to find pages containing an exact phrase?
Put quotation marks around your search terms. Good for searching an exact phrase, proper name, or set of words in a specific order. Bad otherwise: disables automatic stemming, automatic removal of stop words, etc and returns, if any, an extremely narrow set of results. However, it's extremely useful when you can remember having read a distinctive phrase sometime in the past, but don't remember where.
Example: If you want pages with the phrase "php ajax":
YES: ["php ajax"].
. (Removing the surrounding quotation marks would result in pages that contain both php and ajax, but not necessarily together, one after another, as in the phrase "php ajax". Hence, removing the quotes will qualify a page with the sentence "...ajax frameworks for php...", whereas using quotation marks would disqualify it for selection.)
NOTE: You can also combine quoted and non-quoted terms in your search string: [ajax "jesse james garrett"].
 How different should my search strings be from normal English?
To some extent. Google ignores stop words: certain extremely common words, single digits, and characters in search strings such as "the", "I", "where", "how", "in", etc (in order to save space or to speed up searches). Hence, you need NOT include such common words in your search string. Write in telegraphese (MSN Encarta defines "telegraphese" as "language reduced to its essential elements without regard to elegance or grammar, as typically found in telegrams").
Example: If you are looking for information on the fastest computer in the world:
YES: [fastest computer world]. NO: [fastest computer in the world].
NOTE: If a common word in your search string is essential and you don't want Google to ignore it, you can either wrap the whole search string in quotes (["world war i"]) or put a "+" sign in front of the common word making sure to leave a space before the "+" sign ([world war +i]). (See Note for a list of Stop Words.)
 How do I select which variant of a word (e.g. technology, technological, etc) to include in my search string?
Generally speaking, you need not. Google now uses a technology (called word variations or automatic stemming) whereby, when appropriate, in addition to searching for your search terms it will also search for some of their variants. Technically speaking, Google reduces inflected or derived words to their stem or base form and searches for those, too.
Example: If [2008 technological breakthroughs] is provided as the search string, Google will also search using "technology" in place of "technological" and "breakthrough" in place of "breakthroughs".
 How can I search in a specific context (e.g. Searching for [office] returns normal office related and Microsoft Office related information. How do I get information about office which is not related to Microsoft Office?)
Use "-" operator. If your search term has different meanings in different contexts, you can limit your search to the context you are interested in. Exclude unwanted contexts using minus signs ("-") before them (making sure to leave a space before the "-" sign).
Example: If you want general (not Microsoft related) office information:
YES: [office -microsoft]. NO: [office].
 When I need some basic information about a subject fast, what is the shortest way to get it (without involving clicking links in an intermediate results page)?
Click "I'm Feeling Lucky" button (instead of "Google Search" button). On clicking the "I'm Feeling Lucky" button, Google will take you straight to the most relevant website that it found for your query (instead of providing you with a search results page with links to various resources).
TRY IT: Provide [ajax] as the search string and click "I'm Feeling Lucky" button. (See Note for something somewhat similar to this launched by Yahoo recently.)
 If the initial search results are not quite what I am looking for, what do I do?
Experiment. If you did not get the results you were looking for the first time around, here are two things you can try:
Refine your search: Change, delete, or add search terms (with reference to the above guidelines). You'll notice Google Results Page has two search boxes: one at the top (with an associated "Search" button) and the other at the bottom (with an additional "Search within results" link) of the page. You might prefer to type in your refined search string into either the top text box (and hit "Search") or the bottom text box (and hit "Search within results").
Use related search terms: For many of your searches, Google presents a "Searches related to:" section below the search results with a list of search terms related to yours. For example, if
happened to be your search term, the "Searches related to: xml" list contains the following suggested search terms:
, [learn xml],
(Next up: Top Advanced Google Search Tips)
- Search Engine Landscape: There are a lot of search engines available in the world today (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_search_engines). You might have your personal favourites, too. Google is chosen here simply because it is the world's largest web search engine and the most popular (http://searchengineland.com/nielsen-netratings-august-2007-search-share-puts-google-on-top-microsoft-holding-gains-12243.php and http://www.comscore.com/press/release.asp?press=1802).
- Stop Words: For a list of probable Google stop words, see http://www.ranks.nl/resources/stopwords.html and for general search engine stop words, see http://www.link-assistant.com/seo-stop-words.html.
- Yahoo Glue Page: Yahoo! India, coinciding with the launch of its search portal, has launched this year the beta version of a new visual search experience -- called Glue Page (http://in.search.yahoo.com/) -- that collates and categorizes the best information from across the Web (for select search terms) onto a single, well laid out, topical page. Type in something in the search box (say, [microsoft silverlight]) and click Enter. If not found selected by default, select the "Glue Page" tab (there's also a "Classic Search Results" tab) and check out the new search experience.