Business information slides and top tips

My latest business information workshop, organised by TFPL, was held yesterday in London. A large chunk of the session was taken up with exploring and discussing web sites but we also looked at how advanced search options and commands can be used to focus on higher quality business information. An edited version of the slides is available on authorSTREAM at and Slideshare at

Towards the end of the afternoon the participants were asked to come up with a list of top 10 tips and tricks. Two more were submitted to me by email soon after, so we have a dozen in total.

1. Verbatim
Google automatically looks for variations on your search terms and sometimes drops terms from your search without telling or asking you. Neither of these are very helpful if you are looking for a company or a person. Quote marks around phrases or individual words do not always force an exact match or inclusion in the search. If you want Google to run your search exactly as you have typed it in, click on ‘Search tools’ in the menu above your results, then click on the arrow next to ‘All results’ and from the drop down menu select Verbatim.

2. Reading Level
Try ‘Reading level’ if Google is failing to return any research or business related documents for a query. Run your search and from the menu above the results select ‘Search tools’, ‘All results’ and from the drop menu ‘Reading level’. Options for switching between basic, intermediate and advanced reading levels should then appear just above the results. Google does not give much away as to how it calculates the reading level and it has nothing to do with the reading age that publishers assign to publications. It seems to involve an analysis of sentence structure, the length of sentences, the length of the document and whether scientific or industry specific terminology appears in the page.

3. Guardian Data Store
This section of the Guardian posts articles, charts, graphs and maps on stories in the news using official government data, datasets collected and published relevant organisations and sometimes data obtained via Freedom of Information (FoI) requests. Links to the original datasets are provided so that you can download the raw data.

4. filetype:
Use the filetype: command to limit your research to PowerPoint for presentations, spreadsheets for data and statistics or PDF for research papers and industry/government reports. Note that in Google filetype:ppt and filetype:xls will not pick up the newer .pptx and xlsx formats so you will need to incorporate both into your strategy, for example filetype:ppt OR filetype:pptx, or run separate searches for each one. In, though, filetype:pptx will pick up both .ppt and .pptx files.

5. site:
Include the site: command in your search to focus your search on particular types of site, for example You can also use -site: to exclude a site or group of sites from your search, for example:

potato yields forecasts 2013

to run the search on UK government web sites but excluding the new site.

6. Duedil chart
Duedil (  is one of several companies that repackage Companies House data and makes some of available free of charge. The workshop participants particularly liked the company Group visualisations.

Duedil company Group visualisation
Duedil company Group visualisation


7. Company Check and Company Director Check
Like Duedil, both of these services repackage Companies House data. Company Check provides 5 years of figures and graphs for Cash at Bank, Net Worth, Total Liabilities and Total Current Liabilities free of charge and lists the directors of a company. Click on a director’s name and you are taken to the Company Directory Check where you can view other current and past directorships for that person.

8. RSS feeds
Several of those attending the workshop already use, or are considering using, RSS feeds as a means of monitoring events and companies. Google is closing down Google Reader but Phil Bradley has lists of alternatives at and

9. BL BIPC industry Guides
The British Library Business Information and IP Centre’s industry guides at highlight relevant industry directories, databases, publications and web sites. Excellent starting points if you are new to the sector.

10. Domain Tools
A useful tool for identifying who owns the domain name of a web site. Alarm bells should start ringing in your head if the owner is hiding behind an agent or a privacy protection service.

11. GBRdirect
A single point of access to the official company registries of 22 European countries. As well as searching for companies your can search company appointments and personnel for some countries, and verify VAT numbers. The amount of information that is disclosed varies depending on the country and details of what is available is included in the price list at The information that it finds will be in the original language.

12. Numeric range
This command is unique to Google. Use it for anything to do with numbers – years, temperatures, weights, distances, prices etc. Simply type in your two numbers separated by two full stops as part of your search. For example: world oil demand forecasts 2015..2030

This workshop is being held again on Thursday, 19th September 2013 in London. The content will have changed by then – in fact, some things have already changed! – and participants are encouraged to let us know the areas and topics in which they are particularly interested and areas of research that cause them problems. This enables me to tailor the event to the needs of those attending. Hands-on practical sessions are included so that everyone has a chance to try out the sites and techniques for themselves. Further details of the day are on the TFPL website.