If you've a few minutes to spare, take a look at How to use search like a pro, 10 tips and tricks for Google and beyond. It's written by Samuel Gibbs and you can find his Twitter account as well. I'd show it to you, but he's blocked me, for reasons that will become obvious. You can read a great deconstruction of his article by Karen Blakeman on her blog 'Guardian's top search tips for Google not quite tip top'. However, just because Karen has done a great article isn't going to stop me, so read both! I'm going to do the same as Karen, and go through his work tip by tip.
Exact Phrase He's right in that if you want to search for two words next to each other in the same order, you need to put them in a phrase, using "double quotes". He says 'searching for “Joe Bloggs” will surface only those that specifically have the name Joe Bloggs somewhere on the page.' What he fails to mention is that it doesn't always work. For example, and I'm using an example from Dan Russell here (who is more of an expert than I'll ever be) that a search for "Daniel Russell" can also give you results for Dan Russel. In order to get what we're exactly after means that we have to do a search for "Daniel "Russell"" with double quotes inside double quotes. It's true that this isn't going to happen that often, but nonetheless, it does happen.
Exclude terms. He's right to say that you can use the minus symbol to exclude terms, so a search for journalist -idiot should give us pages that contain the word journalist, without the word idiot. However, his example is "A search for “Joe Bloggs” -jeans will find results for Joe Bloggs, but it will exclude those results for the Joe Bloggs brand of jeans." No, it won't. It will exclude pages that contain the words Joe Bloggs as a phrase, and will exclude any that have the word jeans on the page, not necessarily anything to do with the brand. It's a subtle but important difference.
OR search - yes, no disagreement with him there.
Synonym search. Mr Gibbs is convinced that the search functionality of the tilde (~) still works, despite the fact that Google killed it in 2013. He includes a screenshot in his article that he purports showing it working - he's done a search for plumbing ~university. Try a search for plumbing ~university yourself. It may look different to his screen shot, but you'll either see results for plumbers plumbing and university, or just plumbing and university.
Now, IF the tilde symbol worked, because of where he's put it, Google should be looking for alternatives to 'university', but clearly the results are showing us examples with the word University in them. If he was trying for alternatives to plumbing, he should have put the tilde there. However, since it doesn't work, it's a moot point. He may be assuming that it does work, since we have examples of Plumbers and plumbing, but what he hasn't understood is that Google will automatically try and find synonyms now, without the use of the ~ symbol. As a result, we're going to have a bunch of people wasting their time and energy trying to use a function that not only doesn't work - it doesn't exist any more.
Site search Yup, he's on the money with this one. Using site:.uk for example limits you to site URLs that end in .uk.
The power of the asterisk. A search for three * mice will pick up results for three blind mice, three tailed mice, three button mice and so on. So it can be used to replace a word. But it can't, as Mr Gibbs suggest, replace letters in a word - it's not a truncation tool. If you include an * in a word, such as librar* Google will just work out similar words based on the stem of the word, and Karen has given a great example of how this works in practice.
Searching between two values. Yes, he's right with this. A search for 50 .. 100 will give you results that have numbers in that range.
Searching in specific fields. Once again he's right, but only so far as he goes. Another useful search function, as pointed out by Karen is intext: and I'll let you visit her blog post to see why.
Related sites. This is a great function, and Mr Gibbs is right to include it. related:theguardian.com will indeed give you websites that Google deems to be similar. However, there's a limit to what Google returns - it's usually a fairly small number here, and it's by no means comprehensive. You're better off doing a search on something like http://www.similarpages.com/
Combine searches. Agree entirely with this - you are not limited to just a few options, if you wish, you can include several different search functions to really reduce the number of results that you get.
Karen rightly points out that there are whole number of other search terms that could be included in an article like this, and again I'd encourage you to read her blog post about it. I get why he may not have included them - as he said in his Twitter account, he learned a lot from researching the article, but it's a shame that he didn't actually research a little bit more thoroughly. Oh, and Mr Gibbs - you're most welcome to call me a 'dick' if it makes you feel better, and you're most welcome to block me on Twitter, but both things show rather more about you than they do about me.