Advanced Google Search Tips for Prospect Research

Google is vital to every prospect researcher. Whether you’re crafting event bios or developing a research profile, you’ll inevitably end up in Google to ensure you aren’t missing any news stories and other personal items of note about a prospect.

In today’s society, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t know how to conduct a basic search in Google. As a researcher, however, it’s important to take advantage of Google’s “advanced” features to get the most relevant results when you’re looking into a prospect.

Here are a few tips and tricks that will help you Google your prospects more efficiently.

1. Name Variations

Make sure that you use common misspellings of the name of your prospect. For example, if your prospect’s name is Jonathan, search for Jonathan, Johnathan, Jonathon, Johnathon, John, and Jon.

2. Quotation Marks

To get exact matches for your search, use quotation marks around phrases and names. You’ll also want to search without quotation marks to find misspelled entries and entries in which a person might have included their maiden name or middle initial.


3. And

Use both “&” and “and” when searching for two people (as in the case of a husband and wife). Also be sure to use all variations of their names. For example, you might search John and Jane Smith as:

  • “John and Jane Smith”
  • “John & Jane Smith”
  • “Jane and John Smith”
  • “Jane & John Smith”

Each of the above searches will bring up different results.

Pro tip: Use “or” to conduct these searches at the same time.


4. Middle Names and Initials

Try searching with variations of a name that include the person’s middle name or middle initial.

5. Wildcards

Wildcards are exceptionally helpful if you have a prospect with a common name. For example, if you are researching Michael Jordan, not the basketball star, you could easily search for “Michael Jordan” -basketball -NBA (etc.), instead of simply “Michael Jordan.” Using the “-” removes that particular word or phrase from your search results so that you get:


Instead of:


From the “Michael Jordan” search, you can quickly scan the results to find other words you might want to remove, such as “stats,” “ESPN,” and “player.”

Here’s a quick breakdown of the wildcards that you can use in Google.

6. Search a Specific Site

Sometimes, you might want to search a specific site instead of searching Google as a whole. For instance, you might want to search for the prospect’s name within your institution’s website or within a specific company website.

Let’s say I want to search for mentions of my name on the EverTrue website. I’ll want to type in “Emily Davis” so that I only get results from the EverTrue website.


7. Use Google Images to Find a Better Version of a Photo

Often, as researchers, we’re able to locate pictures of prospects—but sometimes, these pictures are too small to be used on our profiles. One of the quickest ways to find a better quality version is to use Google Images. Simply save the photo to your desktop and then upload it to Google Images. The search results will present you with identical and similar photos.


These are only a few of the techniques that can help you to better navigate Google as a prospect researcher. To learn more, I suggest completing Google’s online searching courses and checking out this handy tips sheet.

Do you have any favorite Google tips and tricks? If so, send me an email or find me on Twitter and share them with me!

Emily Davis began as a research associate at the Indiana University Foundation and was promoted to development analyst in 2011. In addition to assisting her science- and health-related clients with research, she has completed research for the IU and IU Foundation presidents as well as on international prospects. She received her undergraduate degrees from Ball State University and her master’s degree from Indiana University Bloomington. In her free time, she enjoys completing freelance editing and formatting work when not watching Thomas the Train with her toddler.

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