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#Tip: Use these smartphone search shortcuts

January 22nd, 2014 | No Comments | Posted by in Mobile, Top tips for journalists
Image by  Nit Soto on Flickr. Some rights reserved

Image by Nit Soto on Flickr. Some rights reserved

Finding information quickly is imperative for journalists. Here at, we regularly use site search tool Alfred, the subject of a previous tip, to quickly search computers, websites, and the wider internet with a few keystrokes.

On his Digital Inspiration, Amit Argawal has put together a guide on creating shortcuts for your smartphone that will sit on your home screen like apps. Shortcuts for Twitter, YouTube, Google, Wolfram Alpha, Wikipedia and others are included among others, as well as a guide to making your own shortcuts for any other site.

search shortcuts

From there you can collect your new search shortcuts together to make regular searches just two taps away when using mobile. It may not seem like much, but sometimes the little things can make all the difference.

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#Tip: Search Instagram pictures using Gramfeed

October 30th, 2013 | No Comments | Posted by in Search, Top tips for journalists


This tip is one shared by Alessandro Cappai, a digital editor in Italy who attended MozFest, the Mozilla Festival at the weekend.

He pointed me in the direction Gramfeed, explaining how it can be used to explore Instagram pictures and “find images through hashtag, username or location”.



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#Tip: Read this post on searching social media

April 2nd, 2013 | No Comments | Posted by in Search, Top tips for journalists

Image by Nic Soto on Flickr. Some rights reserved

The BBC College of Journalism has a helpful post on searching social media.

BBC internet research specialist Paul Myers has written a post with tips on searching Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and other sites.

If you find that post helpful you might also like this guide on searching social media for stories. runs a course on advanced online research skills. The next course runs on 18 April. At the time of writing there were three places available.

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#Tip of the day for journalists: Set up a custom site search in Alfred

February 21st, 2013 | No Comments | Posted by in Search, Top tips for journalists


Mac users may be familiar with a free productivity tool that is available in the App Store called Alfred.

Alfred is a powerful tool that allows you to launch and search apps and web sites in a couple of clicks.

For example, you can open Alfred (by pressing ‘alt’ and ‘space’) and then carry out a calculation, search your contacts or start typing the the name of an application and launch it.

If you are a Mac user and journalist, you probably find yourself carrying out a number of site searches a day to find previously published content.

For example, I have carried out a number of site searches today to find previously published content on I could do this typing the Google advanced operator into my Google search box followed by the query (for example “tip of the day”). As I have Alfred set up to perform this site search I can run the search in 21 fewer clicks.

Here’s how:

  • Open Alfred and go to ‘preferences’ (the shortcut is ‘Apple’ and ‘,’)
  • Go to ‘features‘ then ‘custom searches


  • Type the following into the first box, replacing ‘’ with your site URL.{query}

  • Fill in the other fields, choosing a shortcut for your site. For example, I picked the letter J so when I open Alfred (‘alt’ and ‘space’) I can type ‘J’ and then my keyword search. Alfred launches Chrome and displays the search results.


That saves me typing every time I need to search.

There is more on Alfred’s custom search here.


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#Tip of the day for journalists: Check analytics to see what people are searching for

January 22nd, 2013 | No Comments | Posted by in Search, Top tips for journalists

magnifying glass Flickr Ivy Dawned

Do you ever check your site’s analytics to see what people are searching for?  Mindy McAdams has and provides an interesting explainer on her Teaching Online Journalism blog.

McAdams says that searches can help you write about what your audience is searching for.

If people are coming to your site because of a search, you should think about whether you might want to offer them more on that topic. I don’t mean you should add stuff that doesn’t match the mission or purpose of your blog — but think about whether it makes sense for you to beef up your content to satisfy those searchers.

Her post reminded me of this great example of how Homicide Watch reports from analytics.

The site’s founder Laura Amico checked what her readers had been searching for one afternoon in Google Analytics one afternoon and got a scoop.

She found that readers of Homicide Watch DC, a site she set up in September 2010 to report on murders in Washington DC, were looking for details of an unreported murder.

There’s more on that story here.

