There are many guides to using the Google search engine and there's no need to repeat it all here. However, the following features are useful to anyone trying to gather evidence for a complaint.
As Google trawls through the Internet, it creates snapshot copies of the pages it finds — these copies are called cached pages. If a website owner removes or changes the content of a page on their website, the cached copy will be deleted or updated the next time Google checks it. This means that, even though a page may have changed or been deleted, it may still be available in Google's cache. How long it remains there depends on how frequently Google checks that website: for popular websites and pages, Google may check them very frequently, but for less popular ones, the old cache may remain there for days or weeks.
This means that, even though a page has been changed, it may be possible to see what it said before that change. This can be very useful in researching.
Access to these cached Google pages is easy and can be done in several ways.
When Google returns the results of a search, it usually has a link to the cached page:
However, if you already know the URL of the page you want to check, you can look at the Google cached page by entering the following into the Google search box in your browser. For example:
At the top of the returned page, Google gives information about the cached page. For example:
This gives the date and time Google cached the page, which could be useful to help determine whan a page changed. It also gives a link to the current page.
A useful feature of the cached page is that any search terms you used will be highlighted on the page, making it much quicker, especially in a text heavy page, to see how frequently your search terms appear and in what context.
Google has other useful functions related to this. If you enter info: followed by a URL, you will see something like this:
Of these, the fourth one is very useful. This allows you to see all pages that Google has found on that website. You can get to this directly by entering site: followed by the URL into Google's search box. If you add a search term as well, Google will return a list of the pages on that website that have that word in them. This is Google's Site Search and is useful even if the website does not offer its own search facility. It will frequently return more results than the site's own search facility.
For example, if you enter:
site:www.chiropractic-uk.co.uk "simon singh"
you will see all pages on the BCA's website that mention Simon Singh.
A feature of Google's Site Search is that it will return pages even if they are not currently accessible from a link on another page, but which were linked to when Google indexed the site. This is particularly useful in finding pages that have been 'removed' but are still, in fact, on the website and can still be returned by search engines.
Because a page is in Google's cache, it can appear in the search results, bringing a viewer to their website, even though it is disconnected from the rest of the web site.
If you can't remember the exact URL you can search for a word within the URL using inurl: and add a search term to refine things, eg inurl:nightingale skeptics and site:URL filetype:pdf would let you uncover .pdfs within a given site's URL. There are many other search refinements in the 'Advanced search' option — see Further reading, below.