HOW TO: Use Wildcard Search with Various Google Services

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I confess, I love Google advanced search operators and playing with search results. Often, to struggle the burnout or lack of inspiration, all I need to do is to search Google. And my favorite operator is wildcard because it is able to give you most unexpected and creative results.

Here’s how you can play with it in various Google services:

General Google Search + Wildcard

General Google search allows a lot of flexibility with its wildcard operator.

How it works: * is substituted by one or more words.

When it comes particularly in handy: In combination with “” (exact match) search to control the proximity within a set phrase. This trick can turn particularly useful for content inspiration as well as for keyword research (to expand your initial query):

Google Wildcard search

You can also achieve unexpected results when using the wildcard operator in combination with other search commands. Try:

  • intext:”diabetic * diets”
  • intitle:”diabetic * diets”
  • “diabetic * diets” -food
  • etc

Other Google Search Services + Wildcard

While many people are aware of wildcard search for “Universal” / “blended” results, few users also use the wildcard operator for other types of search results. Wildcard operator is also supported by multiple search engines run by Google:

  • Google images
  • Google video and Youtube;
  • Blog search;
  • Google news;
  • Google Shopping
  • etc

How it works: * is substituted by one or more words.

When it comes particularly in handy:

Here are a few example of how the search operator can turn particularly useful:

  • Find video content inspiration; example: [“blogging * wordpress”]
  • Customize your Google News RSS feed (to use it to track your brand mentions or to monitor new opportunities); example: [“guest * post *”]
  • Expand your search to include various possible variations; for example, to track new articles by “guest author” (and thus track new guest blogging opportunities), use this query in Google Blog Search: [inpostauthor:”guest * author” OR inpostauthor:”guest author”]

Blog search + wildcard

Google Reader + Wildcard

If you are an active Google Reader user and have plenty of relevant feeds in it, take the full advantage of its search functionality.

How it works: * is substituted by one word. To get two words within your phrase, use two asterisks.

When it comes particularly in handy: Google Reader is your personal collection of relevant feeds. Using it for keyword and content inspiration may turn much more effective than using generic search results.

Google Reader search

Gmail Search + Wildcard

How it works: * is substituted by one or more words.

When it comes particularly in handy: Gmail is another useful collection of resources and links dirctly related to you, what you read and what you are subscribed to. I have once shared how Gmail search can turn a great help in your keyword and content research. With wildcard, this idea is even more effective.

A wildcard operator can also turn a great help for searching Gmail attachments: filename:google*.doc – This one filters emails to only those that have doc files attached and these files have [google] in the beginning of the name (whereas filename:*google*.doc searches for messages that have documents attached with “google” mentioned somewhere in the middle of the file name).

Here’s the example set of this search and the results it triggers:

Gmail search results

Now, go play with search results to your heart’d content!

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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  • Nick Stamoulis

    This looks like a great way to find inspiration when you’re stuck! If you’re writing is limited to be a very specific theme/industry, it can feel like you’ve hit a wall. Having Google do the heavy lifting for you and search using keywords you may not be able to come up with could give you some really great ideas.

    • Zippy Cart

      Agreed! This looks like a great way of injecting variety when looking for story ideas.

    • Alex Cercel (minisite design)

      I also think it’s best use is for story research but a good use would be keyword research too. Don’t you agree?

  • CloudhostingUK

    thanks really helpful.

  • David

    Wow I do allot of work with databases where you can do % as a wildcard and I always wondered if you could do it in google … that a very cool tip

  • magento theme

    Very good idea.Thanks for sharing this information.

  • Cool New Gadgets

    Wow, haven’t tried all of these techniques yet.. hope to find good info using these search tricks.. Thanks.

  • Vandana@SocioNerd

    This is a truly great tip! thanks

  • Andy Kuiper – SEO Analyst

    Nice tips – thanks Ann 🙂

  • Emil A. Georgiev

    Really useful. I got the article as a shared item on my Google Reader and did share it with my followers!

  • Drug store

    Thanks for information i will follow this while promoting my website

  • Website design chennai

    Wild card is nice idea but how can i use search engines?

  • rebo7

    Google wildcard was something new to me, so hopefully this will improve my searches with Google.

  • Jose

    I am currently hunting for wildcard search capabilities in GMail and I am coming to a different conclusion. I am finding that GMail does not support wildcard search. traditional wildcard search uses a character like * or ? in place of the complete word. I have found wildcard search to work in other Google products, just not GMail at this time. Please let me know if I am missing something. Easiest work around appears to be Cueup at this point.