Utilizing Advanced Search Engine Operators for your SEO

Did you know that you can perform special searches in the search engines?  There are quite a few advanced search operators (also referred to as “search modifiers”) that give you very tailored results for whatever it is you’re looking for.  I thought I’d write about the ones that would be important from a SEO perspective specifically for Google’s search engine.

link:

(Example)

If your search query in Google is link:www.domain.com, you’ll see a list of URL’s that link to domain.com that Google has indexed.  Unfortunately the list of URL’s that you see is not the total number of websites that are linking to the domain you enter.  Also, some of these URL’s might be of your own site.  In order to only list those URL’s that are not from your site, you can use a site: operator combo.  So the search query that you would use would be link:www.domain.com –site:domain.com, which would show you the URL’s that link to your domain that are not from within your domain.  I believe this is in order to prevent people from looking up their competitor’s links and usurping all of them.

(Exceptions)

The link operator must have a URL in the search query and must not have a space between the link: operator and the URL.

(Best way to use it)

You can use the link operator in combination with the site operator to get a glimpse of the URL’s that are linking to your domain.  If you spot a URL that doesn’t look familiar, you can visit the site and see why they are linking to you so you can possibly duplicate what you did with future strategies.  Another thing you can do is to use the operator with your competitor’s websites.  See who is linking to them and see what they are doing correctly.


related:

(Example)

If your search query in Google is related:www.domain.com, you’ll see a list of URL’s that are indexed and seen as related to the topics of your website by Google.  This isn’t 100% accurate so take it with a grain of salt. 

(Exceptions)

The related operator must have a URL in the search query and must not have a space between the related: operator and the URL.

(Best way to use it)

This would be an interesting way to see what Google thinks of the content on your website.  I have used this operator in the past to find new competitors that my clients never knew about.  You can also visit some of the URL’s that show up and see if you can’t establish any partnerships as long as they aren’t a direct competitor.  If you aren’t seeing any competitors that you recognize or sites related to your industry, you may want to consider looking through your content and making sure you have relevant topics.


allinurl:

(Example)

If your search query in Google is allinurl:chocolate bars, you’ll see a filtered list of results that are indexed and contain only the keywords “chocolate” and “bars” in the URL.  The thing you need to note is that order of keyword placement doesn’t apply here.  So Google will return results that either have chocolate before the bars or bars before the chocolate.  They don’t even need to be next to one another.  You may get a URL listing that is http://www.candybars.com/chocolate

(Exceptions)

Combining this advanced search operator with others will return no results so be sure to only include your keywords (which can be one, two, three, or more actual words).  A variation of this advanced search operator is the inurl: command.  Although these two search operators essentially do the same thing, the difference is that the inurl: command only filters out based on the first word in your keyword string.  So for example, if your search query in Google is inurl:chocolate bars, you’ll see a filtered list of results that have chocolate in the URL and has bars somewhere within the content of the page.

(Best way to use it)

This would be an interesting way to see how competitive your keywords are by looking for specific listings in which the URL is the keyword itself.  I saw this a lot in the travel industry while I was at Expedia.  A lot of affiliate marketers would purchase www.lasvegashotels.com or www.seattleflights.com or any other variation of a destination + travel combo.  If you don’t see a listing that is in the form of your keyword, you can see if the domain is taken if you’re feeling a little advantageous to capitalize on an exact-match domain by creating a micro site.

site:

(Example)

If your search query in Google is site:www.domain.com, you’ll see a list of URL’s that Google has indexed within your domain.  You can combine this search operator with a keyword in order to show you which pages on the domain mention the specific keyword that is within your search query.

(Exceptions)

The related operator can either have the full URL or just a portion of the URL in the search query.

(Best way to use it)

If I want to see how many pages are indexed on a specific domain, the site: operator is the perfect candidate to do so.  Also, you can use the site: operator to view all of your URL’s to see how well your title tags and meta descriptions are written.

allinanchor:

(Example)

This one is rather tricky to understand at first, but let me give it my best shot.  If your search query in Google is allinanchor:chocolate bars, you’ll see a list of URL’s that are indexed by Google and that contain “chocolate” and “bars” in the anchor text of its backlinks.  Did you get that?  So let me try to explain it in a different way.  Those results you see in Google when you use the allinanchor: operator have a number of backlinks each and at least one of those backlinks contain the words “chocolate” and “bars”.  I’m sure you know this, but anchor text is the text on a page that is linked to another web page or a different place on the current page. When you click on anchor text, you will be taken to the page or place on the page to which it is linked.

