I love showing off my Google power searching skills when presenting or meeting or talking with a prospective client. I just know it boosts my credibility in the eyes of my audience. Invest a bit of time in learning some of the lesser-used Google query refinements — i.e. the operators, parameters, and so forth — and you too can amaze your friends, family, boss, co-workers and clients!
For Part 1 of this series, I’m going to focus on the various commands: the search operators, also known as query operators — for the search box to restrict your results or to otherwise pull the needle from the proverbial haystack. If you’re an SEO practitioner, you surely know and use a number of these. Ah, but do you know them all…?
Google operators are case-sensitive, so be sure to use all lowercase letters (the iPhone’s Web browser will try to capitalize the first letter of every sentence, so make sure you go back and correct it before executing your query.)
Here’s my Top Ten list (well, more like 20+) of Google Query Operators:
|Operator Description||Format Example||Description|
|filetype:||search marketing filetype:doc||Restrict search results by file type extension|
|site:||google site:sec.gov||Search within a site or domain|
|inurl:||inurl:marketing||Search for a word or phrase within the URL|
|allinurl:||allinurl: search marketing||Search for multiple words within the URL|
|intext:||intext:marketing||Search for a word in the main body text|
|allintext:||allintext: search marketing||Search for multiple words within the body text of indexed pages|
|intitle:||intitle:”search marketing”||Search for a word or phrase within the page title|
|allintitle:||allintitle: search marketing||Search for multiple words within the page title|
|inanchor:||inanchor:”search marketing”||Search for a word or phrase within anchor text|
|allinanchor:||allinanchor: search marketing||Search for multiple words within anchor text|
|daterange:||search marketing daterange:2454833-2454863||Restrict search results to pages indexed during the specified range (requires Julian dates)|
|related:||related:www.abc.com/abc.html||Display pages of similar content|
|info:||info:www.abc.com/abc.html||Display info about a page|
|link:||link:www.abc.com/abc.html||Display pages that link to the specified page|
|cache:||cache:www.abc.com/abc.html||Display Google’s cached version of a page|
|define:||define:search marketing||Define a word or phrase|
|stocks:||stocks:goog||Display stock quote and financial info for a specified ticker symbol|
|phonebook:||phonebook: john smith, madison, wi
|Display a residential phone directory listing|
|area code||212||Display location and map of an area code|
|street address||123 main, chicago, il
|Display a street map for a specified location|
|mathematical expression||35 * 40 * 52
520 miles in kilometers
|Do a calculation or measurement conversion|
Query Operator explanations
You can restrict your search to Word documents, to Excel documents, to PDF files, or to PowerPoint files by adding filetype:doc, filetype:xls, filetype:pdf, or filetype:ppt, respectively, to your search query.
Want a great PowerPoint presentation on SEO best practices that you can re-purpose for a meeting? Simply query Google for seo best practices filetype:ppt. Need a marketing plan template? Since the template would most likely be a Word document, cut through the Web page clutter with a search of marketing plan template filetype:doc.
Side note: Don’t link to your own marketing plans if you don’t want them showing up in Google’s index.
In fact, Google allows any extension to be entered in conjunction with the filetype: operator, including htm, txt, php, asp, jsp, swf, etc. Google then matches on your desired extension after the filename in the URL. Note that there is no space after the colon when using this operator. You can use ext: instead of filetype: — they work exactly the same.
You can search within a site or a domain by adding the site: operator followed by a site’s domain name to your query. For example, you could search for me (Stephan Spencer) but restrict your search to only pages within the Covario.com site with a query of stephan spencer site:www.covario.com.
You can also add a subdirectory to the end of the domain in a site: query. For example seo site:www.covario.com/what-we-do/.
To conduct a comprehensive search of all of the associated subdomains of a domain, omit the www and instead specify only the main domain. For example, a search for site:yahoo.com would encompass not just www.yahoo.com, but also movies.yahoo.com, travel.yahoo.com, personals.yahoo.com and so forth. The site: search operator works even when just the domain extension (like .com, .org, .gov, or .co.uk) is specified. Thus, you can restrict your search to .com sites with site:com, to .gov sites with site:gov, or to .co.uk with site:co.uk.
Combining Boolean logic with the site: operator will allow you to search within multiple sites simultaneously. For instance, search marketing (site:marketingprofs.com | site:marketingsherpa.com | site:marketingpower.com) searches the three sites simultaneously.
Use the site: operator by itself without other search words to get a list of all pages indexed, such as site:actionableinsights.covario.com. Again, note that there is no space after the colon when using this operator.
Use the inurl: operator to restrict the search results to pages that contain a particular word in the URL.
