When it comes to SEO, there are many tools that can help you research opportunities. Tools of the trade can run the gamut from link research to on-page optimization to tools for performing SEO audits.
Advanced Google search operators have their place in this ecosystem of tools, however. These operators can help you gain insight into SEO opportunities and audit points you otherwise would not have identified as a result; the possibilities are endless.
After we talk about the advanced operators and search commands, I will also provide several examples of how these operators can be used in the real world. From content research to technical SEO audits, these examples will help you become more familiar with how Google’s advanced search commands and operators work in real-world situations.
Advanced Google Search Operators
Here are the advanced Google search commands and operators you need to know.
Using the cache operator, you can find out what the most recent cache of a specified webpage is. This is useful for identifying when a page was last crawled.
Example use: cache:websitename.com
This operator will help you find whether all the terms that you are looking for shows up in the text of that page. This operator, however, isn’t pin-accurate because it won’t look for text on the page that appears close together.
Example use: allintext:content social links
This operator is a more global operator that allows you to find any terms showing up on a webpage in any area – like the title, the page itself, the URL, and elsewhere. This is useful if you want to perform research into how others’ on-page SEO footprints are being categorized by Google.
Example use: word one intext: other term
If you are performing blog research, this operator is useful for finding blogs with certain search terms in the blog title.
Example use: inposttitle:weight loss goals
This search operator is a great way to find blogs that match the content you are writing about. For example, you could use allintitle to research what others are doing for that particular topic. Then, you could write your post to be better than theirs.
Example use: allintitle:how to write content for seo
This is a narrower operator that will help you find more targeted results for specific search phrases. If you wanted to find pages that are all about “drawing with micron pens” for example, the following is how you would use it:
Example use: intitle:drawing with micron pens
This one allows you to find pages with your requested search terms within the URL in internal search pages. For example, say you wanted to perform research on pages on a site that had the terms “drawing tablet”. You would use the following:
Example use: allinurl:amazon drawing tablet
This will bring up all internal URLs on Amazon.com that have the terms “drawing tablet”.
If you wanted to find pages on a site that has your targeted search term in the URL, and the second term in content on a website, you could use this operator. This is useful for finding sites with strong on-page optimization for the topics you are researching.
Example use: inurl:drawing portraits
This operator is useful for performing research on pages that have all terms after “inanchor:” in anchor text linking back to the page. Using this operator can help you find
Example use: allinanchor:”how to draw anime”
It is possible to identify pages with inbound links that contain the anchor text specified. However, data is only sampled and doesn’t provide accurate global results.
Example use: inanchor:”digital painting”
Do you want to find images that only fall under a specific file type (e.g., .jpg, .png, or .gif)? This is a great way to narrow research on infographics or memes. But, it can also help you identify stray images and other files (like PDFs) that may have been picked up by Google.
Example use: site:domainname.com filetype:txt – inurl:robots.txt
This will help you find files on your site that were indexed by Google but will exclude robots.txt from appearing in the search results.
Do you want to narrow the focus of your results to be super narrow? This is a great way to identify search results where two or more terms appear on the page, and also appear very close to each other (denoted by the number in the parentheses).
Example use: digital drawing AROUND(2) tools
Advanced Google Search Commands
This command will help you search for pages that have one word or the other. If you wanted to find the words drawing or painting, but not both, you could use this command to do so.
Example use: digital drawing OR digital painting
Using quotes around the phrases you are searching for will help you find results that are exact match results, rather than the broad results you will get with standard search.
Example use: “search term 1”
Exclude Words: (-)
The minus sign is an exclusion symbol. This command will help you exclude words that you don’t want to appear in the search results. Say for some reason that you wanted to find pages that have the word content marketing but not pages from Business Insider that contain this phrase.
Example use: “content marketing -businessinsider.com”
Add words: (+)
You can use a plus sign to add words that you want to be included in the search results.
Example use: “content marketing + SEO”
If you are in need of more specific results that are catered to a single website, this command will help you bring those results up. For example, if you wanted to search your favorite SEO website for articles on 404 errors, you would use the following:
Example use: “site:searchenginejournal.com 404 errors”
If you’re in a situation where you need any results that have more than one website with similar content to a site you are familiar with, just use the following:
Example use: “related:domainname.com”
This one will help you find information related to the domain that you are searching. It will help you identify things like pages with the domain text on-page (not necessarily linked), similar on-site pages, and the website’s cache.
