6 Search Operators I’d Be Lost Without

by on 02/01/2011 • 18 Comments | SEO

I subscribe to a religion of productivity. It’s why I get to the office two hours before anyone else, why I’m always trying to hurry Rhea along in meetings (I have a serious meeting rule.), and why I’m always looking for ways to reduce the time it takes me to complete everyday tasks. It’s also why I’m a fan of using Google shortcuts and search operators whenever I can.

Last week during an internal Outspoken Media training session, the topic of using search operators came up and I thought I’d share a list of the operators and shortcuts I use on a daily basis. This is by no means a complete list of everything that’s out there, just the ones most useful for me. If you have any you swear by, I’d love for you to share them in the comments.

Site:

This is a staple for most of us in the SEO industry and I use it so often I can practically feel Google shaking its behemoth head at me. The [site:] operator allows you to search an entire Web site for a specific keyword or phrase to help you hone in on exactly what you’re looking for. For example, if I want to find the New Balance sneakers currently being offered by JCrew [Shut up. I was looking for them yesterday.] a search for [site:jcrew.com new balance] will quickly bring up the appropriate pages. If you want to see how many posts I’ve used the term [woo] in much to Rhea’s disapproval, a search for [site:outspokenmedia.com woo] will reveal the answer. Because I typically know what I’m trying to find on what site, I’d venture to say at least 65 percent of my daily searches are site searches.

Rhea: I love the site: operator, too! It’s most invaluable when conducting a SEO audit or finding and evaluating link development opportunities. For SEO audits we have to look under the hood and we do that by slowly stripping away sections from the root domain. Want to see if you’ve got a duplicate content problem? Two little searches can help you discover whether or not Google is indexing duped versions of your site — [site:www.example.com] and then [site:example.com -inurl:www]. [What she said - Lisa]

Filetype:

A [filetype:] search is super handy for when you’re trying to filter search results by a specific, you guessed it, filetype. Why would you ever want to do that? Well, maybe you’re in heavy research mode and you want to read up on some breast cancer-related whitepapers. A search for [filetype:pdf breast cancer] will allow you to quickly bring up those results.

Allinurl:

Another big timesaver search, [allinurl:] allows you to search for pages that have a specific keyword in their URL. This can be handy when trying to place guest posts, scouting places to get links, or even identifying possible competitors. Look for pages all about brandjacking? A search for [allinurl:brandjacking] will bring up any page that has it in the URL.

Allintitle:

Similarly, an [allintitle:] search will return any Web page in which the keywords you input appear in the title of the page. For example, [allintitle:blackberry app] will return pages in which the phrase [Blackberry app] appears in the title.

It’s important to remember that allinurl and allintitle will return “all” keywords if you’re searching with multiple keywords. By comparison inurl and intitle will return results that contain either of the keywords you’re searching on. So, when you’re looking for something very specific that must contain all of your keywords, use the “all” operators.

Related:

This is a great one for doing competitive research and identifying the sites that Google thinks are similar to the site you input. For example, if I was trying to come up with a list of sites similar to our local paper, The Troy Record, a search for [related:troyrecord.com] would show competitors like The Times Union, The Saratogian, and The Daily Gazette – three other area news sites.

-(Minus):

Handy for when you want to narrow down what you’re searching to exclude a specific term. For example, [fitness tips –crossfit] will remove any pages about that cult CrossFit from your search results. ;)

Like I said, definitely not a definitive list but the ones that help me out on a daily basis. Which search operators and shortcuts do you depend on?

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About the Author

Lisa Barone

Lisa Barone co-founded Outspoken Media in 2009 and served as Chief Branding Officer until April 2012.

Get social with Lisa at Twitter

18 thoughts on “6 Search Operators I’d Be Lost Without

  1. Very useful information… The first search I did… site:jcrew.com new balance
    I hope they make some for men :-) I LOVE New Balance !

  2. Love this!!!!!

    Thanks Lisa – I use a few of these but I had no clue about the “Related” one. New Tools to add to my tool box :)

  3. Thanks Lisa. As a neophyte in SEO you manage to make it sound easy and clear, both signs that you clearly master your trade. Not that there was any doubt in my mind.
    I only knew one I use for twitter “your keyword” city site:twitter.com to pick up the keyword in people’s twitter bios.

  4. Hi,

    You said: “Want to see if you’ve got a duplicate content problem? Two little searches can help you discover whether or not Google is indexing duped versions of your site — [site:www.example.com] and then [site:example.com -inurl:www]. [What she said - Lisa]”

    I’m a reasonably intelligent person and have read perhaps a dozen posts on duplicate content, but I don’t understand this tip. I guess people who are already in the know get it (“What she said”), but for the rest of us, would you please elaborate on what you are looking at when you run these queries, and how you can tell if there is duplicate content on a site?

    Thanks!

    • Hi Brian, that was my comment, so sorry to hop into this late. Here’s what I’m saying…

      Let’s grab a random site like the Children’s Brain Tumor Foundation. I know their website’s canonical version is http://www.cbtf.org/ but I wanted to know if they were splitting their page rank and opening themselves up to duplicate content by not effectively redirecting the non-www version of their site to the www version. It should be simple enough to check that manually, but I know that by doing this query in Google I might find some interesting issues in addition to that.

      So, I did a quick Google search with the query: [site:cbtf.org -inurl:www] which removed all indexed versions of the site with www. The results were surprising:
      http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&safe=off&q=site%3Acbtf.org+-inurl%3Awww&aq=f&aqi=&aql=&oq=

      This seems like a simple check just to see if a site has a 301 redirect setup properly for non-www to www. But when we do this search we capture even more abnormalities like what you see in the search results above. They have a ww. indexed! There isn’t a duplicate version of their site there, which is what we’d typically see with maybe a https or www1 or www2. There is however a duped version of their developer’s site, which should probably get addressed.

      We’ve worked on sites where we go through this process and discover literally hundreds of duped versions of a site!

      Hope that helps, if not, feel free to hit me up: rhea@outspokenmedia.com

  5. I’m a big fan of inurl: as well. It’s particularly helpful for link / citation research in the negative e.g. -inurl:fudgescicle.

    So, since Google lies about links and you know that any site relating to ice cream trucks is not relevant you might search for: “domain.com” -inurl:fudgescicle -inurl:creamscicle

    Will

  6. Great post, my personal favourite is ‘define:’ e.g. [define:SEO] It finds web definitions, useful when you see a term or acronym you don’t know! I need to use site: more.

  7. I’m actually ashamed I didn’t know the filetype operator. For shame. *shakes head. Anyway, thanks so much for this short list of operators. I use site and define: myself.
    Thanks!
    o_O

  8. I didn’t know about “Related:” – thank you, it’s pure gold!

    One more operator I find useful occasionally is the + sign immediately before a keyword. It makes Google to look for your exact word, without spelling corrections, synonyms, etc. Helps when Google is annoyingly trying to be smarter than you.

  9. Very good tutorial. I find it great to improve my search results.

    When I’m looking for academic content it’s very useful to use these operators. But from time to time Google is going to add some more and deletes some old. Thats why you have to stay tuned for the latest ones.
    Another article just introduced some more operators providing useful videos:
    http://geekroom.de/how-to/google-optimal-nutzen-features-fur-bessere-ergebnisse/

    But compared to blekko Google cannot sort the results – damn. I hope this will come to Google, too soon…

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