Hello, Operator: Our Favorite Google Search Operators
October 29, 2013
As Google constantly works to make searches more user-friendly, the information it uses to satisfy a search query continues to expand. From syntactic clues that include synonymy and linguistic patterns, to using implicit information to bolster a search query such as location, search history, and more, searches continue to try to find the best way to create a great UX in an intuitive, simplified platform. The introduction of the knowledge graph and the Hummingbird algorithm, something that moved to answer questions and more complex search queries, was something we saw on the horizon in the past.
However, Google already has a robust set of tools to allow us to find specific information within domains, or about domains. Below, I’ve outlined some of our favorite Google search operators and Advanced Search options that can help users and search marketers find the best results and best opportunities for sites and clients alike.
The site search:
The site search is one of the most common operators for a search marketer or Webmaster to use, to see how many pages Google is actively indexing or find information specific to a certain site. Have you ever read something on a particular domain and forgot to bookmark the exact link? Type in a couple of keywords with this operator, and it’s likely that you’ll find exactly what you’re looking for, along with plenty of related information from that domain.
What it looks like: site:domain.com [query] (Note: Each of these search operators requires that there be no space after the operator and the colon; i.e. site:domain.com will yield the desired results, whereas site: domain.com will not.)
This is an example of a site:domain.com search, which shows all of the top visited pages to your site. It can often illuminate the most-visited pages on your site, as Google will often show the pages with the most visits in sequence–this is something that I’ve seen correlate with a number of different clients, though I have no confirmation that this is their methodology for ranking results within a particular domain. To search for a query within a domain, you use the operator listed above with a query after the domain.
inurl and allinurl search operators:
These each offer searchers the option of searching a query that appears specifically within the URL structure. These operators are particularly useful if you are looking for specific information that may be found in within the URL (i.e. sites with ‘blog’ in the URL itself and your query in the content of the page), or allinurl, which will only search the URLs themselves. AllinURL offers particularly interesting outreach opportunities, as you can search for things like [allinurl: /tag/query/] and it will give you blog posts and web sites that have been tagged with your search query. These extend far beyond just “blog” searches, but these were handy examples that I thought might illustrate the power of these search operators. Search operators like intitle and allintitle work much the same way, asking Google to crawl only the title of each page rather than the content itself.
The above represents a search for the following: [inurl:blog messi], asking only for URLs that include the word blog and pages that include content about Messi. Aside from some immediate concerns raised about Messi’s temperament and tax problems, it’s a pretty powerful indicator on how one can look for very targeted searches about the best footballer in the world, or a number of other queries that may lead to link building or networking opportunities.
For an allinurl search, I used the following query: [allinurl:tag/fcbarcelona/] which only asks for URLs that have that particular tag within the query. This can be a great way to find sites that have whole sections devoted to certain niches. For information on the club of the best footballer in the world, I used the search below.
A few Google search operators offer telling glimpses of how the Google search engine is actually structured. The operator “define:” tells the search engine to give the definition of a certain query, “related:” offers related search results, and “info:” might return some background information pulled from the content of each search result rather than the web page metadata. The amalgamation of all of these indexes may look something similar to the results that you see displayed in the knowledge graph. Similarly, looking at the “filetype:” operator may help you find PDFs, images, or any type of filetype that is indexed by the search engine. Pirates, beware: You may not have too much luck finding songs or other protected material; Google seems to display .html results for filetype:mp3 searches.
Quotes, Conjunctions, and Caveats
For searching for an exact match of a collection of words, we merely need to add quotes: “i’m all lost in the supermarket” brings up sites with lyrics to the song “Lost in the Supermarket” by The Clash, and other collections of lyrics, lines from movies, poems, famous quotations, and more can be found using this methodology.
Perhaps that you’re looking for a search term like [chargers], but don’t want to include results about the professional football team in the search results. Consider using [chargers -NFL] or [chargers -football]; while news results may still include some football-related articles, it is more likely that the first page will be more focused on what you are actually trying to find, from phone chargers, to Dodge Chargers.
Similarly, using the words “AND” and “OR” in a search query can be fairly transformative. [Online marketing AND write for us] provides us with a nice list of blogs and sites that are seeking submissions about online marketing.
Advanced Search: Search by Date
Search by date is another Google search operator that allows users to search for things that are posted on or around a specific date or date range. The daterange: search operator can be great for broken link building, and uses the Julian calendar to calculate the date. Simply type [query daterange:start date-end date], and you will find only results from that particular date range!
I hope this helps to illuminate some different tools that are right under our fingertips in providing searches, queries, and opportunities to use the search engine. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!