Refine Your Organic Search Using Google Search Operators (Advanced SEO)

Refine Your Organic Search Using Google Search Operators (Advanced SEO)

September 18, 2021
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Advanced SEO Using Google Search Operators

We all know Google - a search engine that allows you to enter a query and returns the information you need. It's an information retrieval process, just like using database language SQL. And just like SQL, Google Search allows you to use operators to retrieve information from its databases. Recently, Gary Illyes published a new overview of Google search operators. That reminds me of the potential of using search operators to diagnosis some indexing issues. This article will give a detailed demonstration of all the critical search operators and offer some practical use cases that help you get more insight than using the inspection tool.

Check here for more detailed, interactive search operator cheat sheet:

Search Operators Have Limitations Due To Google's Retrieval Limits

Before we begin, you should know that Google search operators can not return all the results due to Google'sGoogle's retrieval limits. In the search operator support article, it stresses that :

Search operators are bound by indexing and retrieval limits. The URL Inspection tool in Search Console is more reliable for debugging purposes.

What does it mean?  For big sites like Wikipedia,  Amazon won't return all the results, and in the meantime, it will return all results for smaller sites. Simply take the following examples to the Google image search, and you will see the differences:

  • site:https://wikipedia.org imagesize:1200x628
  • site:https://deanlong.io imagesize:1200x628

With that in mind, there are some cases that you shouldn't use the search operator as the sole reference to your diagnosis: 

  • any issue that related to the total number of indexed pages on your site
  • any issue related to the total number of indexed images on your site

Keep in mind, not all search operators return exhaustive results. 

What Are The Google Search Operators 

  • Google Search usually ignores punctuation that isn't part of a search operator.
  • Don't put spaces between the symbol or word and your search term. A search for site:deanlong.io will work, but site: deanlong.io won't work.

Purpose Search Operators Example What Does It Mean
Search social media @ Dean Long @Linkedin Put @ in front of the name of social media to search your target social media profile.
Search for a price $ $6 linktree Put $ in front of a number to search the price point in your target
Search hashtags # #deanlongio Put # in front of a word to search hashtags for your target
Exclude words from your search - Google -SEO site:deanlong.io Put - in front of a word you want to leave out. For example, jaguar speed -car
Search for an exact match " (not Chinese quotation mark) "SEO mythbusting" Put a word or phrase inside quotes to find the exact match in your target
Search within a range of numbers .. deanlong.io $50..$100 Put .. between two numbers to find a number that is qualified this range in your target
Combine searches OR (Cap) digital drawing OR digital painting Search for pages that have one word or the other.
Search for a specific site site: performance max site:deanlong.io Put "site:" in front of a site or domain to search more specific results from a single website
Search for related sites related: related:linktr.ee Find pages that are related to a specific URL. Google determines the relatedness of URLs by comparing multiple factors, such as the entities mentioned on the page and the general category of the page. This operator is not refreshed real time.
See Google’s cached version of a site cache: cache:deanlong.io Put "cache:" in front of the site address to see Google’s cached version
Search for an exact image size imagesize: site:https://deanlong.io imagesize:1200x628 Find pages that contain images of a specific dimension. Personally I don't see this work on Google search. Only works for Google Image
Search for the page of an image src: src:image URL Find pages that reference a particular image URL. Personally I couldn't replicate this instance
Search webpage title intitle: intitle:SEO Find pages with a certain word (or words) in the title. In our example, any results containing the word “apple” in the title tag will be returned.
Search all terms in webpage title allintitle: allintitle:SEO deanlong Similar to “intitle,” but only results containing all of the specified words in the title tag will be returned.
Seach all terms in the page allintext: allintext:deanlong marketing seo Find pages that contain all the target terms in its text. It won’t look for text that appears close together on the page.
Search terms in any place in the web intext: SEO intext:digital marketing find one term showing up in any area of the webpage, such as the title, the page itself, the URL, and elsewhere.
Wild Card * Top * ranking factors Use an asterisk as a wildcard to represent a space that could be filled by anything.
Search info related to the domain info: info:deanlong.io / id:deanlong.io Find pages with the domain text on-page (not necessarily linked), similar on-site pages, and the website’s cache. You can use this to see if there's any brand mentions. Note: The id: operator can also be used—the results are identical.
Search words in the URL inurl: inurl:SEO Find pages with a certain word (or words) in the URL. For this example, any results containing the word "seo” in the URL will be returned.
Search all words in the URLallinurl: inurl: allinurl:SEO page speed Similar to “inurl,” but only results containing all of the specified words in the URL will be returned.
Search anchor text inachor: inanchor:linktree ovira Find pages that are being linked to with specific anchor text. For this example, any results with inbound links containing either “linktree” or “ovira” in the anchor text will be returned.
Search all anchor text allinanchor: allinanchor::linktree bio Similar to “inanchor,” but only results containing all of the specified words in the inbound anchor text will be returned.
Search a specific file type filetype: / ext: site:linktr.ee filetype:pdf / site:linktr.ee ext:pdf Restrict results to those of a certain filetype. E.g., PDF, DOCX, TXT, PPT, etc. Note: The “ext:” operator can also be used—the results are identical.
Proximity search Around(number) apple AROUND(4) iphone Find pages containing two words or phrases within X words of each other. For this example, the words “apple” and “iphone” must be present in the content and no further than four words apart.
Show map result on Google Search map: map:deanlong Force Google to show map results for a locational search.

