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Google’s “Site:” Operator Won’t Show You Everything That’s Indexed

Google experts caution: "site:" has limits. For full indexing insights, rely on Search Console instead.

  • The "site:" operator only shows some indexed pages. It cannot provide a complete list.
  • Search Console offers a much more comprehensive view of indexing than the "site:" operator.
  • While useful for limited purposes, the "site:" operator should not be relied upon alone.

Google’s Search Relations team discussed the limited functionality of the “site:” operator on a recent podcast episode.

The team engaged in an insightful discussion on the tool commonly employed by website owners and SEO professionals to check a site’s indexing status.

However, the team emphasized that Google Search Console offers far more in-depth indexing data while the operator provides a high-level overview.

Limitations Of ‘Site:’ Operator

The “site:” operator, which allows you to search for pages on a specific website, doesn’t provide a comprehensive list of indexed pages.

Gary Illyes, a Google Search Relations team member, addressed the topic head-on, stating, “No, the site thing shows me some of the pages that are indexed.”

Illyes says it’s not feasible for Google to provide users with an exhaustive list of every indexed page.

Use Cases For ‘Site:’ Operator

While the “site:” operator may not serve as an all-encompassing indexing check, the team highlighted several useful purposes for the tool.

It can be leveraged to monitor for unwanted keywords or content, such as “buy Viagra in a Timbuktan casino without a prescription,” as Illyes colorfully demonstrated.

The operator is also helpful for finding localized versions of pages or checking image indexing, which is valuable for websites hosting user-generated content.

“On our search doc site,, sometimes I use it to find some of the localized versions of individual pages…” said Illyes.

“Checking for images…like in image search or in the Images tab, you can use that to see what kind of images we have indexed because sometimes that can also get pretty nasty.”

While the discussion was lighthearted at times, the team delivered a sobering final message. Google Search Console is far superior to the “site:” operator for correctly diagnosing and remedying indexing issues.

In Summary

A discussion in the latest episode of Search Off The Record examines the capabilities and limitations of the “site:” operator, ensuring an accurate understanding of how and when to employ it.

While it may not be the most accurate way to check a site’s indexing status, its utility in other areas makes it a valuable tool to understand and deploy effectively.

Source: Google Search Off The Record

Featured image generated by the author using Midjourney. 

Category SEO
SEJ STAFF Matt G. Southern Senior News Writer at Search Engine Journal

Matt G. Southern, Senior News Writer, has been with Search Engine Journal since 2013. With a bachelor’s degree in communications, ...

Google’s “Site:” Operator Won’t Show You Everything That’s Indexed

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