A Beginner’s Guide to Google Search Operators

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Guide to Google Search Operators
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If you ever dived into the SEO waters, then you probably know what Google search operators are.

However, not everyone is well-versed into the optimisation domain, and some are just starting their digital marketing journey.

Doing SEO all by yourself requires resources. And time. A lot of it. 

So, you should start using some hacks to speed up the process. 

They serve as tools to help you with your keyword research, content research, as well as your SEO audits.

Since time is your most valuable asset, I’ll try to be as clear and concise as possible.

What Are Google Search Operators

Google search operators is a set of special characters that assist you in Google searches and make them more precise. 

In other words, they are commands that go beyond the standard textual searches, and you can use them whenever you think you:

  • need social profiles for outreach
  • look for guest posting
  • find duplicate content issues
  • find errors with your site’s indexation
  • see the non-https pages
  • discover if your content idea is already out there
  • find competitor sites

Marketing experts usually divide search operators into two main categories:

  1. Basic search operators, which you use if you have to do basic filtering.
  1. Advanced search operators, which you use when you need to “dig deeper.” These require extra parameters, such as the URLs.

Basic Search Operators List

“ ”

The first search operator you should know is quotation marks.

It allows you to have an exact-match search, which means that your results will exclude related words and synonyms.

You can use it when looking for guest posting opportunities.

Example: “write for us”

Google search results for query write for us

You can also use “become a contributor”, “guest blog/post guidelines”, or “guest contributors.”

You can use the asterisk sign when you want to get more matches. 

This command is also called a wildcard operator, and it helps you to find search results when you don’t have the exact idea of where to begin.

You’re essentially telling Google, “please fill in the blank for me.” It will give you a substitute for a word you don’t have, and it will take you to different results you might find useful.

Moreover, you can use it in any position in the search term.

Example: *streaming websites

gates * microsoft

Google search results for Bill Gates * Microsoft

-

The hyphen will assist you if you want to exclude particular words from the search results.

Example: gates -microsoft

Google search results for gates -microsoft

Here you can see that Google only enlisted the results that weren’t associated with the term “microsoft.”

AND

Use AND when you want to get the results that relate to both terms.

Example: sunflowers AND gardens

Google search results for sunflower and gardens

()

Parentheses serve as a tool to group multiple terms. 

Also, you control how the search is going to execute.

Example: (european AND african) runners

Google search results for (european AND african) runners

You can see the results that contain both European and African runners.

@

According to Google’s Refine web searches page, you can use the at sign to search social media when placed in front of the word.

Example: @apple

Google search results for @apple

In my case, it featured the company’s website as the first result, followed by social media accounts.

This one is excellent when you need social profiles for outreach. So, you might be searching for the company name after the at sign.

$/€

The dollar sign or the euro sign come in handy when you look for products by price.

Example: iPhone xr $500

Google search results for iPhone XR $500

#

This list wouldn’t be complete without the famous hashtag. 

You use it for, guess what, hashtags!

Example: #marketingideas

Google search results for #marketingideas

OR/|

When you want to look for two interchangeable search terms, you can use OR or |.

It rarely goes by itself, so you’ll mostly use it with parentheses.

Example: seo companies (africa OR europe)

Google search results for seo companies (africa OR europe)

in

There are some of Google search operators you probably didn’t know you were already using.

For instance, if you need to convert from one unit to another, you use the in search operator.

Example: 5 kph in mph

Google search results for 5 kph in mph

You’ll get the same results if you use to.

Google search results for 5 kph to mph

Moreover, you can take this search operator when converting currencies: 5 GBP to USD.

Now, let’s get to a more advanced cheat sheet.

You can’t do an SEO audit with basic stuff, so here’s the real deal.

Advanced Search Operators List

site:

In case you want to limit your results to a specific page, use the site: search operator.

With it, you can find indexation errors, non-https pages, and duplicate content issues

Note that I included a few search operators which I’ll explain later.

Example: site:growhackscale.com

Google search results for site site:growhackscale.com

You can see that there are about 80 results shown.

If we take this example, site:growhackscale.com/blog, Google finds 11 results.

Google search results for site:growhackscale.com/blog

Since we have fewer blogs than that, more pages are being indexed by Google. 

