We have all experienced the frustration of typing a search into Google and wondering why the returned results are so different or seemingly unrelated to the search query. Despite technology advancing significantly over the past few decades, many of us do not know much about effective Google searches using search operators. In fact, truth be told, when I first started this job at Bamboo Nine, I didn’t understand anything about them either. But to make my job more efficient, I had to learn and let me tell you – it has changed the way I search in Google for the better!
Google is an extremely effective research tool and, when used to its full potential, you can achieve just about anything. Google search operators are the bread and butter of effective SEO specialists. Therefore, it’s important you learn as much as you can about search operators to get the best out of Google and the best results for your clients.
What is a Google Search Operator?
Before we go any further, I think it’s probably a good idea for me to explain what a search operator is. A search operator is a character, or a set of characters, that is used to narrow the focus of a search engine query to achieve more refined results. Those who are savvy enough, use search operators to great success during their research for content, blog post headlines, keywords or when researching their competitors.
Google search operators help us to extend the capabilities of our regular Google searches by fine tuning them to only show the results that are relevant for our precise query. This saves you spending hours of time scrolling through pages and pages of online content to find that relevant article, blog post or competitors page – trust me!
So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the most common Google search operators so that you can get on with searching.
Symbolic Search Operators
There are numerous symbols you can use in your Google searches to refine them for the results you want to see. Let’s take a look at them below.
Quotation Marks “”
These symbols aren’t only used for writing speech, they can also be used when searching in Google. By putting a word or phrase in quotation marks, Google’s results will only produce the same words in the same order as those you have entered inside the quotation marks. This search is ideal if you are looking for a particular word or phrase.
The underscore can be effectively used when searching for keywords. Just type the underscore between the two keywords and Google will give you a few suggested keywords that it thinks will be important from the perspective of user’s. This search operator only works in Incognito mode.
The asterisk is a little beauty of a symbol that can be used as a placeholder of any unknown wildcard terms. It is a great search operator for those who are unsure of a certain part of the query. When you type an asterisk in next to a term, Google will try to find the best match to that word as possible.
Minus Symbol –
When you use the minus symbol before a word or site in your Google search, Google excludes the sites with that information from the search results. This is particularly useful for words with multiple meanings and saves you spending the majority of your day scrolling through unrelated Google results.
Pipe Operator |
The pipe operator works in the same way as the word OR. When you separate words with either the pipe operator or OR Google will either search for the first word, the second word, or both. It is an effective method for separating words in titles and Google searches.
Range Operator ..
Two full stops are otherwise referred to as a Range Operator. If you place these two periods between numbers, with no space and add a unit of measurement to specify a range (for example: 20..30 years old) Google will give you results which show you the numbers between 20 and 30. This is a quick and easy way of searching for multiple number results at once, rather than doing a separate Google search for each number one at a time.
This Google search operator allows you to choose the keyword proximity. In other words, you can limit the number of words that can appear between two keywords in your search.
These search operators are advanced and tend to be used most frequently by those knowledgeable in the Digital Marketing industry. Let’s take a look at them now.
Allintext: / intext:
This will limit your search results to content that has the specific query terms you specify in the text on the page. Allintext: will only return results that include all the relevant keywords. Allintext: should be used at the start of the query. Alternatively, intext: can be used anywhere in the query that will only include the term immediately following the colon.
Allintitle: / intitle:
If you begin your Google search query with allintitle: Google will only show results containing all the query terms you specify in the meta title.
Allinurl: / inurl:
When you add inurl: to your query, Google only shows the pages containing all the query terms you specify in the url.
Allinanchor: / inanchor:
Allinanchor: returns the search results to those relevant pages where all the keywords have been used as anchor text.
To become proficient at Google Search Operators, it’s all about practice. It can take time but once you have mastered these searches, there’s no going back! This is the most efficient way to carry out effective Google searches without scrolling through pages of unrelated content. Of course, sometimes it’s about experimenting with the results that Google throws up. It’s not always successful the first time but don’t give up! These advanced search tips will help you get the results you need in half the time. Don’t believe me? Give them a try today!