Actionable Search Strategies Using Google Search Operators

It's easy to understand if we focus on the operator individually. However, it's hard to find ways to put these operators into action for a wide variety of SEO. So, here are some useful combinations that help you get valuable information from Google Search for your SEO plan.


Exclude Terms To Refine Your Search

Let's say you want to search "marketing" on my website but don't want to include anything related to SEO. Besides using site search, you can use the following in Google.

marketing -SEO ads site:deanlong.io

Find indexation errors

We can use the site: operator to see how many pages Google has indexed. Using this operator, we can check how many pages have been indexed in your domain by Google (only for smaller sites). What's more, you can use this to check if Google indexes the page in case there's a lagging issue in Google Search Console.

Note: Google only gives a rough approximation when using this operator. That'sThat's why you should only use this operator on small sites to diagnosis the "total page indexed" issue. For the complete picture, check Google Search Console.

How many blog posts are indexed by Google

site:deanlong.io/blog

using site:deanlong.io/blog search operator to check ow many pages are indexed by Google | DEANLONG.io
Use site: search query to check my blog. I can found 46 results

There are 46 results returned from this query.  I know I have written 41 blog posts so far. The extra five pages are category pages, which means all my blog pages are indexed.

Does Google index my latest article

Seven days ago, I published by product review Linktree vs Flowpage - See Who Comes Out on Top in #linkinbio, I need to check if Google has my blog post indexed:

site:https://www.deanlong.io/blog/linktree-vs-flowpage-see-who-comes-out-on-top-in-linkinbio

An image shows the search result of using site search operator | DEANLONG.io
Google has indexed by latest blog post

What's more, I found out that this article ranks #6 on the first page for keyword ""linktree flowpage"" and ranks #1 in bing.com.

One of the blog post from DEANLONG.io ranks #1 in Bing.com with many rrich snippets | DEANLONG
My blog post ranks #1 in Bing.com with content block feature
An Google SERP shows DEANLONG.io 's article ranks #6 in Google.com | DEANLONG.io
My blog post ranks #6 in Google.com

Check subdomains and non-www versions of your site

Use the wildcard (*) operator to find all subdomains belonging to the domain, combined with the exclusion operator (-) to exclude regular www results.

  • site:*.linktr.ee -www
  • site:*.linktr.ee -inurl:www

A search result page shows that Google still index Linktree's invalid subdomain | DEANLONG.io
The old subdomain still shows on Google's SERP

Find your HTTP pages and secure your site

site:domanname.com -inurl:https

This command helps you to find unsecured pages indexed by Google. In addition, it gives you an idea of how Google is indexing your new https:// pages as opposed to their http:// pages.

Let's use Linktree again as an example.

site:linktr.ee -inurl:https

You can see there are a lot of linktree user profiles that are in HTTP protocol and are unsecured. However, if you click any unsecured page in Google's SERP, you will be redirected to the secured version (https://). With that in mind, there's no issue in user experience but still worth investigating further to eliminate the http:// pages.

A demo to show that Linktree has successfully redirect HTTP page to HTTPs version | DEANLONG.io
There are many user profiles are indexed in HTTP protocol. However, 301 redirect has put in place to HTTPS version of pages

Finding duplicate content

This command helps you find the pages that have identical content in the target domain. The {content} listed below can be a piece of content, a phrase, a sentence.

site:domainname.com "{content}"

Reverse method to check if the content is unique

Unique content for each page is the key to be qualified for Google's E-A-T guideline. You can use the search command below to help you find identical content outside of your domain:

-site:domainname.com "{content}"


If you see more than one result and you are sure that you are the original content creator, the reason can be the following:

  • Other sites are scraping your website and duplicating the content
  • Affiliate program for product aggregation pages
  • Content syndication like medium.com or ghost.com

