If you’re anything like me, then I guess you use Google every day.
Google this. Google that. It has the answer to everything.
But did you know you can get really smart with your Google searches?
Google has an Advanced Search. It’s here in the Settings, underneath the search box:
You can use the different fields to refine your search criteria and return more accurate results:
But you don’t have to use the Advanced Search box if you know how to use Search Operators.
A search operator is a character, or set of characters, used to narrow down the focus of a search engine query.
In this article, you’ll discover the Google Advanced Search Operators and learn how to apply them to your marketing efforts.
Ready? Let’s dive in.
Special Search Operators
These special search operators are a super powerful way to extend your search criteria.
#1. Quotes [“ ”]
What It Does: Returns results containing a specific phrase
When you perform a standard Google search, you’re using a broad query.
- Example search: content marketing tips
This returns results that contain any of those words:
If you want to narrow down your search to return only results containing a specific phrase, then you need to put that phrase in doubles quotes (“ ”).
- Example search: “content marketing tips”
This returns only results that contain the whole phrase:
#2. Minus [ – ]
What It Does: Excludes a specific keyword from the search results
When you want to exclude a particular keyword from the search results, then you can put a minus [ – ] sign in front of it.
Note: Do not put a space between the minus sign and the word:
- USE [ dolphins –football ]
- NOT [ dolphins – football ]
Let’s say you want to search for information about content marketing, but you want to exclude any results that contain the term “content marketing institute” because you’re already aware of their site. To do this, simply place the minus [ – ] sign in front of the word or phrase you want to exclude.
- Example search: content marketing -“content marketing institute”
#3. OR [ | ]
What It Does: Returns results for one term or the other term
By default, a Google search includes all the terms specified in your query.
- Example search: apples pears
You’d get results containing both apples and pears.
To separate them, use the OR operator.
- Example search: apples OR pears
(Note: The OR has to be capitalized).
You can also use the vertical bar [ | ] symbol like this:
- Example search: apples|pears
This search operator is useful if you want to track mentions of your name or website.
- Example search: “Danny Donchev” OR “Fortune Lords” OR Fortunelords
But you don’t want to include your own site. So use the minus sign [ – ] and site operator to remove it from the results:
- Example search: “Danny Donchev” OR “Fortune Lords” OR Fortunelords -site:fortunelords.com
Unfortunately, this search includes Danny Donchev the boxer as well, so we can use the minus sign to exclude the term boxer.
- Example search: “Danny Donchev” OR “Fortune Lords” OR Fortunelords -site:fortunelords.com -boxer
When you’re happy with the search results, you could add your search query to Google Alerts and track your mentions automatically.
#4. Range [..]
What It Does: Finds a range of results that contain numbers
This search operator is useful if you want to find a range of topics in Google. You specify two numbers, separated by two periods, with no spaces.
Let’s say you were researching a post on SEO tips; you could search for the best list type posts.
- Example search: “best 10..100 SEO” tips
Google delivers you results like:
- best 10 SEO
- best 27 SEO
- best 83 SEO
#5. Asterisk (*)
What It Does: Adds a wildcard to your search
If you’re not sure what word(s) you need in your search query, you can use the asterisk [ * ] character, also referred to as a wildcard.
- Example search: best * wordpress plugins
Google replaces the asterisk symbol with suitable words like:
- best free wordpress plugins
- best premium wordpress plugins
- best security wordpress plugins
- best caching wordpress plugins
Advanced Search Operators
The advanced search operators are excellent for executing your content research. You can pinpoint specific words and phrases from different parts of a web page.
What It Does: Returns results from a particular site
If you want to search one particular site, then use [ site: ] in front of the URL for the domain you want to search.
- Example search: site:fortunelords.com
This isn’t particularly useful on its own as you get a complete list of all the pages on the domain.
But if you add an extra search term, like SEO, you can narrow your search results further.