I should remove them from the SERPs by noindexing them.

Next, you can use it to find non-https pages or those pages that aren’t secure. 

Make sure to check this if you have an eCommerce store.

Example: site:ebay.com -inurl:https

Google search results for site:ebay.com

Google found over a staggering 1,5M insecure pages. It’s a lot for the eCommerce giant.

Last, you can check if there are any duplicate content issues on the site with this search operator.

I’ll take another eCommerce brand, Asos, for instance. 

Apart from their brand, they sell menswear and womenswear from other companies.

It’s only logical they’ll have descriptions of those other brands on their pages.

A screenshot of Asos product details

Now, since that description is generic, you’re most likely going to find it on other pages.

Example: site:asos.com "Bershka has been dressing the young and adventurous since 1998. Influenced by the latest music, technology and social media trends, it upgrades your Saturday AM-to-PM style with cool denim, classic knits and awesome accessories."

Google search results for site:asos.com Bershka

Not only is the same description in over 4,000 results, but you can find it in other places on the web.

It’s duplicate content, which:

  • prevents pages to rank in the SERPs
  • confuses Google
  • dilutes your link profile.

Example: -site:asos.com "Bershka has been dressing the young and adventurous since 1998. Influenced by the latest music, technology and social media trends, it upgrades your Saturday AM-to-PM style with cool denim, classic knits and awesome accessories."

Google search results for -site:asos.com Bershka

Check this out! Google found over 36,000 results for the same description.

If you own an eCommerce store, and if you’re starting your business venture, make sure to change the textual content on your pages.

related:

This search operator will help you to find websites that are related to the URL you typed in.

It’s useful when you want to find content similar to the site you provided. 

What’s more, you should use it when you’re looking for competitors.

Example: related:backlinko.com

Google search results for related:backlinko.com

define:

Google search operators are quite convenient when it comes to writing your content, as well.

With this one, you can get an instant definition of a search term.

I hope that learning about search operators won’t be a Sisyphean task for you. If you’re unsure what that means, there you go.

Example: define:sisyphean task

Google search results for define:sisyphean task

cache:

When you want to see the latest version of the site that’s cached (if it’s indexed), use this operator.

Example: cache:imdb.com

You can use it to find out when Google last crawled the page.

filetype:

Filetype is one of the operators that you have to pair with another operator or a search term to achieve something.

When you enter it into the search bar, it will filter out the file type you want.

Example: 

Google search results for seo report filetype:pdf

If you’re a total beginner in SEO and the terminology is still somewhat unknown, make sure to check out what SEO report means and how why you need an SEO report template.

intitle:

Google can find specific words in the title if you forgot everything else but one word.

Example: intitle:sunflowers

allintitle:

This one is similar to the previous one. However, allintitle: will let you look for long-tail keywords.

It is especially relevant when I have an idea for a new piece of content and want to find out if someone already tackled the topic.

Example: allintitle:how to do SEO for small business

Google search results for allintitle:how to do SEO for small business

Sadly for me, there are already a bunch of content pieces on this specific topic.

inurl:

Inurl: will let you find pages with your search terms in them. 

Example: inurl:backlinks

This one can also assist you with insecure pages, so you should type in the following example: “site:asos.com -inurl:https

allinurl:

Again, this Google search operator is similar to the previous one. 

Nonetheless, it will show you results from all your search terms.

You can filter out poor URLs for trendy topics with this clever hack. (Because, as you already you know, you should include your keywords in the URL, and not the whole sentence.)

Example: allinurl:seo content writing

Google search results for allinurl:seo content writing

intext:

Intext: helps you to find particular search terms in the content. 

You won’t use it much, though, since it is practically the same as the regular Google search.

Still, you can use it to find your terms anywhere in the text.

Example: moscow intext:plague

Google search results for moscow intext:plague

The word moscow will be mentioned anywhere in the document.

allintext:

Once more, allintext: relates to the previous one.

It serves as a tool to restrict the search terms only to those that you can find in the body of the text.

You can use it to find resources with your long-tail keywords.

Example: allintext:essential camping gear

Would You Use Google Search Operators to Make your SEO Efforts Easier?

Do you think I gave you enough information about search operators?

If so, let’s get to work!

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