In my review of Google’s revamped and relaunched government search, I noted with annoyance that you could not narrow your searches by state, and that Google had missed other opportunities to apply unique search options to a unique set of pages.
Being only one woman under one desk eating one peanut butter sandwich, there were limits to how much I could accomplish, but I did at least create a tool that allows you to narrow your Google government searches to all the 50 states and the District of Columbia. You can try it out at http://www.researchbuzz.org/wp/tools/googlestatesearch/.
When I put this together I had two options:
1) Track down the official site for every state and just add a site: syntax to the end of a query; 2) Rely on existing URL infrastructure and use inurl: syntax based on postal codes.
I went with #2.
For ages the standard for a state Web site was http://www.state.xx.us , where xx is a postal code. So for each state I tested an inurl: query using the state’s postal codes (inurl:wy for Wyoming, and so on.) For the most part this worked fine though there were a couple of cases where it absolutely didn’t (inurl:va got more Veteran’s Affairs than Virginia results). When it didn’t I tested alternatives (inurl:xx.us , inurl:xx.gov ) and picked the one that got the most and best results.
I also tested a search for inurl:statename, and found that got me a lot of relevant, state-centered results from national government agencies (radon maps from the EPA, for example, popped up over and over and over again.) So most of the state query modifiers ended up looking like this: ( inurl:xx | inurl:statename ).
Is this absolutely perfect? No; there’s still a little gunk in the searching. But it’s far easier to narrow your searches this way, if you’re looking for state-based information. Try it and see what you think. If you’re searching for social programs or benefits (food stamps, job training, etc.) try adding a city or county name to your query.