Learning Search

Three Ways to Make Searching Google News Less Annoying

I love news searching. I do it a lot. Searching News sites instead of a general Web search engine is a good way to find items that are more detailed, more recent, and for the most part more credible, though there can be problematic content.

Google News has been my primary go-to news search engine since the old good ones (RIP Northern Light, RIP the really early LookSmart) have died. Unfortunately Google News’ redesign is — it’s awful, okay? I find it difficult to read and uninformative and just annoying. I avoid going to the “official” Google News Web site like the plague.

That does not mean I don’t  use Google News, however. I just use it a little differently. Let me share with you three hints for getting the most of out Google News that don’t involve going to the actual Google News site.

Don’t Use Google News’ Standalone Site

Google News is available at news.google.com . Do not go there. Use the news search integrated into Google.com instead. Why? Let’s compare.

Say I want to find news stories about healthcare spending per capita in the US. I do an initial search on Google News at news.google.com for “health care spending” “per capita” “United States” and here’s what I get:

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There are no snippets with the search results, the topics are too general to be useful, and there’s no easy way to sort the results by date. Also if you try to page through the results you get that annoying perma-scroll thing. Now, let’s do the same search only from the News tab of Google’s Web search:

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Oh look, article snippets that make it much easier to see how relevant your search results are! With your search terms highlighted! And an easy tab to toggle how you want to sort the results and how far back you want to go. I have no idea why Google News’ redesign wants to hide all that goodness, but you don’t have to put up with it. Just do all your Google News searches within Google, starting with a regular Google search and then clicking the News results.

Use Special Search Syntax, Especially Site:

Google News is a news search site, but it does index press release wires like PR Newswire. It also indexes sites which are at least partial republishing of press release wires. When I’m doing research this kind of content slows me down, so I take advantage of the fact that you can use Google search syntax with Google News search, and add the following to problematic searches:

(site:edu | site:gov)

Let’s do an example for the basic search “casual games” “social media” .

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Your results won’t be terrible, but they’ll have a particular tone. You can change that tone a lot just by adding (site:edu | site:gov) to limit your search to educational institutions or government sites (yes, they are indexed by Google News!) See the difference:

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The type of results are different and you get far, far fewer results. Now if you really want to get as few results as possible, try adding just site:mil :

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(“About 0 results”. Heh.)

I wouldn’t use any of the newer, “gimmick” top-level domains to refine a news search, but if you’re finding that your search is bringing too many results that are not germane to your search, adding a site: operator can quickly cut your search results down to a manageable (and hopefully useful!) size.

Use Google News’ Other Information Collection — Blogs

Google News has a subset for searching just blog content. I did a couple of tests and saw that blog search results came up in search results for all news, but they can tend to get buried under the non-blog results. I find these results different enough that they’re worth looking at separately.

Google News does not make the blog search obvious. It’s under the Tools switch.

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If we try our “casual games” “social media” search again, you’ll see that these are different from Google News’ general search results in tone.

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They’re very Gamasutra, for one thing. Let’s take that source out and see what we’re left with.

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You’ve got some research, some general news, some legal stuff – I was pretty impressed with the blog subset of News search results, and I really wish Google would put this more front and center.

I really dislike the Google News redesign. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a lot of good content available in Google News. You just have to come at it a different way.

Categories: Learning Search, News

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3 replies »

  1. Thanks so much for the heads up about the blog tool. That’s one I had missed and should prove very useful.

  2. One caveat about the blog searches: they don’t seem to look at WordPress sites, at least the ones which are independently hosted. (Maybe they’re just looking at Blogger/Blogspot ones?) One of the types of posts I do which garner the most frequent traffic from Google are my various ones on music, like the music covered in the “midweek music break” series. If you search on that phrase with the blogs-only search, you won’t find much of anything; if you switch it to “All News” instead of just blogs, you’ll get a lot of hits but mine — if they show up at all — don’t appear for a loooong way down in the results. But switch from the News to the general “all source” and there I am, all right — at least, when I myself did the search just now. (May be a result of the Big G’s “this specific person prefers these results” algorithm(s).)

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