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Using Google Advanced to Search a Specific Website

Hands typing on a keyboard with the Google logo and search bar above

Have you ever needed to find information on a website only to find the website has no search function? Or perhaps on a website with a weak search function (looking at you Inter-American Court of Human Rights)?  Google Advanced Search can help!

Use Google’s Advanced search page to search an online database which has a weak or nonexistent search function. Here’s how to do it.

1. Go to the database in question, for example, the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers which has disciplinary decisions going back to 1997 but does not have a search function.

2. Open a couple of documents in new tabs (right click on the links and select open in a new tab). I opened the first two on the list as of 1/14: In the Matter of Robert J. Abalos and In the Matter of Antonio Abbene, Jr. It does not matter which specific items you open, just be sure they are the type of document you want to search. 

3. Once you have some examples of the types of documents you want to search for, look carefully at the URL for each example. Here are images of the address bar for each document: 

list of urls in search box

In comparing the URLs, identify the common prefix. In this case the common prefix is:

4.  Now that you have identified the common prefix you are ready to go to Google Advanced Search. If you don’t have the link, you can get to the advanced search page by first going to the regular Google search page then click on Settings in the lower right corner and select Advanced search. 

5. On the Google Advanced Search page find site or domain field and enter the common prefix. Now you are ready to search through all webpages that have URLs beginning with the common prefix.

Search Page

6. For instance, let's search this website for a common Bar Overseer issue, trust fund. You can use the boxes near the top of the page to do common Boolean (and, or, not) searching and search for exact text strings. In the “this exact word or phrase” field I’ll enter trust fund. When I ran this search, I found seventeen results all located on the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers website. 

Results page

Google Advanced Search is a wonderful but underutilized search tool. However, if you need help finding something beyond what Google can find, Ask A Librarian.

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