An SEO Guide to Google Advanced Search Operators9 min read
If you’re interested in search, the most critical skill you need is the ability to Google.
I’m not just talking about figuring out the right search terms, but how to use the search engine to find a ton of interesting and variable results.
Many tools can help you with research opportunities.
These could be specialty tools for finding backlinks, on-page optimization aids, or tools for supporting SEO audits.
Advanced Google search operators have their place in this ecosystem of tools, too.
These operators can help you gain insight into SEO opportunities and audit points you may not have identified otherwise.
Whether you need to find sources for a blog post, identify all of the PDFs on your site, or just want to see your site’s cache, using Google search operators can help you.
In this guide, we will go over advanced Google Search operators and commands, and examples of how you might use them.
From content research to technical SEO audits, these examples will help you become more familiar with how Google’s advanced search commands and operators work in real-world situations.
Advanced Google Search Operators
Google is an information retrieval engine.
Code languages like SQL use operators to retrieve information from databases, and you can use them the same way in Google.
In short, search operators are symbols or words in your search that make your search results more precise.
Keep in mind that Google Search usually ignores punctuation, unless you’re using search operators.
Here are the advanced Google search commands and operators you need to know.
Using the cache operator, you can find the most recent cache of a specified webpage.
This is useful for identifying when a page was last crawled.
This operator will help you find whether all the terms that you are looking for shows up in the text of that page. This operator, however, isn’t pin-accurate because it won’t look for text that appears close together on the page.
allintext:content social links
This operator is more global in that it allows you to find terms showing up in any area of the webpage, such as the title, the page itself, the URL, and elsewhere.
This is useful if you want to perform research into how others’ on-page SEO footprints are being categorized by Google.
word one intext: other term
If you are performing blog research, this operator is useful for finding blogs with certain search terms in the blog title.
inposttitle:weight loss goals
This search operator is a great way to find blogs that match the content you are writing about.
For example, you could use allintitle to research what others are doing for that particular topic.
Then, you could compare to ensure yours is higher quality.
allintitle:how to write content for seo
This is a narrower operator that will help you find more targeted results for specific search phrases.
If you wanted to find pages that are all about “drawing with micron pens,” for example, you would use this example:
intitle:drawing with micron pens
This one allows you to find pages with your requested search terms within the URL in internal search pages.
For example, say you wanted to perform research on pages on a site that had the terms “drawing tablet.”
You would use the following example:
allinurl:amazon drawing tablet
This will bring up all internal URLs on Amazon.com that have the terms “drawing tablet.”
To find pages on a site that has your targeted search term in the URL and a second term in content on a website, you could use this operator. This is useful for finding sites with strong on-page optimization for the topics you are researching.
This operator is useful for performing research on pages that have all terms after “inanchor:” in anchor text linking back to the page.
allinanchor:"how to draw anime"
This is used to identify pages with inbound links that contain the anchor text specified.
However, data is only sampled and doesn’t provide accurate global results.
Do you want to find images that only fall under a specific file type (e.g., .jpg, .png, or .gif)?
If you need to narrow research on infographics or memes or just want to see some images, this can help.
It can also help you identify stray images and other files (like PDFs) that may have been picked up by Google.
site:domainname.com filetype:txt – inurl:robots.txt
Using the filetype search operator will help you find files on your site that were indexed by Google but will exclude robots.txt from appearing in the search results.
Do you want the focus of your results to be super narrow?
This is a great way to identify search results where two or more terms appear on the page, and also appear very close to each other (denoted by the number in the parentheses).
digital drawing AROUND(2) tools
Do you want to restrict your search to social media? You can easily do this using the @ symbol.
You can also use the # symbol to search within hashtags on Google.
Advanced Google Search Commands
This command helps you search for pages that have one word or the other.
If you wanted to find the words drawing or painting, but not both, you could use this command to do so.
digital drawing OR digital painting
Using quotes around the phrases you are searching for will help you find results that are exact match results, rather than the broad results you will get with standard search.
“search term 1”
Exclude Words: (-)
The minus sign is an exclusion symbol.
This command excludes words that you don’t want to appear in the search results.
If, for some reason, you wanted to find pages with the word “content marketing,” but not pages from Business Insider containing that phrase, you would type:
“content marketing -businessinsider.com”
Add words: (+)
You can use a plus sign to add words that you want to be included in the search results.
“content marketing + SEO”
Use an asterisk as a wildcard to represent a space that could be filled by anything.
