6 Search Operators I’d Be Lost Without

February 1, 2011
By Lisa Barone in 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.


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]


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.


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.


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.


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.


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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