Google's Panda update has made web searching easier by weeding out the garbage (at least from the first few pages), but there are plenty of things you can do to find what you're looking for faster.
A more efficient search doesn't just save you from combing through pages of results, it also helps ensure that the answers you're looking for are coming from reliable sources. Even if you're not researching a thesis, it's nice to know that the information you need is at your fingertips - so keep this list handy for the next time you start getting frustrated.
Being specific with your search terms is the number one trick to finding information faster. For instance, if you're looking for the cause of the weird smell in your car, don't Google "weird smell in car". This will give you pages and pages of all different sorts of smells in all different types of cars.
Instead, specify the make and model of the car, and describe the smell - "burnt plastic smell in Toyota Prius" will take you to Prius forums that tell you that the source of the smell is a known issue with the wires around the battery, and that Toyota has a better replacement available.
The general search, on the other hand, will show you forums that tell you the smell is the result of a dead animal, and you'll completely dismantle your car looking for the poor critter (who doesn't exist). And you probably still wouldn't notice the burnt wires.
If you want results from a specific website, enter "site:[name of site]" in your search, along with your topic. This is a nice workaround for those frequent times when the site's own search is unreliable or leaves something to be desired.
Using a + sign in your search means that every result will contain that word. Using a minus sign means that the search term won't show up in any of the results. If you want multiple words to show up on the same page, type the word AND between them. If you want to exclude words, use NOT.
For example, say you're looking for information about Bermuda's economy. Searching "Bermuda economy" will get you pages about vacations and the Dow Jones. Searching "+Bermuda AND economy NOT vacation" will give you the info you need.
The ~ and the * are handy tools if you're not sure what you're looking for. The ~ will return related words, and the * will allow Google to finish the word for you.
For example, "~athlete" will search for athlete, athletics and athleticism as well as sports, game, leagues and other related terms. Searching "radio*" will get you radio, radiology, radiography and radiolarian.
Google is like the best personal assistant ever. Say you're going on a trip, and you're way too disorganized to remember information. No problem - just whip out your smartphone and Google "[airline] flight [flight number]" to find out your flight information before you get to the airport.
Search "time in [destination]" to sync up your watch for arrival (because everyone always forgets to do that). Once you're there and ready to exchange some cash, search "[amount] US dollars in [local currency]" for instant conversion with up-to-date exchange rates.
Have you ever noticed all those options Google offers at the top of every search screen? Google Image, News, Blogs, Books, Groups, etc. Use them. If what you're looking for falls into one of those categories, using the specific engine will return exactly what you're looking for, especially if you use operators within that specific engine.
Don't just trust that a general Google search will turn up your answers right away. These sub-sections of Google are set up to return exactly the type of results they promise, leaving you free to forget all the myriad search tricks you know. It even works better than the Advanced Search option in many cases.
So yes, every time you find yourself in front of a Google screen, there is literally a world of information at your fingertips. But a savvy searcher knows how to cut through the chaff and find the gems in an instant - and isn't instant information what the Internet is all about?