SEO is a very delicate practice.
It’s like life, learning the basics don’t call for relaxation. You have to keep firing in all cylinders, you have to keep learning and breaking more boundaries.
I can’t promise to give you an instant transformational secret that will revolutionize how you look at SEO, but I can categorically say that you will learn the details of what will push you to become better at it.
One of the greatest things I will teach you is how to maximize your effort without compromising quality.
Although SEO is an integral aspect of digital marketing, it is not the ultimate solution. When you get involved in it, you will understand the long processes involved.
And you know how fulfilling it is to maximize time.
I am very much interested in reliable “hacks” that can help you achieve more by reducing the amount of time it takes you to accomplish a task.
Hey, I don’t mean insidious hacks. I’m talking about tricks that can help you save time.
Do you want to know one of my favorites that I’m quite passionate about? Exploring advanced search operators.
In simple term: Google.
Google is not just the most popular and widely used search engine, it is also the most reliable and most of your customers will come across your business through this search engine. That being said, understanding how Google operates is not a negotiable option for a serious SEO. You must learn every detail of their processes.
You would be surprised to hear that there are SEOs who could recite, without flinching, the most recent algorithm updates of Google, but have not explored Google well enough to use it effectively. Funny, right?
Using search operators have proven to be a reliable means of maximizing the time you spend on Google for better results. The sweetest part is: It’s very easy.
It is not an exclusive reserve of SEOs. You can learn it and apply it to your day-to-day work.
What are search operators?
According to Google, search operators are “symbols or words in your search to make your search results more precise.”
Search operators play a vital role in coding. They are easy routes to getting better results.
Search operators command Google to filter your result in a specific way.
Rather than get stuck with piles of unrelated pages, your results produce relevant pages that reflect exactly what you need.
Yes, I know you have to use them the correct way. And there is unlimited information to that regard.
I will teach how to go about it.
1. Go for every result
Sometimes you may need to get all the results available without filtering it. To do that, you just do the normal search:
2. Search exact matches
Let us assume that you are searching for infographics that discuss content marketing.
The first thing that will come to your mind might be to use the search query “content marketing infographic.” Once you Google that, this is what pops up:
It is very obvious that some of the results are not exactly what you are looking for.
“Video marketing” doesn’t even appear on the third result, although the terms “video” and “marketing” are featured on it.
Google wouldn’t take your search query seriously if you are not specific about your search terms.
For better targeting, you can go the quotation marks way. When you put some specific words or phrase in quotation marks, you are requesting that Google returns only results that match those words or phrase.
Let’s Google this:
With this, Google will display results that have my exact phrase “video marketing.”
3. Take off the words
Google is notorious for providing search results you are not interested in.
Let’s assume you are researching on “email marketing” with the intention of picking up more advanced topics. You will encounter the problem of coming across results that talk about strategies for beginners.
At this point, you can introduce a hyphen (-) to demarcate words from the result. Let’s try it with “strategy”.
This will help Google not feed you with content marketing strategies results.
4. Take off multiple words
This technique comes in handy when you need to exclude more than one word. To use the exclude search operator, ensure there is consistent space in between the excluded words.
5. Take off the exact match phrases
If you are not satisfied with the results you have, you may need to command Google to take off the entire phrases that perfectly match the phrase you specified.
This technique is a combination of the exclusion search operators and the exact match.
While the hyphen (-) is a mark of exclusion, the quotation marks around the phrase stands as a command to Google to exclude the whole phrase and not just the first word.
This is what it looks like:
This sends a command to Google to exclude your specified phrase in between the quotation marks.
6. Exclude multiple phrases
This is widely considered the perfect exclusion operator.
With this you can exclude multiple phrases. It’s similar to excluding multiple words.
For better result simply use the hyphen (-) and quotation marks for as many phrases as you want.
Here’s an example:
7. Apply an OR directive
You can still control your results and command Google to search either of two keywords or phrases. You can achieve this by using the OR command.
This would command Google to display results with either A or B. Separate your search keywords with capital letter OR like this:
I may need to inform you that the OR directive will search the word before it and the one after it.
You can also try the pipe symbol technique (|) instead of using the OR.
8. Use specified OR commands
All of the previous search operators that we have discussed can guide you through the process of modifying your OR searches.
This comes in handy when you want to use an OR search with particular phrases:
You will be provided with results that include either of the two exact phrases you specified: “content marketing” or “email marketing.”
9. Use wildcards to get more results
If you are not satisfied with the result from your previous search and want to get more matches, you can try the wildcard operator. It is represented by the symbol, asterisk (*).
When the wildcard is applied in a phrase, all the variations of that phrase would come with the result.
For instance, when researching on chicken and chips, you could either use and or &
So this search query would return results with both:
10. Include words
Do you know that just the same way you can exclude words, you can also include them?
While surfing for information on a particular niche topic, you may want to ensure that some keywords are included, the plus sign is a sure way of achieving it.
11. Include phrases
You can include the entire phrases with the combinations of quotation marks and the plus sign:
This may look ordinary, but it will help Google target most relevant contents you need.
12. Find words near each other
This is neat search operator that exists but people tend to ignore. I bet most people don’t even know it exists. It’s called the AROUND(X) operator.
With this operator, your results would appear with your search terms close to each other.
The X represents the number of words that will separate the two terms.
