Google is a powerful search engine for lawyers, helping to find facts and information at incredible speed. Advanced search techniques and many different options to search for news, videos, scholarly articles, and much more make Google almost ubiquitous. Beyond just the search, Google offers some tools and options lawyers should know about to take full advantage of the service’s powerful options.
Google Search History and My Activity
If you use Google’s Chrome browser and are logged in, Google tracks every search you make and every page you visit. To see your history, press Ctrl (Command in Mac) + H. You can search your search/browse history or view it in chronological order. This can be very handy when you remember reading an article or viewing a page and need to go back to it. For even more of your tracked Google history, you can go to My Activity. If you are logged in with a mobile device it will also show you activity, including your use of Google Maps, YouTube, etc. from your smartphone in addition to your browser. If you find this tracking intrusive you can delete anything and everything in the My Activity page. Click the menu button in the upper left corner of the page (the hamburger) and select “Delete Activity By”. You can choose a date range or choose “all-time”. If you want to tell Google to stop tracking your activity click “Activity Controls” and you can toggle off to prevent Google from tracking your web & app activity, location history, device information, Voice & Audio Activity, and YouTube search and watch history.
404 (Page Not Found) Errors
While the cache: search will unearth cached pages for a domain (e.g., Example: cache:apple.com) if you want to see the cached page for a specific page link from the Google search results click on the carat next to the page link and choose “cached” to see the cached version of the page. The other option that appears, “similar”, will run a new search using the “related:” function, which shows sites related to that page. For other options to find pages that are no longer live you can look for them at Archive.org (aka the Wayback Machine) or go to ViewCached to search Google Cache, the Internet Archive, Yahoo!, Bing and more all at the same time. If you follow a link to a page that no longer exists, note the information in the URL, which will often give you hints about when it was published or where in the website’s directory it might have lived before.
If you want to create a permanent link to a page you are linking to in a document you can create your own cached page via PermaCC. PermaCC is developed and maintained by the Harvard Law School library in conjunction with university law libraries around the country. While courts and law schools can create free accounts, individuals and law firms will be charged a fee to use the service. Alternatively, if you need to create a link to a publically accessible court opinion in perpetuity, consider Fastcase’s Cloud Linking feature.
Create Personalized Search Engines
The web includes trillions of pages. That staggering number underlines the necessity of capable search engines: without them, the web would be useless. Users simply wouldn’t be able to find the information they need in a reasonable amount of time.
Even the best search engines can cause frustration with the sheer breadth of information. Though attorneys can minimize some of these frustrations by learning search tricks or mastering a search engine’s “advanced” search tools, they can also build custom search engines tailored to their needs, using Google’s Custom Search Engine tool. Google Custom Search Engine (“CSE”) allows users to choose specific resources from the web – blogs, webpages, news sites, etc. and search only those resources, thus cutting down on the noise from the rest of the internet. Creating a Google CSE requires a free Google account. Then follow the simple steps which include filling out a setup form. The Google CSE can then be used as a standalone page, or it can be embedded as a “widget” on blogs or websites.
Here are some examples of search sites created with the Google Custom Search:
Fee Fie Foe Firm is an aggregate search of law firm websites. The focus is US law firms, although you can change the jurisdiction to search the UK, Canada, Australia, Singapore, Ireland, New Zealand, or South Africa (more jurisdictions coming). Use the search box to search law firm websites for legal experts, law firm bulletins, articles, press releases, and more!
This free search engine from the ABA’s Legal Technology Resource Center searches the free full- text of over 400 online law reviews and law journals, as well as document repositories hosting academic papers and related publications such as Congressional Research Service reports. Several of the law reviews and legal journals (such as the Stanford Technology Law Review), working papers, and reports are available only online.
Google Social Search is a free social media search engine powered by Google Custom Search. It allows users to search for content in social networks in real-time without logging in to access publicly posted information on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram, and TikTok. Users can also save their searches and set up email alerts.
You will need to be logged into Google to set up a Google Alert. When you add an alert you will be notified in the way you choose when Google indexes a site that has the search terms you specify. While often this will capture new information, Google is continually crawling the web so you may occasionally get older content that has only just been crawled. To create an alert, type in your keywords and then click “show options”. You can then specify how often you want to receive alerts, which sources are searched (news, blogs, web, etc.), language preference, location, and how many notifications you receive (only best results, all results). Your alerts will be emailed to the email account associated with your Google login. When you have chosen your options click “Create Alert”. Google Alerts works especially well when the sources for your alerts are news and blogs. You can edit or delete any alerts you have set up in My Alerts on the main Google Alerts page.
If you are not yet capturing and keeping web content with tools like OneNote, Evernote, or Pocket, Google has introduced a similar tool to help you capture and find content on the web, plus your own random notes. It is called Google Keep. By adding the Keep Chrome Extension you can easily capture a link to any page, video, or picture you find on the web, label it, add reference notes, and then find it again. You can also set reminders for notes, pin notes to the top of the page, and more. You can also share a note with a collaborator or colleague. There are many other uses of Google Keep that can make it a great way to keep your research and notes in one place.
In addition to providing powerful search features, Google has several tools for taming the web by finding (and keeping) what you want. While there are other good (and certainly more private) search engines, Google stays ahead of the curve with numerous additional services that may be useful.