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Part II: Understanding Results

Google strives to make it easy to find whatever you’re seeking, whether it’s a web page, a news article, a definition, or something to buy. After you enter a query, Google returns a results list ordered by what it considers the items’ relevance to your query, listing the best match first. (Sponsored links may appear above and to the right of the search results.) This part of Google Guide describes what appears on a results page and how to evaluate what you find so you’ll be better able to determine if a page includes the information you’re seeking or links to it.

How Google Works

If you aren’t interested in learning how Google creates the index and the database of documents that it accesses when processing a query, skip this description. I adapted the following overview from Chris Sherman and Gary Price’s wonderful description of How Search Engines Work in Chapter 2 of The Invisible Web (CyberAge Books, 2001).

...read all of: How Google Works

This page was last modified on: Friday February 2, 2007

Results Page

The results page is filled with information and links, most of which relate to your query.

Google Logo: Click on the Google logo to go to Google’s home page.

Statistics Bar: Describes your search, includes the number of results on the current results page and an estimate of the total number of results, as well as […]

...read all of: Results Page

This page was last modified on: Friday February 2, 2007

Links Included with Your Results

Google may include links to the following types of information above or along side your results.

A Spelling Correction (suggestion)
Dictionary Definitions
Cached Pages
Similar Pages
News Headlines
Product Search
File-Type Conversion
A Translation
Book results

The shortcut links that often appear to the left of an icon are known as OneBox results.
tags (keywords): google guide, results, summary

...read all of: Links Included with Your Results

This page was last modified on: Monday August 11, 2008

Spelling Corrections and Suggestions

Not sure how to spell something? Don’t worry, try gessing or speling any way you can. In just the first few months on the job, Google engineer Noam Shazeer developed a spelling correction (suggestion) system based on what other users have entered. The system automatically checks whether you are using the most common spelling of […]

...read all of: Spelling Corrections and Suggestions

This page was last modified on: Tuesday March 13, 2007

Dictionary Definitions

Want a definition for your search terms? It’s just a click away.
Google looks for dictionary definitions for your search terms. If it finds any definitions, it shows those words as underlined links or includes a definition link in the statistics bar section of the results page (located below the search box showing your query). Google […]

...read all of: Dictionary Definitions

This page was last modified on: Tuesday March 13, 2007

Cached Pages

Google takes a snapshot of each page it examines and caches (stores) that version as a back-up. The cached version is what Google uses to judge if a page is a good match for your query.
Practically every search result includes a Cached link. Clicking on that link takes you to the Google cached version of […]

...read all of: Cached Pages

This page was last modified on: Wednesday December 28, 2011

Similar Pages

Here’s how to find results similar to another Google search result. Let’s say you’re interested in finding sites similar to that of Consumer Reports. First, search for their site.


Click on the Similar pages link that appears on the bottom line for the Consumer Reports result.

The link may be useful for finding more consumer resources, or […]

...read all of: Similar Pages

This page was last modified on: Tuesday March 13, 2007

News Headlines

When Google finds current news relating to your query, Google includes up to three headlines that link to news stories above your search results. Why at most three? So as not to push the web search results off the page.
Of course, since news by definition reports recent events, you’ll see the most recent headlines about […]

...read all of: News Headlines

This page was last modified on: Tuesday March 13, 2007

Product Search

When Google finds products relevant to your query, above your search results, you may find up to three links to items that merchants list in Google’s Product Search service.


Product Search is also called Shopping. There are two Shopping links near the top of the screen shot above.
These problems give you practice in searching for products.

Find […]

...read all of: Product Search

This page was last modified on: Thursday March 13, 2008

File Type Conversion

Google converts all file types it searches to either HTML or text (unless, of course, they already are in one of these formats). Google searches a variety of file formats including

File Format

Adobe Acrobat PDF
A publishing format commonly used for product manuals and documents of all sorts.

Adobe PostScript
A printing format often used for academic papers.

Hypertext Markup […]

...read all of: File Type Conversion

This page was last modified on: Tuesday March 13, 2007


As the web has spread across the world, more and more web pages are available in languages other than English. Google provides a translation link and language tools to enable you to read pages written in unfamiliar languages.
Google translates pages by computer. Machine translation is difficult to do well and tends not to be as […]

...read all of: Translation

This page was last modified on: Tuesday March 13, 2007

Customizing Your Results: Preferences

Whenever I run a new piece of software, … I [first] … look at the program’s ‘preferences’ panel. By clicking through the options, I rapidly learn what a program can do and what its shortcomings are. Google is no different. — Simson Garfinkel, Getting More from Google, Technology Review, June 4, 2003

You can customize the […]

...read all of: Customizing Your Results: Preferences

This page was last modified on: Thursday August 21, 2008


One of Google’s corporate philosophies has always been not to “do evil.” Google’s Privacy Policy Highlights explain more. (You’ll also find a link to their complete Privacy Policy on that page.)
Whether you trust Google or not, it’s good to know something about how Google tracks you. What does Google do to remember your Preferences? When […]

...read all of: Tracking

This page was last modified on: Monday August 11, 2008

Google Accounts

A Google Account is free of charge. The easiest way to get one is by visiting . There you’ll be asked for information like your email address and a password.

Note: If you’re planning to get a Gmail account, and you’d like to use your Gmail address as your primary email address, you should sign up […]

...read all of: Google Accounts

This page was last modified on: Tuesday May 1, 2007


As we said in our earlier introduction, Tracking, a cookie is a bit of data from a web server. (Think of “fortune cookies” you might get after a Chinese meal, with little bits of wisdom inside each one.) Each web browser keeps its own set of cookies. So, if you use several computers — or […]

...read all of: Cookies

This page was last modified on: Tuesday May 1, 2007

Last Results Page

Though the statistics bar may estimate that more than 1000 results match your query, Google doesn’t serve more than 1000 results for any query. You can get to the 1000th or last result by setting your Preferences to display 100 results/page and clicking on the highest number or last “o” at the bottom of the […]

...read all of: Last Results Page

This page was last modified on: Friday February 2, 2007


Some search engines sell their search results, in addition to showing ads. A sold result means that a link to the buyer’s page is put at or near the top of the results page, just as if the search engine thought it was one of the best results. Usually, there is no indication that the […]

...read all of: Ads

This page was last modified on: Sunday August 24, 2008

Evaluating What You Find

Google’s web-page-ranking system, PageRank, tends to give priority to better respected and trusted information. Well-respected sites link to other well-respected sites. This linking boosts the PageRank of high-quality sites. Consequently, more accurate pages are typically listed before sites that include unreliable and erroneous material. (The various browser toolbars can show you the PageRank of the […]

...read all of: Evaluating What You Find

This page was last modified on: Tuesday March 13, 2007

For Google tips, tricks, & how Google works, visit Google Guide at www.GoogleGuide.com. Google Guide is neither affiliated with nor endorsed by Google.

Creative Commons

By Nancy Blachman and Jerry Peek who aren't Google employees. For permission to copy & create derivative works, visit Google Guide's Creative Commons License webpage.