- Example search: site:fortunelords.com SEO
What It Does: Returns results within the page title
If you want to see pages that have your keyword in their title, then use the [ intitle: ] search operator just before the keyword, without a space.
Google will only return results of pages that have your search term in the title rather than the meta description.
- Example search: intitle:“content marketing tips”
Note: if you don’t use the quotes in your search query then Google will search for the first word of your phrase; e.g. the word content.
- Example search: intitle:content marketing tips
What It Does: Returns results within the URL
This search operator is similar to the previous one. This time you can search in the URL rather than the page title by using the [ inurl: ] operator.
- Example search: inurl:”content marketing tips”
Again, the same rules apply if you remove the quotes; Google will search for the first word in your phrase.
What It Does: Returns results within the URL for a particular country
You can extend [ inurl: ] by searching for country specific domains with the [ .extension ] operator. Let’s say you wanted to search for content marketing results in the UK.
- Example search: content marketing inurl:.uk
What It Does: Returns results within the text of a page
So far, you’ve learned about searching for terms contained in the Title and URL. The last search operator in this section [ intext: ] allows you to search within the text of the page.
For instance, say you wanted to search for the term ‘marketing’ in the text of the pages connected with fortunelords.
- Example search: fortunelords intext:marketing
All-Inclusive Search Operators
These All-Inclusive Search Operators all begin with ‘allin’. They’ll help you search for multiple words located in the Title, URL, or the Text of pages.
What It Does: Returns multiple results within the page title
Putting [ allintitle: ] at the front of your query, is equivalent to putting [ intitle: ] in front of every word in your query.
Let me show you what I mean with these two examples.
- Example search: intitle:content intitle:marketing intitle:tips
- Example search: allintitle:content marketing tips
Don’t forget you can use these search operators for Google News and Google Images too.
In Google News, the operator [ allintitle: ] will return news articles whose titles include the terms you specify:
And in Image Search, the operator [ allintitle: ] will return images whose names contain the terms that you specify:
What It Does: Returns multiple results within the URL
If you want to include multiple words in your URL query, then use the [ allinurl: ] search operator.
Let’s say you wanted to search for URLs that contain both backlinko and blog.
- Example Search: allinurl:backlinko blog
What It Does: Returns multiple results within the text of a page
If you want to search for multiple terms within the page text, then use the [ allintext: ] search operator.
This time, let’s search for the words brian, dean, and backlinko. But let’s exclude his own website by using the minus [-] and [site:] operators, to see where else he appears on the web.
- Example search: allintext:brian dean backlinko -site:backlinko.com
Useful Search Operators
Finally, here are a few quick-fire search operators you might find useful.
What It Does: Returns the definition of a word
There’s no need to hunt for a dictionary when you want the definition of a word or phrase. Simply use the [ define: ] search operator.
- Example search: define:lead magnet
This search operator is also useful for doing competitor research to see who comes up in the results for a specific definition that you want to rank for.
What It Does: Returns a specific type of file
Sometimes you just want to find certain types of file; e.g. PDF, PNG, rather than a web page. In this case, use the [ filetype: ] search operator.
- Example search: content marketing filetype:pdf
What It Does: Returns cached pages
Have you ever come across a website that’s down for an extended period? It can be quite frustrating if you’re trying to research a topic and you can’t get the information you want.
Fear not. Try the [ cache: ] search operator to see if Google has a cached version of the page.
- Example search: cache:quicksprout.com
If there is a cached page available, then Google displays a notice at the top of the page to let you know when it saved this version.
What It Does: Returns similar content to known website
The [ related: ] search operator is handy when you want to find similar sites or content.
For instance, let’s say you’ve already discovered Backlinko and you’d like to find similar content on SEO and link building.
- Example search: related:backlinko.com
Google is a powerful search engine, and now you have 17 smart ways to get more refined results when you are searching.
Go and try a few of these advanced search operators now and let me know which one you found the most useful.