Search Operators

Learn How To Use Search Operators In Google To Perform Powerful SEO Related Research Functions

If you’re doing SEO, then you’re also using Google in ways that the average Google user is not.  You’re performing research, market analysis, and looking for content ideas, among other things.  In this episode we’re going to cover the topic of “search operators”, to help you level up your Google search game!  We’ll touch on some of the more powerful and hand search operators, and hopefully turn you on to some new ways to use Google to improve your SEO and knowledge.

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YOU’LL LEARN

  • Use search operators to refine and manipulate the type of search results you are looking for
  • There are dozens of individual search operator functions that you can use
  • Simply type the search operators into Google, incorporating them into your Google search
  • You can restrict search results to a single domain
  • You can restrict search results to specific keywords or topics
  • Use search operators for precise market research and competitor analysis

Here is the transcription from Episode 62 What Are Google Search Operators and How To Use Them For SEO Research and Benefits;

Jesse Dolan: Welcome back to Local SEO Tactics. I’m your host, Jesse Dolan with a solo episode here for you today. And today, we’re going to be talking about search operators. Not the sexiest topic in the world, but I promise you for your SEO and your general Google searching, that’s going to be pretty powerful information for you. If you are doing any kind of SEO or digital marketing, obviously you do use Google even just from being a regular consumer. Of course everybody uses it, but as an SEO or somebody doing SEO, you’re definitely in Google doing research, looking at your site, looking at competitors, and a whole bunch of other types of uses around that. And this topic here today, search operators, is going to help you become a pro in searching on Google. There’s a lot of different ways you can do Google search other than what you might be familiar with.

So that’s what we’re going to talk about here today. Before we jump into that, I do want to mention our instant SEO audit. If you have not yet, run on out to the website, localSEOtactics.com, and you can do a free instant SEO audit on your website. Just plug in your page and plug in the keyword that you want to be auditing against to get your score and it’s going to churn out an awesome report. It’s going to break down all the major areas for you. It’s going to give you a checklist at the end, a punch list if you will, on how to do that. And you can also run your competitor’s websites. That’s something that we mention frequently when we talk about it. It’s not just for your website, but also for competitors if you want to reverse engineer them, see what they’re doing and compare yourself against that.

So check that out. LocalSEOtactics.com. Top right corner, yellow button, free SEO audit. And let’s see here. Let’s dive right on in. So search operators are things that you add in to your Google search to manipulate the results. So if you just went on to Google.com and you just searched for red balloons, you know Google is going to give you results based on red balloons and whatever your history and intent and other factors skew it. We all get a little bit different results. What search operators do is manipulate the functionality of the search.[inaudible] that I found right before the show here. It’s kind of old. It’s from, what is it, 2017 here on searchenginejournal.com. And we’ll link to that in the show notes for this episode to help you out. That has some that I’m not going to mention here today that get a little bit more niche-y and specific, but that has some great ones on there as well just to take this even further than what we’re going to talk about here today.

So one of them that we’ve mentioned before on the show that is very useful, we use it almost daily here, is a site colon search. I’m going to pause right there. Most of these search operators are going to work in the same method where you’re going to type in a certain word or an operator function followed by the colon. And the colon is just the two dots. Semi-colon is the one dot with the comma underneath it. So when we say site colon, it’s going to be the word site, S-I-T-E colon, no space. And then after that, you’re just going to put in whatever your domain is. So if it’s localSEOtactics.com, for example, we would do site:localSEOtactics.com with no spaces anywhere in there.

And what that’s going to do is it’s going to show you then Google search results and using the site operator, what’s that’s going to do is it’s going to give you Google results, we’re still searching Google, but it’s going to restrict them to be just the site, localSEOtactics.com. So the site colon is the search operator and then the localSEOtactics.com, for the example, here is the domain that we’re searching. What we’re doing is saying for Google, show me all of the results that contain the site, localSEOtactics.com. So that’s very useful to see what pages are in Google. If you’re wondering if your pages are indexed or not, or maybe you’re looking at a competitor site, because let me pause right there. If you’re wondering how many of your pages are indexed, hopefully you’re using Google search console. It’s free.

It’s provided by Google. All you have to do is verify that it’s your website and they’re going to give you just a ton of awesome information as an SEO or a digital marketer. If you’re concerned about your website and your SEO, definitely using Google search console, and you’re going to get some awesome reporting out of that. And that is where I would definitely go to get the gospel on what pages are indexed on your website and what are not. And that’s important to know him because like we say, being indexed means that your pages are in the Google file cabinet, so to speak. That’s my metaphor. If they’re not in there, they can’t be served up as results. So it’s definitely important to know for your website what pages are indexed, okay? So for your own website, you’re going to want to rely on Google search console for that.

But in a pinch, you can do the same thing using the site colon search for your own domain. And it’s going to provide you, you’re going to see the list, it’s going to provide you a list of traditional search results just like you were doing any old Google search. But then up on the top, it’s going to tell you how many results there are. That’s how many pages that you have in the Google index. So if you want to do this for a competitor, maybe you are trying to dominate the first spot in Google for your local market, but you have a certain competitor that you just can’t get past.

