How Inaccurate Google’s SITE: Operator Is and How to Fix It

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SITE: operator is one of my favorite advanced Google search commands. It has always been a good way to tell how many URLs (approximately) are in Google’s index, to diagnose some on-site SEO issue as well as identify a penalty.

There have been more and more people recently who are complaining about how inaccurate SITE: command actually is. People report either sudden drop in the number of results returned for site:domain.com command (with no change reported in Google Webmaster Tools) or inconsistent data (again, compared to verified Webmaster Tools account data).

Here’s what smart people say about this:

There are a growing number of people noticing the strange results from the site: operator. Bottom line for me, this report cannot be trusted any longer – most especially not the number. Just because a url is not in the site: operator result doesn’t mean it isn’t indexed and getting search traffic.

However, while agreeing to the command being largely inaccurate, people still see the effect on actual site rankings:

Anyhow, while I found “site:” to be maybe 65% reliable (I’ll expand on this) I still find the correlation (between the ‘site’ number and SERP traffic) to be fairly significant.

This forum discussion suggests the need of checking throughout a number of Google data centers before driving to any conclusions:

I think the datacenters hold all the data and that data gets filtered down to regular google. Google knows all the pages are there, it just chooses which pages are deemed more important. This has always bugged me in the past until I noticed that a lot of unique phrase searches will show a page that is not part of the 1950 that the site operator returns.

So, let’s share our experience?

Here are a few tools that will help you to check SITE: results for any of your sites to compare to regular Google:

Please check your site and share your numbers in the comments (if you have Google Webmaster Tools data, please share it as well).

Numbers for [site:SearchEngineJournal.com]:

  • Regular Google: 22, 600 (for November, 3)
  • Datacenters: range from 9,980 (!) to 23, 100

What about you?

Ann Smarty

Ann Smarty

Brand amd Community Manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas
Ann Smarty is the blogger and community manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas. Ann's expertise in blogging and tools serve as a base for her writing,... Read Full Bio
Ann Smarty
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