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.
What is an advanced search operator?
These are symbols and expressions you can use within your search query to refine the results you get from Google. These operators are typically used by power users to perform in-depth research.
They are super valuable from the SEO perspective as well. By learning how to use advanced search operators properly, you can:
- Get insight into your competitors’ SEO strategy.
- Find link building opportunities.
- Estimate market size and competitiveness.
- Make decisions about your content marketing strategy.
All of it for free! No need to pay for expensive research tools.
In this short lesson, I will show you exactly how to use the most powerful operators.
I want to talk about advanced search operators.
These are some of the tools we can use to refine our searches to really dive into specific things. They’re for power users. They’re incredibly valuable from a link-building perspective. And they’re just helpful as a user.
When you understand these, you can find the answer way, way faster.
I’ve gotten into this debate with a bunch of people before. Life is no longer about knowing the answer. It’s about being able to find the answer. If you can get a really good handle on advanced search operators, you can utilize Google and other search engines to find stuff much quicker.
So, let’s dive into some of them next.
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.
This can often be helpful for terms that have individual words that have a ton of high volume. Maybe something like “carnival cruise.” Instead of carnivals and cruise, I get only documents containing the term carnival cruise.
If you’re looking for a specific phrase that’s in exactly that order, you can get there with the advanced search operator quotation mark.
You can use OR to return documents that have one or the other term. 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 can get both.
Minus (-) and Plus (+) signs
Minus (-) and plus (+) signs allow you to remove documents that contain a word or force Google to add a word when they might normally remove it.
For example, Tommy Griffith is also 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.
The plus operator is useful because sometimes Google will remove filler words. If you want to add a term like and, you can do that with plus operator.
If you want to see all of the documents in a domain, you can do that with site:
If search for something like site:www.courseminded.com, I will 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 mentioning paleo.
What the link: operator will do is return a sample of links to your site that Google knows about.
Now, I should mention that it’s not a comprehensive list of links, which is why I don’t find myself using it all. 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.
If I type something like link:www.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:www.clickminded.com -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.
intitle: and allintitle:
This is an advanced search operator that will return documents that have at least one of your terms in the title, while the other one can be in the document itself.
If I search for something like intitle:”SEO training” “link building”, this will show me things that have either SEO training in the document and link building in the title, or SEO training in the title and link building in the document.
If you want to do just the title, you can do something like allintitle:”SEO training course”. This is like telling Google: “you have to have all of these terms in the title for this to work.”
The reason why the intitle: search operator is so powerful for SEO is that, as you know, title texts are one of the most important elements of on-page optimization. So intitle: allows us to really figure out how many documents out there are using our exact keyword in their title.
inanchor: and allinanchor:
Similar to intitle: and allintitle:, what these operators will do is allow us to find documents that have a link profile with an exact-matched term.
So, if we use this one allinanchor:”dog costumes”, Google will show us a bunch of documents that have links pointing to them with this term.
Let’s say we now want to look into the Party City page from the example above. We can take the URL, use the link: operators and use the minus sign operator to remove all internal links.
By using the link: operator and removing internal links for this URL that we know has links with “dog costumes” anchor text, we now have an index of URLs linking to this page with the anchor text we want.
This is a good example of using two different operators together to find the links that you’re looking for. allinanchor: is very powerful in that sense.
inurl: and allinurl:
Similar to inanchor: and intitle:, inurl: and allinurl: help you just find a specific keyword in the url.
For example, allinurl:”dog costumes” (we use a space here, but generally hyphens are used as spaces in URLs and you can use this term either with spaces or with hyphens.)
Just another way to find documents that have your keyword via the URL.
inpostauthor: and allinpostauthor:
Similar concept as the ones we’ve already discussed, but it helps you look for a person.
One interesting tactic that some people use is to use guest as the keyword.
This is saying “show me documents where the post author name is guest.” What this generally does is shows you opportunities where blogs allow for guest post authors (link building opportunity.)
intext: and allintext:
Pretty straightforward. Use intext: or allintext: with your keyword to find it in the body of the document.
For example, allintext:”travel to Australia” will show me all documents that have exactly that term in the body.
You’re only going to use this if you’re missing part of the query.
A good use of this operator is when you’re searching for lyrics. So, something like “my milkshake brings all the * to the yard”.
If you don’t know a particular term, you can replace that term with a wildcard.
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:www.clickminded.com, Google will render different domains that it thinks are related.
Pretty simple. Show the cache of the site.
For example, cache:www.clickminded.com redirects to webcache.googleusercontent.com and loads the older, cached version of the site.
If you’re looking for a particular type of file, you can use this.
For example, the search filetype:pdf “dog costumes” only renders PDFs that contain that keyword.