So for example, if you put in this query:
You will end up with results where “content marketing” is 5 words away from “video”. It is most effective for connecting two topics.
13. Look for phrases near each other
The AROUND(X) operator can also be applied when you need to employ quotes to find phrases near each other:
14. Find synonyms
This is another interesting way to search for results that are all related to what you’re looking for.
To find words synonymous to a particular word, all you need to do is have a tilde (~) appear before the specified word.
The words “holiday ~decorations” would provide results with “décor” as the synonym
15. Search specific sites
You can restrict your results to a particular site. With Google search operators, it is very possible
Type “site:” and then the name of the site you want to target. It should look like this:
It is most effective when used with keywords or other search operators.
It works with any search operator and your keywords could come before or after the search operator. This technique allows access into a site’s index and for SEO, this can be extremely valuable.
16. Search connected sites
In some cases you may need to extract information from sites that are related to sites you already know. That’s when the related: operator comes in handy
Write related: followed by the website domain name:
17. Get information about sites
In some cases, you need to extract information about a site.
Typing the instruction info: before a URL, you would be commanding Google to feed you with information about the website.
18. See cached versions
Some day you might have a need for an older version of a website and in such days, Google would be your reliable friend.
You just need to learn how to use the cache: operator
19. Search particular domain types
Have you forgotten site: operator? Well, you better not, because you can equally use it to search specific types of domains.
If you’re searching for only .biz sites, you can use:
Combining it with keywords and/or other operators is equally possible:
20. Search multiple specific domain types
Remember the OR command we discussed earlier? With it you can search for more than one type of domain. Use parentheses to enclose the OR command and its keywords:
21. Search hashtags
This is particularly useful when planning a social media campaign. Explore Google’s interesting ability to display hashtags from social media networks.
Make sure to place the symbol (#) immediately before the phrase or keyword of your choice.
22. Search using a variety of numbers
You can command Google to display results within the range of your specified number. You can put periods (..) in between your specified minimum and maximum values.
Google will respond by displaying results that fall in between those two specified values.
This operator is most convenient when you are doing a product research. You can streamline your search in a way that only products within a particular price range show up.
23. Look for keywords within page titles
With the intitle: operator, your results will come with page titles that have a particular keyword in them. You can do this by introducing the operator just before the specified keyword.
24. Look for phrases within the page titles
The allintitle: operator gives you the benefit of searching for titles that contain certain phrases.
25. Look for keywords in page text
This a picture-centric technique. Just like the last two operators we discussed, the intext: operator will display results that have a specific keyword in the text of the page.
If you are constantly searching for word contents or blog posts, you should know this operator like the back of your palm.
26. Find phrases in page text
If you followed us through the previous operator, you would definitely know what this does.
Just like the allintitle: operator, allintext: will help you with phrases within a page text.
27. Find keywords in anchor texts
This one has great SEO value.
With this operator, you can have Google produce results that have a particular keyword in the anchor text.
28. Find phrases in anchor texts
With this operator, you can have Google produce results that have a particular phrase in the anchor text.
29. Find keywords in URLs
This works well for niche based URLs, especially when you need to find pages that are particularly about a specific topic.
You can put this to use in both situations. By specifying a keyword, inurl: will produce results with that particular keyword contained in the URL.
30. Find phrases in URLs
This one is more effective than the previous one. The allinurl: operator displays entire phrases in URLs:
31. Find content by particular authors
There is so much to be said about this search operator and contents written by influencers. Personally, I prefer to link to it in my articles.
Finding contents written by specific people is easy if you know your way around the technique.
You can use the allinpostauthor: operator when searching for an author you know the name.
32. Narrow your search to a specific location
Location based search is the way to go if you are doing local SEO. .
When you are targeting an audience located in the same geographic location, location specific search comes in handy.
Simply use the loc: operator together with a certain location you intend to target:
33. Exclude subdomains
To crawl through the subdomain of any site, you need the inurl: and site: operators to effectively crawl your targeted website and avoid specific subdomains:
34. Identify pages that aren’t secure
Hello! Now you can run a check to find out the pages of a website that are not secure:
I advice you run this check on your own site if you are not using HTTPS.
35. Pull definitions
Using define: operator helps you with the definition of any word:
It also works with phrases too:
36. Search within a date range
Use the daterange: operator when you need your results to be narrowed down to a certain range of dates that you specify.
The only down side to it is that the operator works with the lesser-known Julian format rather than the Gregorian calendar that most of the world uses.
37. Search by filetype
This comes in handy when you are searching for a certain document format, like PDF and XLS:
It works with any file format.
38. Find unnecessary text files
You don’t want to have a website that is robust with unnecessary files that just idly sit around and take up relevant space on your website. To trace such files, try and run this search:
39. Find alternate TLDs
Enterprising websites are usually cloned. And if you have one, you may need to investigate sites that share the same domain name as yours, though with a different TLD:
This can help you find competitors who have registered your domain name under different TLDs.
Wow! You made it through to the end of the list. I can categorically say that you are a certified Google search master.
Google is deep and I personally consider it undervalued.
Customizing your Google searches can expose you to wider knowledge. You can now properlly target specific contents.
You have succeeded in learning SEO for free
Most people don’t seem interested in understanding and using search operators, but it can help widen your SEO knowledge.
What are your experiences with search operators?