Specialized Searches Go Beyond Google.com
Tapping into Trends, Books, Lens, Scholar or Shopping may give you better results
Google is synonymous with search.
But Googling something doesn’t always mean starting your search query at google.com or entering the search phrase inside the address bar of your web browser, where Google is likely the default search option. Instead, certain queries are better handled through subsections of Google search, Google’s specialized tools for specialized searches.
Here’s a look at some of these tools. Plus, you might want to visit other resources outside of Google as part of your search mission.
Google Trends: What’s being searched?
Most of us are curious about what’s on people’s minds and how they’re reacting to major events. You can visit trends.google.com and enter topic or keyword search terms of interest to you to get a sense of whether other folks searched for the same or similar topics, based on trillions of Google searches.
You can see which searches are trending or examine trends over time. And you can see how trends differ by region in the United States and around the world.
8 more Google search engines
Some additional specialized searches and some alternatives
• finance.google.com Alternatives: MSN Money, Yahoo Finance
• flights.google.com and travel.google.com Alternatives: Kayak, Momondo, Skyscanner
• maps.google.com Alternatives: Bing Maps, MapQuest, Rand McNally
• news.google.com Alternatives: Bing News, Yahoo News
• patents.google.com Alternative: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Patent Public Search
• translate.google.com Alternatives: DeepL, iTranslate, Linguee
• video.google.com Alternatives: Bing Video
You have a couple of ways to examine the trends: Trending or rising searches are becoming popular quickly. Top-searched trends are the most-searched queries within a given time frame. You also can see what else people search that is related to your own search.
Pro tip: To gauge the relative popularity of your search topic, choose a common search term such as “weather” as your frame of reference, and then compare it against other search topics, which can change based on a chosen time period. For example, “football” is more popular than “baseball” if you compare trends over a 12-month stretch. But in the seven-day period leading up to Major League Baseball’s opening day, the national pastime trends higher.
Google alternative: Tap or click on the Trending tab on Twitter to see which topics are trending on the social media site.
Google Books: Search for excerpts
A Google Books search works just like a regular Google web search except the results are more narrowly focused on books. It has been around since 2004.
At books.google.com, you can search for key phrases and excerpts within a book or search the full text. Results may include previews and reader reviews, number of pages, more works by an author and when the book was published.
If a title is no longer restricted by copyright or if the publisher has given permission, you may even be able to download a PDF. In other cases, you’ll find links to buy or borrow the printed version. Books that are included come from Google’s publisher partners, the authors themselves and libraries. Bibliographies are displayed on the page, too, and if you’re doing research, you can use a tool to add a source citation.
Pro tip: If you’re not sure where a particular saying or phrase comes from, try entering the text in the Google Books search field. For example, if you enter “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” you’ll see results pegged to Charles Dickens’ classic A Tale of Two Cities.
Google alternative: At WorldCat.org, you can search the collections of libraries around the world, often with a direct link to Ask a Librarian for help.
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Google Lens: What’s inside that image?
Instead of searching for text results, you can go to images.google.com to hunt for pictures similar to ones you upload or come across on the web. But via the Google Lens tool, which has been available on Android and iPhones for a few years now, and more recently with the Chrome web browser on desktop PCs and laptops, you can discover more about what’s inside an image.
It might be landmarks, the clothes someone is wearing or other objects and products in the real world. Through Lens, you also can translate any foreign text in an image.
If you use Chrome on a PC or Mac, right-click on a photo and select Search image with Google Lens. On iOS and Android, you can explore Lens inside the Google app and, in some cases, the Camera app. That’s the case on Google’s own Pixel smartphones. Launch the Camera app and tap Modes | Lens. Then tap the shutter button to search and to potentially summon visual matches you find useful.
Pro tip: As part of Lens, Google has just launched an artificial intelligence-infused multisearch feature in beta that lets you search using text and images. Open the Google app on your phone — the feature doesn’t yet work on Chrome — and tap the Lens camera icon. Take a photo or choose a screenshot. Swipe up and tap the + Add to your search button to add text. You can then ask a question about the image.
Among the examples Google cites: Screenshot a stylish orange dress and then add the query “green” to find the dress in another color. Or snap a picture of your dining room set and add the query “coffee table” to find a matching table.
Google alternative: Microsoft Bing Visual Search also lets you see something to search for similar images. And Apple’s Live Text feature can also recognize information and images within your own photos and online images. It works only on iPhones and iPads running Apple’s A12 Bionic chip or later plus the company’s latest mobile operating systems, or an M1-processor powered Mac running macOS Monterey.
Google Scholar: For research help
If you’re doing research or a project for your job and are seeking expert sources and academic papers at scholar.google.com, you can typically read abstracts of scholarly articles for free, though the full text of some may require a subscription. You can enter a search term and check off either an “articles” box or “case law” box, the latter of which can be refined further to let you search just federal courts or state courts.
Pro tip: Since a research question rarely has a single answer, Google recommends exploring by clicking on Related articles or Cited by links. You may also want to search using an author’s name.
Google alternatives: Semantic Scholar lets you search more than 203 million papers from all fields of science for free. Lens.org is a free repository of global patents and scholarly literature.
Google Shopping: Millions of products
Buying a new telephone, lawn mower or pair of shoes? At shopping.google.com, you can search millions of products and thousands of stores with the goal of landing on the right product at the right price.
Very often you’ll see pictures of the products you are considering. In the left panel, you can filter searches by brand, store, price and whether something’s on sale.
Pro tip: Google can help you determine whether you’re paying too much for a product or too little — not that you’d mind — or whether you’ve settled on a cost that’s on par with prices at other places. On certain product pages, you can tap the Track Price toggle to be notified when the price of a product on your list drops. You can also see a range of how much the item typically costs across the internet and thus choose a retailer offering the most satisfying deal.
Google alternatives: Price comparison and shopping websites are numerous. Among them are Bing Shopping, BizRate, PriceGrabber and Yahoo Shopping.
Edward C. Baig is a contributing writer who covers technology and other consumer topics. He previously worked for USA Today, BusinessWeek, U.S. News & World Report and Fortune and is the author of Macs for Dummies and the coauthor of iPhone for Dummies and iPad for Dummies.