“Top * ranking factors”
If you need more specific results from a single website, this command brings those results up.
For example, if you wanted to search your favorite SEO website for articles on 404 errors, you would use the following:
“site:searchenginejournal.com 404 errors”
If you’re in a situation where you need any results that have more than one website with similar content to a site you are familiar with, just use the following:
This one will help you find information related to the domain you are searching for.
With this, you can identify things like pages with the domain text on-page (not necessarily linked), similar on-site pages, and the website’s cache.
Putting It All Together: How to Use These Commands & Operators in the Real World
It isn’t always easy to identify the best combinations of search commands and operators that will help you accomplish your objective.
Here are a few more ideas you can use to take these operators and use them to their fullest potential for a wide variety of SEO uses.
Feel free to use them to build your SEO ideas and projects.
Dig Deeper Into Website Content Research
Many of these search operators can help you perform targeted, useful research on content.
You’ll find everything from today’s most recent content on SEO topics to articles on making the most amazing bacon potato volcano with cheese.
If it’s specific enough, these operators are your friend when it comes to finding content ideas.
Exclude Specific Terms That Aren’t Helpful to You
Say you were doing research for SEO content that talks about secure URLs, but you wanted to exclude anything that mentioned 404 errors.
The following would suffice:
secure URLs -404 errors
Exclude More Than One Term
term1 -term2 -term3 -term4
If your content research revolves around 404 errors but all you want are pages that talk about them (and pages that do not mention 404 errors for canonicals, 500 errors, and the like), you can use this combination:
secure urls -404 errors -canonicals -500 errors
Exclude Exact Terms
If you want to find pages that mention technical SEO audits but do not include 404 errors or XML sitemaps in the topical discussion, this operator will help.
Please note that it will include XML sitemap unless they are specifically excluded.
technical seo -“404 errors” -“xml sitemaps”
Exclude Irrelevant Sites
Sometimes you want to exclude certain sites from your searches.
You can combine exclusions with site: to remove entire sites from the index.
Tech seo -site:pinterest.com
Technical SEO Audits
When done right, technical SEO audits can be complex and can contain over 200 factors to consider fixing, especially for large websites.
However, there is a lot more involved than simply spitting out the results of a tool and sending it on to the client or your boss.
Anybody can do that.
SEO professionals, however, will put together a custom strategy the client can use to prioritize SEO tasks and get their site from where it is to where it needs to be.
That’s where the power of a technical SEO audit comes in.
Using advanced search operators can help you drill down to the nitty-gritty details of how Google sees and indexes a website.
Here are some ideas for using advanced Google Search operators in your SEO audits.
Identify How a Site is Indexed
This gives you a tiny window into how a site is indexed by Google, which can tell you a great deal about how to tailor your SEO efforts accordingly.
Using the site: operator is one of the simpler ways to do this, and you can get an idea of the site’s index count as well.
The index result count can help you identify massive technical errors on a large website.
Say, for example, a site physically only has 270 pages but Google is indexing 15,000 pages from the site.
This could range from incorrectly generated pages from on-site search, to issues arising from an http:// to https:// transition, and redirects not working properly.
Remove Multiple Subdomains
site:domainname.com -inurl:stage -inurl:dev -inurl:staging
If you work on a messy, large international brand website that continues to have issues with staging sites being indexed, but you don’t care about the staging site, this operator can help you exclude all of those messy staging site subdomains.
Drill Deep Down Into Non-Secure Pages and Audit Your http:// to https:// Transition
This example excludes the https:// url, but you can also include it by removing the minus sign.
Using the operator in this way can help you audit your http:// to https:// transition.
This gives you an idea into how Google is indexing your new https:// pages as opposed to their http:// pages.
Finding Duplicate Content
site:domainname.com “content search term”
Say you wanted to find out how much a website’s internal duplicate content was being indexed by Google.
The combination of these operators will help you do this.
This is useful for gaining surface-level insight into how many results are returned by the search term.
After finding this out, you can use a tool like Screaming Frog to dig deeper and find those duplicate content pages that are presenting problems.
Multiple Combinations of Operators Can Be Your Friend
From hunting down plagiarism of your own content to auditing your http:// to https:// website transition, many infinite combinations of operators can be useful for content audits, technical SEO audits, and whatever else you want to use them for.
Find the combinations that will help the most in your search efforts.
Use them to find the best and most important information to help you beat your competition in the search results.
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