5 Vital Search Tips for Investment Writers

Here are five hints – or are we supposed to call them hacks these days? – that can help improve our ability to search on Google. Yes, I know, everyone knows how to type in “UK GDP Q2” and get some decent results. But what if you’re looking for something more unusual, such as: why an obscure Brazilian retailer’s shares went up or down; or how that Warren Buffett quote ends; or if you’re not sure whether the correct usage is compare with or compare to; or if you want to convert a squillion yen into pounds. Ah, now you’re interested?

1) Quote marks. To find something specific, such as articles containing the words “whatever it takes”, put the words in quotation marks. But be careful. By looking for “UK second quarter GDP” or “One Direction onesie”, Google will look for those three words in the exact order you type it. So be careful that the search terms are precise, and not too obscure. For example, searching “Q2 growth UK” doesn’t work because you wouldn’t write it that way.

Onesie direction?

Onesie direction?

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2) Colon. Use the colon to search specific websites – ideal for sourcing data or news from a relevant and reputable source. For example, type in site:bloomberg.com Japanese machinery orders July 2014. This way, you won’t get random articles on imported tractors from the Aberdeen Press & Journal, which might be a fascinating read but is a bit of a distraction from that 5pm deadline.

This guy loves tractors. Or perhaps he *is* a love tractor. We're not sure.

This guy loves tractors. Or perhaps he *is* a love tractor. We’re not sure.

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3) Asterisks. If you recall the gist of a particular Warren Buffett-ism, but can’t quite remember it exactly, try googling the words you know interspersed with asterisks for the missing words. For example: When you combine * and * you get some pretty interesting results. You could even combine your newfound googling skills and put it into quotation marks to narrow your search, so type in “When you combine * and * you get some pretty interesting results”.

This is useful for us writers when we’re looking for quotes we know part of, or for the punchline to that joke you heard late one night in the comedy club but had downed two too many Camparis. Try googling this: “how did the hipster burn his *

A very cool man with a very hot tongue.

A very cool man with a very hot tongue.

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4) Conversion. Useful for writing about Japan or Turkey. Is it more meaningful to a UK audience if you write “The BOJ is spending 270 trillion yen on its QE programme” or “The BOJ is spending $2.6 trillion on its QE programme”. To convert currencies, google: 270 yen to USD. This is also handy if you’re lost in Tokyo and you need to know whether the latte you’ve just ordered will cost you £5 or £50.

How much is that latte in the window?

How much is that latte in the window?

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5) Advanced search. And what of our elusive Brazilian retailer and why its share price moved so much? We could just ask the fund manager. But where’s the fun in that – or self-respect for that matter (goddamit!). No, we must take responsibility, fellow investment writers. We’re going to do a more-detailed post on this topic in future, but here’s three basic ideas which, in my experience, will cover 95.3% of your search needs. First, try Google Finance and you may get lucky in the news column. Second, try Advanced Search (you’ll find it on the Google search page when you click on the little cog). And third, try the stock exchange of the company you’re looking for, the Bovespa in the case of our noble-yet-unnamed Brazilian retailer – companies have to issue any relevant announcements to their home market so a bit of digging may well yield a useful nugget.

Good luck, and happy hunting.

Got any other useful search hacks that you’d like to share with your fellow investment writers? Feel free to share them with us.

Note: this post is not sponsored by Google. Readers are free to use the search engine of their choice.