This can be especially useful if you want Google to display all the pages it has found with a particular script name, such as inurl:ToolPage site:www.vfinance.com. Again, there is no space after the colon when using this operator.
This operator is similar in function to the inurl: operator but is used for finding multiple words in the URL. It eliminates the need to keep repeating inurl: in front of every word you want to search for in the URL.
For instance, allinurl: china exporting is an equivalent and more concise form of the query inurl:china inurl:exporting to find Web pages that contain the words china and exporting anywhere in the URL, including the filename, directory names, extension, or domain. There IS a space after the colon when using the allinurl: operator.
Searches for a word in the main body text. This is used in a similar fashion to inurl:.
Searches for multiple words within the body text of indexed pages. This is used in a similar fashion to allinurl:.
Use the intitle: operator (such as intitle:marketing) to look for documents where your specified word or phrase matches in the page title.
If you want to find Microsoft Word documents in which the document title (located within Properties under the File menu in Word) includes the phrase “marketing plan,” you would use the query intitle:”marketing plan” filetype:doc. Follow the intitle: operator with a word or a phrase in quotes, without a space after the colon.
This works like intitle: but searches for multiple words in the title. For instance, use allintitle: channel conflict online retail to search for documents that contain all four of those words in the title. Note that there is a space after the colon when using this operator.
The inanchor: operator will restrict your search to pages where the underlined text of inbound links matches your search word. For example, if you wanted to search for HTML site maps but confine your search to those pages with links that say “site map”, inanchor:”site map” would do the trick, since most sites link to their own site maps using the link text of “Site Map.”
Follow the inanchor: operator with a word or a phrase in quotes, without a space after the colon.
This works like inanchor: but searches for multiple words in the anchor text. For example, the query seo tool allinanchor: download trial would invoke a search for pages relating to SEO tools that have the words download and trial in the anchor text.
Note that there is a space after the colon when using this operator.
The daterange: operator restricts the search results to pages added or updated within the specified date range. It only accepts Julian dates, which makes it less user-friendly than it could be. You can find Gregorian-to-Julian date converters online, e.g. here.
You’ll almost certainly find it easier just to do your search first without a date range, then use the custom date range options in the “More search tools” area of the resulting SERP.
“Related” queries show pages that are similar to the specified Web page. Follow this operator with a Web address, such as related:www.netconcepts.com, and you would find Web pages that are related to the Netconcepts.com home page.
An info: query lets you know whether the specified page is known by Google, and it provides the title and a snippet (if available), a link to the page, a link to a cached version of the page (see below for an explanation of this), and a link to view pages that link to the specified page.
Supply a Web address after this operator, such as info:www.covario.com.
The link: operator displays a sampling of pages that link to the specified Web page. Follow this operator with a Web address, such as link:www.covario.com to find pages that link to the Covario home page. Google does not support appending further refinements onto this operator such as excluding links within the same site.
The cache: operator provides a snapshot view of a Web page as it looked when Googlebot last visited the page. Follow this operator with a Web address, such as cache:www.covario.com to view the page that Google has cached. Note that Googlebot must have downloaded the page in order for this to work.
This is a useful operator for quickly obtaining several definitions from various online glossaries. Curious about the definition of “tipping point”? Simply type in define: tipping point into Google.
Wondering how your competitor is performing on Wall Street? Enter this operator followed by a ticker symbol to retrieve financial information, including latest stock quotes from Google Finance.
Google offers an online residential phone directory look-up. Simply follow this operator with a name and location (full street address, or just city and state, or ZIP code), or a phone number for a reverse number look-up.
Google also offers an area code look-up. For example, enter 313 and Google returns the geographic location and map corresponding to that area code.
Queries in the format of a street address automatically return street maps. Enter a full street address, or a ZIP code, or a city and state. For example, 123 east main street, madison, wi or 53703 or madison, wi are all valid map-based Google searches.
Enter any valid mathematical expression, and Google’s calculator function will interpret it for you. It will even do measurement conversions for you, such as 8 ounces in cups. Learn more about what other syntax is valid at the Google calculator page.
“But, wait, there’s more!”
As you now know, in addition to combing through triillions of URLs the amazingly versatile Google can double as a calculator, measurement converter, phonebook, dictionary, street map atlas and stock ticker.
Enter a valid package tracking ID into Google and you can also track packages. Or, supply an airline and flight number to Google, and it will return flight times. Google will even return information about a car’s history if you query it with the VIN (vehicle information number.)
In fact, Google will spit back all sorts of interesting information when it recognizes a particular number format, such as a patent number, FAA airplane registration number, UPC Codes or FCC Equipment ID.
In Part 2, I’ll be back with more Google power user tips and tricks, including parameters that you can append to the URL of the Google SERPs for really handy SEO diagnostics and forensic analysis.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.