Don’t you just wish you could refine your searches to get more precise results? I mean, you do a search, using regular text, and you always get search results that have nothing to do with your initial query. What is up with that?
Google is supposed to be the top search engine to date, but sometimes irrelevant pages just slip through the cracks even if they have no business showing up on the SERP (search engine results page) based on your query.
Actually, there are ways to make your searches yield more precise results. Google has provided users the tools, basic search techniques, for conducting more accurate searches. It just so happens that a lot of people don’t really know about them that much.
So what are these tools I’m talking about? They’re known as Google search operators, sometimes referred to as advanced search operators.
What Are Google Search Operators?
Google search operators, otherwise referred to as search modifiers, are special characters that you add to regular text searches to get the most precise search results possible. These modifiers are quite useful for just about anything, from your standard content research to plagiarism checks and the more technical SEO audits.
Google search operators are an important feature, the bread and butter, for a lot of experienced SEO specialists and digital marketers. The tools allow them to conduct complex searches. But although seasoned SEO practitioners and marketers are quite familiar with these search modifiers, the majority of users may find it quite perplexing.
So here’s how you get started with Google search operators:
I. Symbols Commonly Used for Basic and Advanced Searches
To familiarize yourself with Google search operators, you have to learn about the basic symbols that are often used to conduct advanced searches. These symbols can help modify your searches, so Google will return more precise results.
Quotation Marks (“) – By placing a word or phrase inside quotation marks, you’re telling Google to search for exact matches.
- Asterisk (*) – An asterisk is used in place of an unknown word or term. This serves as a placeholder for queries and search terms of which you’re unsure of.
- Minus/Dash (-) – Dash is a symbol mainly used for exclusion. You put the symbol in front of a word you want Google to exclude from the search.
- Double Periods (..) – This is known as a range operator. You place two periods in between numbers/values to tell Google to search for values within the specified range.
- Ampersat (@) – This symbol, which is commonly referred to as the at sign, is often placed in front of a word to search social media.
- Pound/Sharp (#) – Also known as a hash—or hashtag—among the younger generation, this symbol is placed in front of a word or term to search for, well, hashtags in social media.
- Dollar Sign ($) – Also known as the generic currency symbol, this particular search operator is typically put in front of a number if you’re searching for a price.
There are many more symbols used as search modifiers, but these are the most common. You should learn to incorporate these into your queries if you want more precise results.
II. Slightly More Advanced Operators You Can Use in Your Queries
In addition to the symbols, there are other Google search operators that are typically used by more advanced users. The following are some of the most common ones that not a lot of people probably know about.
- “OR” – The word OR is used to combine searches. You place it in between two search terms (must be all CAPS) to tell Google to look for the two terms individually, and not as a single key phrase.
- “AND” – The AND operator must also be in all CAPS for it to work. You place it in between search terms and Google will only return a result until all conditions are met.
- “cache:” – You place the “cache:” operator in front of any website’s address if you want to search for Google’s cached version of that particular website.
- “site:” – This is the Google search operator you will want to use if you’re trying to look for a specific top level domain website. For example, site:.org or site:.gov.
- “related:” – This is the search modifier you place in front of a website address. Google will then provide results that are similar to the website in your query. This is an effective search operator to use when you’re trying to identify your organic competitors.
- “info:” – This is fairly a straightforward search modifier. You put it in front of a known site address and Google will return with information about that particular website.
- “filetype:” – If you wish to restrict search results to a specific file type or extension, such as .jpeg, .ppt, .flv, or .png, this is the search operator you use.
These are some of the most widely used and very useful Google search operators that will help enhance searches, especially for budding SEO professionals.
III. Google Search Operators You Can Use for More In-Depth Research
Here, we’re heading into more advanced and technical territory. Google search operators that only seasoned SEO specialists and digital marketers might be familiar with. There are tech-savvy users out there, though, who are probably quite adept with using these search modifiers.
So if you want to become more proficient with your online research and queries, you might want to pay close attention to the following Google search operators:
- “allintext:” / “intext:” – The allintext: modifier is placed in front of the search term. This restricts the search results to content that has the keywords or phrases that are specified, in the text on the page. The intext: modifier can be placed anywhere in the search. But it will only return pages that contain the term immediately after the intext: modifier.
- “allintitle:” / “intitle:” – If you put the allintitle: modifier at the beginning of your query, Google will return with pages that contain all the specified search terms in the meta title. When the intitle: modifier is used, on the other hand, the search will come up with results that have the specific terms as part of the meta title.
- “allinanchor:” / “inanchor:” – Consider using the allinanchor: search operator if you want Google to return with pages where all the key terms in your query are used in the anchor text. For terms used as part of the anchor text, you may use the inanchor: search operator.
- “allinurl:” / “inurl:” – This Google operator is exactly what it may seem to you. By placing it in front of key terms, Google will return with pages containing the terms or phrases you specified in the URL (Uniform Resource Locator).
As you can see, these particular Google search operators are quite complex and technical. These are not the kind of search modifiers that the average Joe Internet user would use when conducting a search on Google. However, they are an efficient research tool for SEO practitioners and digital marketers.
IV. URL Modifiers: Additional Tool to Expand Your Research Capabilities
URL modifiers are not really the same as Google search operators, in the sense that you can’t put them in the search box to modify your query. Instead, these particular modifiers are used in conjunction with the standard search operators to make the results even more precise.
What you do is add these modifiers at the end of the SERP (Search Engine Result Page) URL field to get an even more accurate result. Here are a few URL modifiers worth noting:
- “&tbm=blg” – Add this modifier at the end of the SERP URL to bring up blog results, based on the search terms you’ve used. Use “&tbs=blgt:b” to ask Google to only scan blog homepages.
- “&tbm=app” – This URL modifier will bring up Google app search based on your query. Secondary parameters to further enhance the search include “&tbs=app_price:free” to show results of free apps, “&tbs=app_price:paid” for paid apps, “&tbs=app_os:1” to get apps for Android operating system, and “&tbs=app_os:13” for iOS apps.
- “&tbm=shop” – Obviously, this URL modifier is used to bring up Google shopping results based on your search terms. To further narrow down the search, you may use any of the following secondary modifiers: “&tbs=local_avail:1”, which will limit the results to local products, “&tbs=new:1” limits the result for new items or products, and “&tbs=brand:BRAND NAME HERE” to show results based on a specific brand.
As far as URL modifiers are concerned, the ones mentioned above are just the tip of the iceberg. The bottom line is, by focusing on the Google search operators, you can refine your search capabilities and become a more efficient user of the Google search engine.