Do you use Google advanced search operators?
You probably know a couple of commands that make your searches more specific but are you using the full potential of search operators?
In this guide, you’ll get to know the most popular search operators to:
- Quickly research websites that you’re optimizing
- Easily find anything online
- Painlessly conduct competitive research
(Keep in mind that many of the operators discussed here can also be used with Bing and Yahoo too.)
1. Quotation marks
Search operators are prefixes that can limit the result set for any given query. When you use quotes to search for something, you’re limiting the result to exact phrases only.
If you’ve ever had to complete a school project before, then you may have noticed that teachers often recommend this operator. You can also use it to find instances where your content has been duplicated.
Simply copy a paragraph from your document and paste it within quotations. Here’s a simple example:
It’s worth noting that when you use this operator, Google will return web pages that either have the exact phrase in their title, description or body copy. Although in our example, the sentence is just too long to be in a title.
If the bots know that the exact phrase is within the body content, they’ll pull it and use that as the page’s description, replacing the preferred version set by the webmaster. In this case, here’s the original description text of that page:
2. Site: search operator
I use the site: operator on a daily basis because it’s super useful. It limits the results to a specific domain name. You can use it to find out how many web pages are indexed for a particular site (at least a rough idea) like so:
Just make sure you’re not putting a space between the command and domain. ‘site: mangools.com’ is wrong while ‘site:mangools.com’ is correct.
But that’s not all this operator does. It’s also useful for finding specific content on a given domain when you combine keywords with it.
For instance, a search term like “blogging site:yourdomain.com” would return any relevant results within the website that is relevant to blogging. To narrow your result down even further, use quotation marks like this: “your keyword” site:anydomain.com.
3. Exclude or add words to your search
The – or short dash operator will exclude words from your search result. For example, entering a query like “small business -marketing” would return results about ‘small business’ but exclude any info it deems relevant to ‘small business marketing’.
You can also exclude multiple words and exact match phrases like I’ve done here:
Use the same idea to exclude many exact match phrases or words. For adding words, just do the opposite by adding a + or plus sign before the word.
These commands can be very useful, especially, when finding marketing opportunities for your site.
4. The OR (|) directive
This operator is useful when your search doesn’t have to be too specific but you want to control the variation of your results. Using capital letters, type ‘or’ in between your two keywords like this: keyword1 OR keyword2
So a search query can be something like “business marketing OR training”. It’s worth pointing out that Google will only use the words directly before and after the command.
You can also use | or the pipe symbol to do the same thing. This command becomes a powerhouse when used in conjunction with quotations. Here’s an example:
In the above screenshot, we see that the algorithm returns results that contain the exact phrase, “small business marketing blog” or “SEO blog”. This is useful when trying to find other websites that you can work with in multiple niches.
The cache: command pulls up the last cached or downloaded copy of any web page. It’s a useful way of knowing when a page was last crawled. Simply enter something like cache:thewebsite.com and you’re good to go.
6. Allintext: and Intext:
Allintext: will return web pages that specifically contain the words that makeup your keyword on the body text. It won’t always return exact match phrases though. Instead, what it looks for is instances where each word appears but in no specific order.
Essentially, it searches the body text of a page, excluding URLs, links and titles. Here’s a use case example: allintext:content marketing strategy
The intext: directive works the same way but unlike the allintext: command, not every page returned will contain all the words that make up your keyword.
Some web pages may be missing a word or two, depending on how long tail your query is. That’s because it specifically looks for the first word following the directive (i.e. intext:directory).
This is very useful when you’re looking for articles or performing competitor research such as getting insights on specific on-page footprints.
Just remember that you’ll break both commands if you include a space between the colon and following text.
7. Allintitle: and Intitle:
Ever wanted to find a specific piece of content with its title? That’s how I find vendors and reviews of books I’m interested in. Allintitle: only returns results that contain every word in the title.
Intitle: works the same way except it only looks for the word directly following the command. Furthermore, you cannot combine other directives with the intitle: or allintitle: directives.
SEOs typically use these to find specific types of publications for link outreach.
8. Search for only links
If you’ve ever run an outreach campaign for broken links or link replacement, then you understand how powerful this is. It enables you to search anchor text, which refers to the text that is used to link to web pages.
The syntax is as follows:
There are several ways to use this, including the addition of other commands. So assuming we wanted to search for ‘computer keyboards’, we can do it in any of the following ways:
- allinanchor: computer keyboard
- inanchor: computer +keyboard
- inanchor: “computer keyboard”
9. Allinurl: and Inurl:
Similar to our previous discussions, these directives allow you to search within the URL of a web page for your keywords. For example, allinurl:search operator would bring results that contain ‘search’ and ‘operator’ within their URL (i.e. yourname.com/definition/search-operator).
If you add a brand or company name before your search, you can limit some of your results to relevant content for that business. For instance, allinurl:Google search operator should return web pages that are focused on the company.
Inurl: works the same way except it won’t look for all the words, just the one directly following it.
When you need to find specific kinds of files, this command is your best bet! It speeds up time for things like infographic or PDF research. However, it’s best used when combined with other operators.
Here’s a quick example:
11. Find related websites
Sometimes you’ll need to identify similar sites to reach out to. This is when the related: search operator comes in play. For instance, related:domain.com will bring up similar sites to that domain.
This is also fantastic for niche research because you can gauge the competitive landscape before launching a new site.
This will pull the information of a domain, specifically, the set title and description text as shown below:
As you’ve no doubt noticed, there are no other results in sight. This is because info: is exclusively focused on the domain’s homepage. It won’t work with a subdirectory or web page. It can be a quick way of seeing a preview of how a domain’s homepage looks on Google.
It can also provide insights into how big G is treating a particular domain. If it’s not showing the same title and description text like the ones set on the homepage, then it could mean that there are some on-page issues to fix.
Do you have a favorite Google advanced search operator that I didn’t list here? If so, don’t hesitate to share it with other readers.