Did you know that Google has advanced search capabilities? By adding just a few simple characters to your query, you can open up a whole new world of possibility in your search results. These operators are useful tools to filter through your results, zero in on problems with SEO, improve competitive research and locate opportunities that you can maximize with your own content.
In this article, we’ll go over some basic and advanced search operators that can help you with your Internet marketing efforts. Make sure to type them in all lower caps – or they will not work properly.
Example: site: not Site:
When you put a search term in quotes (ie: “Buffalo restaurant”), Google will return results that include that keyword phrase exclusively. If you were to Google Buffalo restaurant you might find restaurants near the Buffalo area or restaurants around the country with Buffalo in the name. By using the quotes, you limit Google’s results to contain the term exactly.
What do you do when you keep getting search results you don’t need? Try using the minus operator. For example, you’re searching for cell phone chargers but want to eliminate the Android related results. Your query would be: cell phone chargers -android. The minus will remove Android related results and focus your results on the other options.
If you want to open up your options, use the Or operator. Let’s say you’re interested in buying a car and are choosing from the Hyundai Elantra and Toyota Camry. You can look for: elantra or camry. This will result in reviews and information about both cars.
Want to look up on a specific domain for a keyword or phrase? You need this operator. By typing the site name and colon along with your keyword term, Google will deliver all of the indexed pages on a particular website that has that keyword. It’s a great way to see what competitors have on their website for a keyword term, and you can even dig down deeper and use a directory. For example, site: directory keyword will pull up only the indexed pages with that keyword in a specific directory of the site.
Searching for your keyword with the intext: operator will return pages that have your keyword terms in the body copy. This is a helpful way to find out who is using your keywords within their website text.
Trying to find article or page titles that include your keyword? Use this operator to limit the results to all titles that include the keywords. For example, searching for “allintitle: holiday ideas” (without the quotes) will return all titles with the term “holiday ideas.” This can be helpful to see who is using your keywords as page and article titles.
The one is useful if you want to find keywords that exist within a URL. Search using allinurl: plus keyword phrase. The Google results will only show websites that have those keywords in the URL. By combining this operator with others, you can also look for particular keywords within your competitors’ sites.
Similarly to allinurl:, the allinanchor: will help you identify pages which have one or more of your keywords, but this time it’s in the anchor text of backlinks pointing to a page. This can help you find the pages that have the most powerful backlinks pointing to it. You can also use this to understand which sites are contributing to the page rank of another website.
Google stores information on all websites in its cache, and with this operator, you can see the cached version of any URL. This type of search can be useful for several reasons. You can identify whether Google has indexed or visited your content, and what the page looked like when they crawled it with their bots.
Want to find out what Google considers your competition to be? Try this search operator. It will return results of all related sites. You can easily determine how sites relate to one another, and which websites are competing for your keyword terms.
Using info: and website URL will return additional information that Google has on a particular website. This can be helpful for gaining insight into how Google sees your website, or how it sees the competition. The information presented includes the Google cache, similar pages, pages that link to the website, pages from a website and title/meta description.
Update: Google has removed the cache, similar pages, links and any other extra information from info: results.
12. Social Operators, # and @
By putting a # or @ symbol in front of your a keyword, you’ll get search results that are based on social media tags.
13. Price Operator, $
If you want a price for something, try the $ symbol. For example, searching for hiking backpack $200 will return all backpacks that are $200.
14. The range, ..
Similarly, if you want to look for a range of prices, you’ll use ellipses (..). You can search for hiking backpack $150..$300 to find all hiking backpacks in that range.
15. The Asterisk, *
The * symbol acts as a placeholder in your query. You can search for best * in Los Angeles to return all sorts of things that are the best in Los Angeles.
Combinations of Search Operators
Not only are these operators powerful on their own, but you can combine them together to get even more insight into search results. You can combine nearly all of them in any combination you like, but let’s look at a few examples.
Determining if a site has issues with what is appearing in the index
To find out this information, you can do a type site:sitename-inurl www. This will show you all pages that are under a subdomain for the site in question. In some cases, a site will have a staging site or a site with their landing pages that shouldn’t be indexing but are for some reason. It’s a great way to determine what is being used as a subdomain, and what is showing up outside of the www.
Determining the anchor text for a particular domain
Identifying powerful pages is easy with this technique. Type in site:sitename inanchor: plus keyword. This will return back results that are pointing to the domain with that keyword as the anchor text.
These operators can be used in any combination. Once you’ve pulled up search results, you can refine your results further by adding more operators. Let’s say you’re getting too many results from a particular domain. You can add a – search operator to the existing search to narrow down your results.
Lastly, don’t forget about Google’s filters. By selecting Tools you can narrow down your content results based on date and based on verbatim results. See the screenshot below for example.
By adding any of these search operators, you can maximize your insight into your website and your competitors’ websites. Good luck!