What are Search Operators?
Search Operators are commands or characters that can be added to your search queries to get refined search results. All major search engines support search operators, but in this post, I am going to talk about some very commonly used operators on Google and how they can be used effectively.
Basic search operators
Putting a search query in quotes displays only the exact match of the phrase in the search results. For example, typing in “tallest building in Fort Collins” will display all pages that have the exact phrase ‘tallest building in Fort Collins’ in that same order.
If you are using quotes around a single word, it will display results excluding synonyms and plurals.
Google search results typically default to logical ‘and’ between the words in the search bar. This means that a search query ‘Apple Samsung’ will show results that have both Apple and Samsung in them. Adding a capitalized OR between the terms shows results that have either of the two terms in results.
You can also use a pipe (|) operator in place of OR. Both yield the same results.
Preceding a term with minus (-) excludes that term from the search results. For example, apple -iphone will serve results containing ‘apple’ but excluding the term ‘iphone.’
The asterisk (*) operator is a wildcard that denotes ‘all.’ For example, using *.gov displays all search results from government websites.
Get search results from a specific website or domain. For example, using site:colostate.edu will display results only from the domain colostate.edu.
Please note that putting spaces between the search operator and your search term will not work.
Enables you to see Google’s cached version of a site. This is especially important if you have made changes to your website and want to confirm if the changes have been cached by Google.
This operator finds domains that Google deems similar to the queried domain. For example, related: apartments.com should ideally display other real estate listing websites.
Find pages that link to a particular page. For example, link:colostate.edu will serve pages that have links to the domain colostate.edu.
This operator finds webpages in a specific domain that contains a particular word in the URL.
If you search inurl:health colostate.edu on Google, you would find pages on colostate.edu in which the URL contains the word “health.”
This operator finds pages with a certain word (or words) in the title. Searching intitle:COVID-19 colostate.edu displays all pages in the colostate.edu domain that contain the word COVID-19 in the page title.
Using search operators
Search operators become really powerful when used in conjunction with each other.
For example, if you want to find all the PDF pages on Colorado State University domains, your search query could be something like this: site:colostate.edu *.pdf.
If you wanted an estimate of only the external links that point to your domain, you could run the following search: links:colostate.edu -colostate.edu.
Using search operators on Google saves time and helps refine your search results. They can also be useful in identifying issues with your site’s SEO and keeping an eye on potentially harmful links to your website.
Do check out this extremely valuable resource to using search operators effectively.