How to google R stuff

a mockup of a google search where in the search bar is the text "how to google r stuff" and just below that it says "Returned about 0 results. Yes really. "

I love a lot about R except that its name is not great for SEO.

When you’re very new to R it can be a bit hard to google solutions to your problems. In learning any new skill or tool it’s difficult to know what to google in the first place. With R, it’s a bit more difficult because the language’s name is just a single letter “R” which google’s indices don’t seem to readily associate with the most awesome language to ever grace this planet ;).

Your first few search attempts probably confirmed this.

There are two simple search techniques to overcome this ambiguity and will help you quickly surface relevant search results.

  1. Append your search with “in R” rather than just “r”. For example, you shouldn’t search for “how to <your wish> r”, rather try “how to <your wish> in R” – you’ll get much better results.
  2. Secondly, when you start knowing which package has likely got the solution you’re looking for, use the package name instead of “in R” to get even more relevant results. For example, try “how to <data wrangling thing> in dplyr”, or “how to <visualisation thing> in ggplot”.

Over time, google seems to start figuring our that you mean “R, the statistical programming language” rather than “R, letter of the day from Sesame Street” but it takes a little while. In any case, searching with the package name included has always given me the best results. If I don’t know the package name that’ll fix my problem, then the first few searches using “in R” quickly surface answers which talk about the package, and then I often redo the search now that I’ve homed in on the relevant one.

I hope that helps. If you want even more help with R, check out the almost 300 free R programming books over at Big Book of R.


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