This was a really cool way to see how big their website is, how many pages are on it. Do site colon search, and then plug in their domain, their dot com, and it’ll tell you that number as well so you can see what you’re stacked up against. Another way to use the site colon search is to do a search with restricting that on that domain. So building on the same concept here with a site colon search is, if I’m doing site colon localSEOtactics.com, I’m doing a Google search just for results that are from localSEOtactics.com.

Now, if I do that and I want to say, maybe, what’s the most relevant page for, again, red balloons on localSEOtactics.com, I would do site colon localSEOtactics.com space red balloons. Now what it’s going to do is it’s going to do a Google search for red balloons, but it’s going to be restricting those results to just localSEOtactics.com. So this is cool in a couple of ways. For your own website, maybe you create a new landing page for that certain product or service that you didn’t have a page for before, and you get it indexed and you want to see, does Google think that this is the most relevant page on your website about that topic? Let’s just, again, say it’s red balloons.

So if I do a site colon search for my domain and then red balloons, so site colon localSEOtactics.com space red balloons, what Google is going to show me is the most relevant pages to red balloons on that website, right? So that’s good to know because if the page you wanted to be showing up as your number one result for red balloons is not, maybe your home page is showing up, then you got some work to do, right?

Inversely, you can do the same thing again on your competitor’s site. Not only can you do site colon search to see how many pages they have indexed, if you want to see which page is their number one page for this city or for this topic or both, you can do that as well. So you can build on that, just like any other Google search. If you’re going to do red balloons, comma, Minneapolis, red balloons help or whatever it is, anything after that site colon search with that domain again, which is site colon localSEOtactics.com in this example, any words then you put after that dot com, it’s going to be searching Google for those words, and then restricting it just to that dot com that you put in there after that site colon.

So pretty darn useful to not only know how many pages are indexed, but then also what is Google seeing for which pages are the most relevant for that search? So that’s a pretty cool one. Again, apologies. This episode is kind of nerdy, kind of technical, and it’s not the most easy to maybe follow along with audio or visual for that matter because you’re just see me as a talking head. I’m not really going through any screenshots here, but definitely tag this and and use it in the future and test it out. And once you see how this works, if you’re driving or if you’re doing something at work and you can’t play along here on the keyboard, make notes of this because it’s going to be a very, very handy thing for you.

Not only for your SEO and marketing research, but just searching Google in general down the road. Google is an extremely powerful research and the search operators aren’t necessarily designed for SEO. We’re using them for SEO and we’re talking about them in the context of SEO here on the show, but this just helps you be a more powerful Google searcher in general. So, all right, the next one here that we want to get into is… Actually, let’s pause right there and let’s stay on the site colon search. And we were talking right there about an example for use case of your own dot com and then a relevancy for a certain keyword. We also want to do that for your geographic areas. If you’re a local business, local service, local store, whatever it is and you’re looking to be found in certain markets, definitely do a site colon search and then plug in the city.

Again, if it’s Minneapolis, I want to do site colon localSEOtactics.com space Minneapolis. Or maybe it’s Minneapolis SEO or Minneapolis marketing, for example, if I want to be found for SEO in Minneapolis. And again, that’s going to show you, not just restricted to that keyword for the product or service, but it’s also going to show you for that exact city. Now, you don’t even have to put a product or service. You can just do site colon localSEOtactics.com space Minneapolis, and it’ll show you the most relevant pages to Minneapolis on that dot com. Again, whether that’s your dot com, whether that’s the competitors dot com or whatever the purpose is. Keep that in mind as well. Not just the product or service, also the geographic location. Very, very handy. Another great search is filetype. All one word, filetype. And for that, you can, as it sounds, if you want to restrict your results to PDFs, if you want to restrict your results to a JPEG or a word doc, so on and so forth, same thing.

So the filetype search operator can come in handy in two different ways. One is combining it with the site colon search, which we’re going to start there. And another is just on its own without any other operator. And this is a good point to say too, these search operators? They can all be combined. You can get some pretty crazy strings in your searches here when you’re using all of these. But again, when you’re looking for very specific results, this is a very powerful approach using these search operators. So let’s stay on the example of using site colon. And so site colon localSEOtactics.com space filetype colon, and then PDF.

Now, what that’s going to do is restrict us to our localSEOtactics.com domain by using that site colon and space filetype is going to say, just show me PDFs, right? Because our file type was PDF. If you want text files, filetype would be TXT. If you want JPEGs for images, it’d be JPG. And this is useful to see whether or not you did it… You wanted it on… I’m sorry, whatever your intent was to either have the stuff visible or not. This is going to expose that. So maybe you have a PDF and you don’t want your PDFs shown in search results, right? You don’t want somebody to get that PDF. Maybe you wanted to put that behind some kind of opt-in wall, where they had to put their email address and then be redirected to the PDF and you don’t want that PDF indexed in Google.
This is a great way to be able to check or audit your website to see what kind of file types are out there. So do site colon search for your domain space filetype colon. And again, no space after the file type is. Very, very useful to find that for yourself. And then take that same thing again, flip it over to a competitor. Maybe you’re looking for a certain PDF or you’re looking to see if they have anything exposed, or maybe if you are doing SEO as an agency and you’re looking for a customer and you want to make sure none of their PDFs are out there, you do the same thing there. So very handy to find file types that are indexed for a specific domain, combining site colon search and file type colon search.

