You can use the links above to jump directly to each section.
Important: We recommend not skipping the section on search operators. Understanding how they work can allow you to come up with tactics that were not included in this guide.
If you’re getting started, download our free cheat sheet of operators and tactics below and keep it around as you get familiar with them.
[Cheat Sheet] How to Use Google Advanced Search Operators
Chapter 1: The Complete List of Advanced Search Operators
Advanced search operators are symbols and expressions you can use within your search query to refine the results you get from Google.
You can use these operators to perform in-depth research.
If you surround your term with quotation marks, you get documents that contain exactly that term.
Below, I’ve done a search for “Tommy Griffith” and I’m only got documents that have exactly the term Tommy Griffith in them.
You can use this for phrases that have individual words that have a ton of high volume. Maybe something like “carnival cruise”—instead of carnivals and cruise, you’ll get only documents containing the exact term you’re looking for.
You can use OR to return results that have one or the other term, basically combining the results of two Google searches into one.
For example, “carnival cruise” OR “disney world”.
This is the same concept as with quotations, but all of these documents have either carnival cruise or Disney World in them. By using the OR operator, you get both.
Minus (-) sign
The minus (-) sign allows you to remove results that contain a word.
For example, Tommy Griffith is also the name of a baseball player from the ’20s. If I wanted to search myself but remove any documents that contain the word baseball, I might add the minus sign.
If you want to see all of the documents in a domain, you can do that with site:
If you search for something like site:www.techcrunch.com, you’ll get all of the URLs on this domain.
You can also combine it with other operators, like quotations.
For example, site:twitter.com “paleo” would show me only documents on twitter.com where people are mentioning paleo.
intitle: and allintitle:
intitle: will return results that have at least one of your terms in the title, while the other one can be in the body of the page.
If you search for something like intitle:“SEO training” “link building”, you’ll get results that have either “SEO training” in the page and “link building” in the title, or “SEO training” in the title and “link building” in the page.
allintitle: will return results that include all the terms in the title.
For example, searching for allintitle:“best travel backpack” is like telling Google you want those specific terms in the title, regardless of whether they appear in the body or not.
Page titles are one of the most important elements of on-page optimization, so the intitle: search operator will be fundamental for a lot of the tactics we’ll talk about below in this post.
inanchor: and allinanchor:
The inanchor: and allinanchor: operators will return results that have links pointing to them with a specific term.
So, if we use this one allinanchor:“dog costumes”, Google will show us a bunch of pages that have OTHER pages linking to them using “dog costumes” as anchor text.
If I want to find links, I like to use third-party tools instead, something like ahrefs or Majestic SEO.
However, you can still use link: to get an idea of what’s going on—just be aware that results might be off.
If I type something like link:clickminded.com, Google will show me all the links to my site.
Now, the result above is also showing me links on my own site, internal links. I might want to try something like link:clickminded.com -site:clickminded.com to find links to ClickMinded, but not ones on my own site.
Again, not comprehensive, but it’s an okay way to start.
You can use the wildcard operator if you’re missing part of the query.
For example, you can use this operator to find all pages in a specific subfolder of a website. If you search site:https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/* you’ll get pages that are in the Hubspot blog under the marketing topic.
If you use the related: operator, Google will just show you domains that it thinks are related to the one you used in the query.
For example, if I use related:hubspot.com, Google will render different domains that it thinks are related or similar to Hubspot.
You can use this to get a sense of the competitive landscape for Google traffic, which might be completely different from your business competitors.
Pretty simple. Show the latest cached version of a website.
For example, cache:clickminded.com redirects to webcache.googleusercontent.com and loads the version of the site Google has stored.
If you’re looking for a particular type of file, you can use the filetype: operator.
For example, the search filetype:pdf “dog costumes” only renders PDFs that contain that keyword.
Advanced Search Tactics to Get More Traffic
One of my favorite things about SEO is that the little guy always has a fighting chance against big companies – it’s a leveled playing field.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a large budget or expensive tools. If you are smart enough, willing to put in the effort and use the right tools, you can beat anyone at SEO.
That’s where Google’s advanced search operators come into play.
Find a Website’s Indexed URLs
The most straightforward way to find if and how Google has indexed pages is to use the site: operator.
There are many reasons to do this.
