One of the first places that most people look when tackling any SEO task is in Google’s SERPs. Navigating through Google is an easy task since many people do it everyday to search for a vast assortment of queries. As a free and simple resource, it is a must-use tool for SEO.
Advanced Google search operators take things to the next level when it comes to using Google as a tool for research, optimization, and audits. Refining web searches with Google search operators is done through symbols and words. Using these commands are simple, but if done effectively, can provide valuable insights.
In this guide, we are going to provide a comprehensive rundown of most of the Google search operators that exist, as well as actionable takeaways to help audit your website.
Advanced Google Search Operators
To force an exact-match search, wrap your search query in quotation marks. The search query you wrap in quotation marks have to be on the page or title of the listings that show up on the SERPs.
Example: “Sony WH-1000XM4”
Searching for a specific model of headphones.
To exclude words from your search, use a hyphen. Excluding words is helpful when the search results are filled with non-relevant results for what you are looking for.
Example: doge -dogecoin
Searching for doge without any info on dogecoin which has shot up in popularity.
The wildcard operator (asterisk) provides search results with any word or phrase. It helps provide more matches with additional variations.
Example: fastest * in the world
Searching for the fastest things in the world, which will pull up various lists like the fastest animals, cars, etc. that is filled in for the wildcard.
To structure an advanced search, combine search operators and queries with parenthesis.
Searching for a chicken sandwich in both San Diego, CA and Los Angeles, CA on Google.
To search within a range of numbers use two periods in between your values. This can be used for years, monetary values, and more.
We’ve noticed that there is wild inconsistencies with this search operator but it roughly works. If there are any instances of the year that exist either in the body content or publishing date, it seems it will come up.
Example: 2013..2015 movies
Searching for movies that were released between the years 2013 to 2015.
Using “AND” will show search results related to all of the words entered. Google automatically uses “AND” with regular searches, but can prove quite useful when combining it with other search operators.
Searching for the topics finance or money with blog in the URL or the word beginner in the URL.
OR or |
Using “OR” or the pipe symbol “|” will tell Google to pull search results related to one word in your query or the other.
Example: finance (inurl:blog OR inurl:post)
Searching for finance focused pages with blog or post in the URL.
$ or €
To search for prices, affix a currency symbol to your value.
Example: computer $500
Searching for a computer with a price of $500, which also loops in posts on computers $500 or less.
Using “in” will trigger Google’s calculator or conversion rich snippet tool. Google is pretty smart these days with being able to detect a wanted conversion without using this operator, but using this will guarantee the calculator or conversion rich snippet will pop up.
Example: 127lb in oz
Converting 127 pounds to ounces.
The “after:” operator will return search results after the date entered in the query. You can use a full date or a year.
Searching for pages on genericmarketing.org that were published after the year 2019.
Using “allintitle:” ensures that all of the words in your search query will exist in the title tag of the search results. It won’t show up in the order that is presented unless wrapped in quotes for the exact match. Compare this to “intitle:” which just includes the words right after the search operator.
Searches for results that will include all of the words “bitcoin”, “cryptocurrency”, and “analysis” within the title.
Using “allinurl:” ensures that all of the words in your search query will exist in the URL of the search results. Compare this to “inurl:” which just includes the words right after the search operator.
Example: allinurl:blog finance money
Searches for pages that have the words “blog”, “finance”, and “money” in the URL.
The “before:” operator will return search results before the date entered in the query. You can use a full date or a year.
Example: site:techradar.com before:2012
Searching for pages published before 2012 on techradar.com.
To view Google’s last cache of a certain webpage, use the “cache:” operator.
Looking at the cache of the internal linking guide on our site.
To view Google’s definition quick answer, use the “define:” operator.
Searching for the definition of SEO. If you don’t search with the define operator, the definition quick answer won’t be present.
To view search results for certain file types, prefix your query with “filetype:”.
Example: Camping checklist filetype:pdf
Searching for a camping checklist PDF. PDFs are a great file type when looking for printable assets.
Using “intext:” will tell Google to include results that have your searched text in the body content of pages.
Example: finance intext:”money saving”
Searching for results around the topic of finance with the exact words “money saving” in the body content.
Using “intitle:” will tell Google to include results that have your searched text in the title of pages.
Example: finance intitle:”money saving”
Searching for results around the topic of finance with the exact words “money saving” in the title.
Using “inurl:” will tell Google to include results that have your searched text in the URL of pages.
Example: finance inurl:”money saving”
Searching for results around the topic of finance with the exact words “money saving” in the URL.
When using the “map:” operator, a map result will be shown for locational searches.