If you have a tip you would like to submit to us at email us using this link.

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#Tip of the day for journalists: Save to Drive Chrome extension

December 13th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Search, Top tips for journalists

Image by stshank on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

Mashable yesterday reported on a new extension called Save to Drive for Google Chrome, which offers users a button to let them save content online straight to their Google Drive.

As Mashable reports, users can “save an image, an entire page or an image of the visible page to your Drive”, as well as “the HTML source code of a webpage or a complete webpage in web archive (.mht) format”.

This might prove useful for journalists who come across content while searching the web.

If you have a tip you would like to submit to us at email us using this link.


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#Tip of the day for journalists: Researching with Google Images

October 29th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Search, Top tips for journalists

Colin Meek, who runs’s advanced research skills training course, recently posted two tutorials on his site which look at how to use Google Images as a research tool. According to Meek, “using image search properly can help you focus your research in unexpected ways especially when your research subject has a strong visual element”.

See the first tutorial here, which looks at the “basic and advanced options that demonstrate the potential of images as a research tool”. The second tutorial addresses “the ‘search-by-image’ reverse image search that takes things to a different level”.

If you have a tip you would like to submit to us at email us using this link.

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Guardian launches @GuardianTagBot – which auto answers questions

October 27th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Search, Social media and blogging

The Guardian has launched @GuardianTagBot, a Twitter account that answers your questions by returning links to Guardian content.

I tested it by tweeting the word halloween’and in less than one minute received a tweet with links to 30 stories.

It works as it is linked to the Guardian’s content API.

In a post introducing @GuardianTagBot, “your new Twitter-based search assistant”, the Inside the Guardian Blog explains:

TagBot will try its best to understand full sentence queries e.g. ‘What’s happening in the Middle East?’ but it will probably respond best to more specific search-style terms like ‘Middle East news‘, or ‘Nigel Slater recipes‘. TagBot might get confused if you are asking for news on Jordan the country rather than the latest antics of Katie Price, so you might want to be as clear as possible! Of course you can swear at TagBot too, but you might make it sad. TagBot will also struggle with personal requests like ‘Will you marry me?’. It’s not Siri.

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Google launches What Do You Love search

Google certainly has no shortage of services around the web, and its latest stab at social networking in the form of Google+ has been creating a greater buzz than the lukewarm reception of Google Buzz when it launched in February 2010.

Also released with rather less fanfare is What Do You Love, a simple search tool that returns results from more than 20 Google services.

The site offers search in images, alerts, YouTube, books and maps among others, and renders the results on one page.

For example, a search for “journalism” gives you an option to find books about journalism, translate “journalism” into 57 different languages, call someone about journalism with Google Voice or search through related Blogger articles.

You can share the results via Gmail, Buzz or +1, but no third party sharing tools such as Facebook or Twitter are available.

The site is currently very unpolished – at the moment many of the results aren’t particularly accurate or helpful, but this may well improve with time.

For the moment it offers a nice idea that may return better results based on more specific keywords. In future it could also help with collecting a variety of content from different services about a single topic, rather than having to go through each site’s native search engine.

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Reporters to get author pages with Google’s new authorship markup

June 9th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Search, Traffic

On its official blog this week Google announced it was to start supporting “authorship markup — a way to connect authors with their content on the web”. According to the post this will enable websites to publicly link within their site from content to author pages.

For example, if an author at the New York Times has written dozens of articles, using this markup, the webmaster can connect these articles with a New York Times author page. An author page describes and identifies the author, and can include things like the author’s bio, photo, articles and other links.

According to Google it has worked with sites including the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNET and the New Yorker, prior to the launch of the markup to help get them set up. The markup will also been added to everything hosted by YouTube and Blogger, Google added.

For a more detailed description of how authorship works see the neat description below by the Search Engine Journal:

Sites that have large portions of content written by a specific author can denote the author of each piece of content and can specify the author’s page on the site. The author page can then include markup that specifies what select data on the page is. Google can then display portions of the specified data from the search engine results page, giving direct links to the author’s page, other content from the same writer, and other pages that belong to the same author (such as social sites).

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