Example use: “info:domainname.com”
Putting It All Together: How to Use These Commands & Operators in the Real World
It isn’t always easy to identify the best combinations of search commands and operators that will help you accomplish your objective. But, once you do, you will probably think “that is downright cheating” because of all the information you can uncover.
It’s not really cheating. You’re getting that edge you need to beat your competition.
Below are a few ideas that you can use to take these operators and use them to their fullest potential for a wide variety of SEO uses. Feel free to use them to build your own SEO ideas and projects.
Dig Deeper Into Website Content Research
Many of these search operators can help you perform targeted, useful research on content. From today’s most recent content on SEO topics, to content talking about making the most amazing bacon potato volcano with cheese. If it’s specific enough, these operators are your friend when it comes to finding content ideas.
Exclude Specific Terms That Aren’t Helpful to You
Example use: term1 -term2
Say you were doing research for SEO content that talks about secure URLs, but you wanted to exclude anything that mentioned 404 errors. Because, for your purposes, 404 errors won’t help you. The following would suffice:
secure URLs -404 errors
Exclude More Than One Term
Example use: term1 -term2 -term3 -term4
If your content research revolved around 404 errors, but all you want are pages that talk about 404 errors (and pages that do not mention 404 errors for canonicals, 500 errors, and the like), you can use this combination:
Example use: secure urls -404 errors -canonicals -500 errors
Exclude Terms That Are Exact
If you want to find pages that mention technical SEO audits but do not include 404 errors or XML sitemaps in the topical discussion, this operator will help. Please note that it will include XML sitemap unless it’s specified to exclude.
Example use: technical seo -“404 errors” -“xml sitemaps”
Technical SEO Audits
When done right, technical SEO audits can be complex and can contain over 200 factors to consider fixing, especially for large websites. But, it is not just about spitting out the results of a tool and sending them to a client. Anybody can do that.
Any SEO professional who is worth their salt, however, will put together a custom strategy the client can use to prioritize SEO tasks and get their site from where it is to where it needs to be. That’s where the power of a technical SEO audit comes in.
Using advanced search operators can help you drill down to the nitty-gritty details of how Google sees and indexes a website. Without further ado, below are some ideas to get you started toward expanding your use of these operators.
Identify How a Site is Indexed
Example use: site:domainname.com
A tiny window into how a site is indexed by Google can tell you so much about how to tailor your SEO efforts accordingly. Using the site: operator is one of the simpler ways to do this, and you can get an idea of the site’s index count as well.
The index result count can help you identify massive technical errors on a large website. Say, for example, a site physically only has 270 pages but Google is indexing 15,000 pages from the site. This could range from incorrectly generated pages from on-site search, to issues arising from an http:// to https:// transition, and redirects not working properly.
Remove Multiple Subdomains
Example use: site:domainname.com -inurl:stage -inurl:dev -inurl:staging
If you work on a messy, large international brand website that continues to have issues with staging sites being indexed, but you don’t care about the staging site, this operator can help you exclude all of those messy staging site subdomains.
Drill Deep Down Into Non-Secure Pages and Audit Your http:// to https:// Transition
Example use: site:domanname.com -inurl:https
This example use excludes the https:// url, but you can also include it by removing the minus sign. Using the operator in this way can help you audit your http:// to https:// transition. This will give you an idea into how Google is indexing your new https:// pages as opposed to their http:// pages.
Finding Duplicate Content
Example use: site:domainname.com “content search term”
Say you wanted to find out how much a website’s internal duplicate content was being indexed by Google. The combination of these operators will help you do this.
This is useful for gaining a surface insight into how many results are returned by the search term. After finding this out, you can use a tool like Screaming Frog to really dig deeper and find those duplicate content pages that are presenting problems.
Multiple Combinations of Operators Can Be Your Friend
Have you ever heard the phrase “Google is your friend”? When using the vast array of search operators available, you can turn Google from your friend into your romantic lover extremely quickly. While the prior comparison is slight hyperbole, the comparison is used to illustrate how powerful the insights you can gain from advanced search operators really are.
From hunting down plagiarism of your own content to auditing your http:// to https:// website transition, many infinite combinations of operators can be useful for content audits, technical SEO audits, whatever you want to use them for.
It’s up to you to identify the combos that will help you the most in your search efforts. This way, you can gain a razor-sharp edge that will allow you to find the most pertinent information to help you beat your competition in the search results.