Example: map:San Diego
Searching for a map of San Diego.
To view information about a specific movie, use the “movie:” operator.
Searching for details about the movie “Interstellar”.
Using the “related:” operator will list websites similar to a URL that is specified.
To limit search results to a single site, use the “site:” operator.
Searching for tech sites related to techradar.com.
To limit search results to a single source, you can do that with the “source:” operator.
Example: google pixel source:9to5mac
Searching for news about the Google Pixel published by 9to5Mac.
How to Use Google Search Operators for SEO
Check Indexed Pages
To get a good glimpse of what pages are indexed for a website, use the site search operator.
The search above is looking at the different indexed pages for our site. What’s great about this view is you could see pages that shouldn’t be indexed or find areas in which pages should be indexed. Are noindex tags set incorrectly? Should pages have a noindex set?
To take this further, you can look at indexed pages for specific subfolders or subdomains of your site by adding in the “inurl” operator.
The search string is looking at the learn section of our site to show us which pages are on Google’s SERPs.
Spot Non-Secure Pages
Using a simple “site” operator search excluding any instance of https will show any indexed URLs that aren’t secure.
Google has stated that security is one of their top priorities. With this, they’ve added HTTPS as a ranking signal to award sites for heading in this direction.
This shouldn’t be a problem if you have HTTPS set up correctly and redirects in place.
Find Copied Content
To find copied content on Google, the exact-match search will come in handy. Take a portion of your post or page and throw double quotes around that in Google to see if anyone is using your content.
If you find someone stealing your content, reach out to the offending site and provide a link to the original content. Going further with reaching out to the web host, filing a DMCA complaint, and onboarding a takedown service are things to consider depending on the severity of the stolen content.
Sometimes, you’ll notice it’s just a poorly built website scraping content with bots which will likely already be dismissed by search engines. But if you notice a publisher that looks reputable and is ranking with copying your content, taking the appropriate actions briefly mentioned above would be advised.
This is a quick way to look for copied content, but there are more robust tools out there that specialize in finding stolen content like Copyscape.
Find Internal Duplicate Content
Similar to the previous use case of finding copied/stolen content, you can use Google to find internal duplicate content.
To do that, just put the section of content you’re trying to investigate as duplicative and combine both the exact-match search operator with the site search operator.
site: genericmarketing.org “Sentence to find across the site here.“
Find Internal Linking Opportunities
Just like finding internal duplicate content, you can use the same search operators to find internal linking opportunities.
Look for exact match anchor text to link to your posts.
Using these search operators can help fuel your internal linking strategy and improve your overall site architecture. There is true power in building quality internal links across your site, so don’t skip over this.
Prospect Link Building Opportunities
There are so many ways that search operators can be used to prospect link building opportunities. Link builders often rely heavily on using search operators to find relevant blogs to promote shareable assets to.
Some of our favorite search operators for prospecting link placements include:
Finding blogs targeting specific topics
To find blogs to pitch for your promotable assets, use the inurl search operator with your topic.
In this example, you’ll see a number of different blogs focused around the topic of cryptocurrency. You’ll need to dive a little bit deeper to find out if they are a good fit, but this will help pull your initial list of URLs to filter through.
Finding resource pages for broken link building
Similar to finding blogs, you can use the inurl search operator to find resource pages which is a great fit for broken link building. Run a broken link checking tool (several chrome extensions are available) and let the webmaster know they have a broken link then pitch your new resource link as well.
In this Google search, you’ll see a number of different resource pages that compile various links and resources around the topic of cryptocurrency. For resource pages, oftentimes there will be some sort of disclaimer on the page informing you how to (or why not to) pitch your relevant content.
Finding sites that share infographics
If you have an infographic that you’re trying to share with others, you’ll want to find websites that post similar content. Using inurl and intitle with an OR condition will help you find websites sharing these.
In the SERP screenshot, you’ll notice a few options that may be a good website to reach out to. If you poke through a website and notice they are only sharing their own infographics, it won’t be a good fit. But if you’re seeing different sources for the infographics shared, that’s a good sign you can pitch that type of resource to them.
When it comes to link building, using search operators will be one of your best friends. Play around with them and be creative to find the best prospects for outreach.
Search operators are a great way to level up your Googling game and is a must know for every SEO. With the many different things you can accomplish with them, picking up the basics like inurl, site, and exact-match searching will enhance your day to day tasks.
- Advanced Google search operators can enhance your use of Google as a tool for research, optimization, and audits.
- You can do things like check indexed pages, spot non-secure pages, find internal linking opportunities and more with search operators.
- When it comes to link building, search operators are a powerful addition to your toolset.