(Exceptions)

Combining this advanced search operator with others will return no results so be sure to only include your keywords (which can be one, two, three, or more actual words).  A variation of this advanced search operator is the inanchor: command.  Although these two search operators essentially do the same thing, the difference is that the inanchor: command only filters out based on the first word in your keyword string.  So for example, if your search query in Google is inanchor:chocolate bars, you’ll see a filtered list of results that have chocolate in the anchor text of their backlinks and has bars somewhere within the content of the page.

(Best way to use it)

For your top keywords, you can use this advanced search operator to see which URL’s seem to have the greatest amount of backlinks with the anchor text you are interested in.  If you’re feeling a bit advantageous, you can even combine a couple here.  For example, a search query for “inanchor:chocolate bars site:www.godiva.com” will show you all of the pages on Godiva.com that have links with chocolate the anchor text and bars somewhere within the content.

allintitle:

(Example)

If your search query in Google is allintitle:chocolate bars, you’ll see a list of URL’s that are indexed by Google and that contain “chocolate” and “bars” in the title tag.

(Exceptions)

Combining this advanced search operator with others will return no results so be sure to only include your keywords (which can be one, two, three, or more actual words).  A variation of this advanced search operator is the intitle: command.  Although these two search operators essentially do the same thing, the difference is that the intitle: command only filters out based on the first word in your keyword string.  So for example, if your search query in Google is intitle:chocolate bars, you’ll see a filtered list of results that have chocolate in the title tag and has bars somewhere within the content of the page.

(Best way to use it)

For your top keywords, you can use this advanced search operator to see a more realistic sample of how many sites may also be targeting this keyword.  If you’re feeling a bit advantageous, you can even combine this search operator with the inanchor: search operator, which will typically show you a much more approximate sample of those sites that may be targeting the keyword.  For example, a search query for “intitle:chocolate intitle:bars inanchor:chocolate inanchor:bars” will show you all of the pages that are indexed by Google that contains chocolate and bars not only in the title tag, but also in the anchor text of their backlinks.





About the author


Maximus Kang is the Director of SEO Strategy & Founder of Ranking Channel, a Seattle-based SEO consulting agency. With enterprise level experience at Expedia and agency experience at Optify, his SEO knowledge covers a wide spectrum. He also started his very . Follow him on Twitter or connect with him on Facebook.

New to SEO? You can learn How to Win Users & Influence Google.

 
 

11 Comments for this entry

  • SEOBro57

    September 8th, 2010 on 11:49 AM

    Thanks for the useful summary of Google operators, Maximus!

  • Maximus

    September 8th, 2010 on 1:15 PM

    You’re very welcome! Glad you liked it! :)

  • Exchange Rate

    October 14th, 2010 on 10:23 PM

    I have some questions before I Sphinn this. Have you ever received the 403 Forbidden message for performing too many advanced queries in a given time period? Also, are you familiar with Google Dorks? No, I’m not referring to some of the people who may use Google, but the advanced queries that are referred to as Google Dorks?

    • Bison

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      Could you write about Phiyscs so I can pass Science class?

  • Maximus

    October 15th, 2010 on 11:03 AM

    I haven’t received the 403 message for performing too many of these advanced queries. I typically parse this job out so that I don’t get flagged as a possible bot or something. I’ve heard the phrase Google dorks for people who use these queries to find potential opportunities to hack websites no? Thanks for the comment!

  • kanwal

    January 8th, 2011 on 5:37 AM

    really great information in a very simple language.I understood the concepts of link ,site and other operators very easily.Thanks for sharing ur very nice work with us.GOOD JOB KEEP GOING,thanks

  • localtime

    January 19th, 2011 on 6:13 PM

    I am study seo now ! thanks for sharing..

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