Here are a few examples:
If you recently published a page (or updated a URL) and want to make sure it has been indexed. When a URL hasn’t been indexed, you’ll get something like this:
You can typically fix this by requesting indexing via Google Search Console.
If you recently updated a page’s title or meta description and want to check if Google has picked up on the changes. Just use site: on the URL you want to check.
You can fix out-of-date information, by getting Google to re-crawl your page via indexing request on Google Search Console.
If you want to check for overall indexing errors on your site. Just use this operator for your root domain.
If you want to spy on your competitor’s content. You can use this operator for the subfolder where your competitor publishes blog posts.
Check both the number of results and the indexed pages shown by Google.
Keep an eye on things that stand out like too many (or too few) indexed pages, or URLs that shouldn’t be indexed at all.
If you find errors, you might need to take a look at your sitemap, indexing directives, or robots.txt file—check out this technical SEO checklist to learn more about this.
Do Research Before Writing Content
One of the first things I do when writing a new piece of content is to check how the competition looks like on Google.
For example, let’s say I want to write a “travel checklist” post, I’d start by checking out the content that’s already ranking for this term.
By doing this simple check, I can:
Change my topic to “packing checklist” instead of “travel checklist”
Include a printable version of my checklist
Come up with a better, more enticing title and meta description
All of these will help me create better content that can outrank the competition.
Find Guest Posting Opportunities
Guest posting is a great way to build links, especially when you’re starting out.
Not all websites accept guest writers…
…while others are actively looking for them.
You can use search operators to find these.
One of the most common operators is “[keyword]” “write for us”.
But you can also try these:
“[keyword]” “become a contributor”
“[keyword]” “submit guest post”
“[keyword]” “guest post by”
“[keyword]” “guest post”
“[keyword]” inurl:blog “contributor guidelines”
“[keyword]” inurl:blog “write for”
Find Resource Pages
Resource-page link building consists of finding pages that include a high number of links to helpful information (known as resource pages) and asking them to include a link to a resource on your site.
A lot of these sites use similar URL structures and naming conventions, so it’s easy to find them with search operators.
For example, you could try “[keyword]” inurl:resources.
These combinations of search operators also work great:
“[keyword]” intitle:“useful resources”
“[keyword]” inurl:links intitle:“link resources”
“[keyword]” intitle:“useful links”
Find Sponsored Post Opportunities
If you’re doing PR, you might consider paying another website to publish content on their blog.
Again, you can find a ton of these opportunities with search operators.
You can try some of these:
“[keyword]” “sponsored post”
“[keyword]” “sponsored by”
“[keyword]” inurl:sponsored post
Find Podcast Opportunities
There are many reasons why you might want to find podcasts:
Appearing on podcasts might be part of your PR strategy
You can use it for link building (via links in the show notes)
You offer a product that benefits podcast hosts
There are a couple of ways to approach this using search operators.
Scenario #1: find podcasts by leveraging a podcast platform.
Most shows use either Stitcher or Apple Podcasts to distribute their podcasts, so you can try a search like these:
Scenario #2: find podcasts by looking for their actual websites.
Many shows have their own website (or section within a website) where they publish episodes and show notes.
To find these, use the following searches:
Find Plagiarized Content
Once your content starts getting some traction, you’ll begin to notice some low-quality sites will scrape your content and republish it.
This might duplicate content issues for you.
Duplicate content happens when there are several pages with exact or very similar content. When this happens, Google doesn’t understand which is the original copy, and the value of the content might get diluted among these pages.
A simple way to find plagiarized content is to grab a chunk of text from your content and search for it with the quotes operator.
You can solve this by either contacting the site owner and asking them to take down the content or requesting a DMCA takedown from Google.
Find Subdomains Belonging to a Root Domain
You can combine the wildcard and site: operators to find indexed subdomains.
For example, let’s say you are a web designer focusing on websites built with Squarespace, you can find a lot of potential clients by searching site:*.squarespace.com.
If you’re focusing on just websites on a specific industry, you can even narrow it down using either quotes or the intitle: operators.
You can even narrow down further into a specific location.
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Tommy Griffith has been doing search engine optimization for almost 10 years. He was previously managing SEO at PayPal and Airbnb.
He feels weird writing about himself in the third person, but admits that it sounds slightly more epic.