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You can fix out-of-date information, by getting Google to re-crawl your page via indexing request on Google Search Console.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:“resources”
- “[keyword]” intitle:“useful resources”
- “[keyword]” inurl:links intitle:“link resources”
- “[keyword]” intitle:“useful links”
- “[keyword]” inurl:additionallinks
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
- “[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 (if you want to make podcasting itself part of your marketing strategy, check out the Castos guide on how to start a podcast.)
- 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:
- site:stitcher.com intitle:[keyword]
- site:stitcher.com inurl:[keyword]
- site:podcasts.apple.com intitle:[keyword]
- site:podcasts.apple.com inurl:[keyword]
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:
- “[keyword]” inurl:podcast
- “[keyword]” intitle:podcast
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.
Many people build sites on platforms that use this subdomains scheme. Some examples include WordPress.com (not to be mistaken with WordPress.org), Medium, Squarespace, Wix, Blogger, Teachable, or Carrd.
Excluding Subdomains From Results
There are some cases when you might want to exclude a subdomain from the results (maybe you’re doing research one of these “build-your-site” or “build-your-blog” platforms).
There are two scenarios here.
Scenario #1: The platform uses “www” for their company/marketing website.
An example of this is Squarespace.
In this case, the solution is simple—just include “www” when using the site: operator.
Scenario #2: The platform doesn’t use “www” for their company/marketing website.
WordPress.com is an example of a company like this.
This is a bit more complicated to solve, but not that hard either—just use the wildcard and site: operators like in the previous example and prepend the minus operator.
Find Non-Secure Content
Google has made a big push for sites to move to https in an effort to make the web more secure.
In fact, they have admitted https is now a ranking factor.
However, if you have been running a site for a while, migrating to https can be a complicated process.
The most common issue with migrations is serving non-secure (http) content to Google and visitors of your site.
You can find non-secure pages with the site:, inurl, and minus operators. For example, let’s check if ESPN has any non-secure pages by searching site:espn.com -inurl:https.
If you open these URLs with Google Chrome, you’ll find the “Not Secure” warning.
Find Alternate Top-Level Domains
A top-level domain (TLD) is the suffix you see at the end of a domain name.
The most common TLD is .com, but there are dozens of TLDs like .net, .org, .co, .me, or .io.
TLDs are often used as a part of a company’s international SEO strategy.
If you’re competing at an international level, you can use search operators to spy on your competitor’s international SEO strategy.
For example, if you want to check all the different TLDs used by Amazon, you can combine the site: and wildcard operators.
Using advanced search operators is a free and easy way to uncover massive traffic opportunities.
The more you practice, the more natural it will be for you to use them in your daily searches. Plus, you will usually come up with new and interesting ways to use them.
If you’re just getting started with search operators, remember to download our free cheat sheet with everything covered in this post.