Find guest post opportunities

Thanks Ahref for posting this method. I personally find it very useful as it reveals so-called "write for us" pages in your niche — the pages many sites create when they're actively seeking guest contributions. The {niche} listed below is the

{niche} intitle:"write for us" OR inurl:"write-for-us"

Example:

marketing intitle:"write for us" OR inurl:"write-for-us"

There are more than just "write for us" you can look into:

  • “become a contributor"
  • “contribute to”
  • “write for me” (yep—there are solo bloggers seeking guest posts, too!)
  • “guest post guidelines”
  • inurl:guest-post
  • inurl:guest-contributor-guidelines

You can search for guest post websites all at once:

marketing(intitle:"write for us" OR inurl:"gust-post" OR intitle:"become a contributor")

Note: pipe("|") and OR operator are the same

You can search multiple niches guest post opportunities at once

(SEO|Facebook)AND(intitle:"write for us" OR inurl:"gust-post" OR intitle:"become a contributor")


You can find guest post opportunities in a specific country-level location

(SEO|Facebook)AND(intitle:"write for us" OR inurl:"gust-post" OR intitle:"become a contributor")AND site:.com.au


Find the posts from a specific author

The trick is to use the "intext" search operator to search any place that contains your target. For example:

(SEO | Facebook) AND (intext:"Dean Long")


See if a domain accepts guest contributions

site:linktr.ee ("is a guest post"|"is a guest contribution"|"guest contributor")

Find sites that accept infographics

Let's say you are a trustworthy content creator, and you have many unique infographics that need to be shared. Using the "intitle" or "intext" search operator helps you to find places that feature infographics.

You can:

  1. find the niche sites that accept infographics, e.g. content creation (intitle:infographic OR intext:infographic OR inurl:infographic)
  2. Pitch your infographics to the sites
  3. Follow the criteria and file your submission. And get featured & backlink.


However, finding sites that recently publish infographics can increase the likelihood of your pitch. With that in mind, I strongly recommend using the build-in data range filter (see the image below) to find the publishers in the past 3 months.

Check the relevancy of your niche (Credit: Moz)

  1. Do a site:domain.com search, and note down the number of results;
  2. Do a site:domain.com [niche] search, then also note down the number of results;
  3. Divide the second number by the first—if it’s above 0.5, it’s a good, relevant prospect; if it’s above 0.75, it’s a super-relevant prospect.

Find internal linking opportunities

While this method can effectively find the internal link opportunity, this command heavily relies on your chosen keywords. If I want to find every corner in my website and link for "page speed" for my article SEO Mythbusting - Page Speed (Core Web Vitals) is Not A Big Ranking Factor, I would try this:


site:deanlong.io -site:https://www.deanlong.io/blog/page-speed-is-not-a-big-ranking-factor allintext:page speed


In this search command, you can:

  • Limit the search to your site
  • Exclude your original article
  • Find relevant terms on your site

Find review/affiliate/backlink opportunities

Let's use Linktree as an example. There are many articles out there talking about the best "Linktree Alternatives" and the best "link in bio" tool. However, most of the articles does not have sponsored content and they are open for partnership. As such, we can try this:


(Linktree OR later OR flowpage) intitle:(review OR best OR compare OR "Linktree Alternative") 


I can find a list of prospects that talk about Linktree and its competitors with this search command. What's more, it's an excellent opportunity to find quality content creators and ask them to review your product/service.


Note (Credit: Moz): You can try the following search command if you focus on sponsored posts. Remember to use "rel=sponsored" to mark your link:

  • {niche} intext:”this is a sponsored post by”
  • {niche} intext:”this post was sponsored by”
  • {niche} intitle:”sponsored post”
  • {niche} intitle:”sponsored post archives” inurl:”category/sponsored-post”
  • “sponsored” AROUND(3) “post”
  • {niche} intext:”this post was sponsored by”

The Ultimate Takeaway

Unlimited opportunities are waiting for you by using the Google Search operators. It's all about knowing how to mix & match to retrieve the relevant info. 

Since it's content-related, I found myself using site:, intitle:, intext:, allintext:, and inurl: a lot. A trick for you to pick out the best combinations:

  1. Treat this search like an IF() statement in Javascript or excel.
  2. Think about what you want to include & exclude
  3. Use "-" and "AND" to exclude the irrelevant terms


If you find this article interesting, please don't hesitate to drop me a message and tell me any other excellent combo. 

References:


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Dean Long | Expert in Growth MarketingDean Long

Dean Long is a Sydney-based creative marketing and communication professional with expertise in paid search, paid social, affiliate and e-commerce advertising. He's also a distinct MBA Graduate from Western Sydney University.

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