Writings from the intersection of law enforcement and the Internet

Google Quick Tip

I surprised a colleague this week when I claimed my number one investigation tool was Google. Although I don’t use it for my personal searching, I begin every investigation, whether the target is a human or a business, with a standard Google search. I have an arsenal of more advanced tools that I transition into but many times the inquisition needs to go no further than some simple Google-Fu.

Two quick tips for better Google results:

Use the tabs.

At the top of your results page, you'll see a series of tabs that are generally titled “All”, “News”, “Images”, “Videos”, “More”, and “Tools”. It’s surprising how many people completely ignore these convenient time savers. The two that I always hit are Images and Tools.

Images: Developers will use a coding exercise called “Alt-Text” when embedding an image into a web page.

This attached text allows the end-user to receive some information about an image if for some reason they cannot view it. Most developers will include a description of an image and proper names if it includes a person or persons. The person you are searching for may not be mentioned in the article but may be tagged in the alt-text of an image. I have linked many people to an event or business simply by being tagged in an image.

Timeline: The “Tools” tab will allow you to timeline your search results. I generally start by narrowing the search results to the “Past Year” to get the most relevant results and then expand from there.

Related Searches.

Scroll to the bottom of the search results and look at the related search suggested by Google. You're probably not the first person to ask the question and someone else probably worded it better than you. If Google is offering it they have already searched it and probably have the identified resources cached for quick access. Many times the search suggestions will pivot you to a better course than you initially set yourself.