Now you can also do this just with the file type. So for example, if I want to see what PDFs are out there, again for red balloons, I would just type, filetype colon PDF space red balloons. And that’s going to give me a Google search for PDFs about red balloons or that contain information for red balloons, right? So you can use this on its own as a file type just to do a Google search to find certain types of files, or you can combine it with other operators like a site colon search to restrict to just that dot com and these types of file types. Super useful. Maybe you didn’t want certain images to be indexed out there on their own. Again, text files, Excel files, word docs, whatever it is. Just a handy, handy thing there to make sure you’re nice and tidy, and there’s no loose ends out there.

Another one that’s really cool is inposttitle. So all one word, inposttitle. And that’s going to be, again, something that restricts searches. So if you wanted to find a certain blog post, maybe on your site or a customer’s site or whatever, that mentioned red balloons, but you just couldn’t remember the exact URL or you couldn’t quickly find it in their blog archive, just do site colon search the dot com, let’s say again, localSEOtactics space inposttitle colon and then whatever it is that you’re looking for. And that’s going to return results, again, that are restricted to that dot com and that has that verbiage in that post title. Same thing again, you don’t have to combine it with a search operator. You can just look for blog posts out there from anybody that have these words in the post title. That can be useful for doing research.

Maybe you’re creating a page and you got writer’s block and just, “What should I even write about here? What kind of content should I put on the page?” This is great for finding research for that exact same topic, finding a blog post for that exact same topic to get inspired and know what’s relevant out there. Another similar one to inposttitle is all in URL. And that works in a very similar way. Again, all in URL colon, and that’s going to restrict results to not in the post title like inposttitle did, but this is in the URL, in the actual dot com name and the extension of the dot com for the actual web address. That’s useful again for finding pages that are formatted. Going after a certain topic. Maybe the title of the post didn’t have red balloons, but the URL did.

So I find that one very handy when we’re looking to do some research for a market there. And on a similar note here, there is in URL. So all in URL would be red balloons, right? It’s only going to return your results that have red balloons in the URL, all of it in the URL. If you do in URL, it’s going to give you that are just in there. Maybe it’s balloons red, right? Or some different things like that. Just a slightly looser version of that. Now where we find the in URL to be a useful tool is for trying to get back links. So getting back links from like a dot org or a city, things like that. I should say within a certain city, this in URL becomes very handy because you could do in URL colon and put dot com, right?

I’m sorry, dot org. So we’re just looking for dot orgs. So in URL colon dot org is going to restrict the results to just dot org and then do space and Minneapolis. So that’s going to then give us, according to Google, what they think are the most relevant dot org websites related to Minneapolis. So if you want to find basically relevant Minneapolis organizations that you want to maybe approach, maybe they’re nonprofits because they’re a dot org, that’s the thought process there. Maybe you want to approach them to see if you can help them out, maybe in return for a back link and get listed on their dot org or things like that. So you can use the in URL to restrict to the type of website, a dot com, dot net, dot org, dot edu, things like that. And then use a space and then the city to find out the most relevant results for that city.

A great, great little tip there for, again, getting back links or just finding what the most high value resources are for any given city. And we use that all the time there. That’s pretty handy. And let’s see here. The last but not least one here is related. The related search operator. So it’s related colon and then whatever it is that you want to type in there. It could be another dot com. So let’s just say it was localSEOtactics.com. You’d do related colon localSEOtactics.com, no spaces. And Google’s going to return you results that it feels are related websites. Now this one, you’re completely relying on Google’s discretion and knowledge, which is usually pretty good. But sometimes it’s going to be taken with a grain of salt, depending on how explicit the intent is of the website and how ambiguous it may or may not be.

But if you’re maybe working on a customer’s website, right, or yours, and you’re trying to identify competitors. And like we have always said before, there’s two types of competitors out there for us. One is the actual physical space competitors that we’re aware of historically. But then the other is, who is our digital competitors? Who are the ones, maybe they’re not the biggest or the oldest or even most aggressive in town, but they’re dominating in search? Those are the people that you’re going to want to be doing this kind of stuff to. So finding out who they are by using the related operator for your website, and then as you’re identifying dominant competitors, find out what Google thinks is related to them as well. And that’ll peel back the layers. All of these will to an extent, but it will peel back the layers for how Google is viewing this.

Because as we’re doing these, speaking from the lens of SEO here, as we’re doing these we have to understand that we’re using these search operators to restrict or manipulate the type of Google results that we’re getting and understand that we are then having Google provide us that drilled down result, right? So I’m struggling with the way to phrase this for everybody out there, but be cognizant of what it is you’re seeing displayed by Google. This is how the AI and the machine learning and the Google bot, if you will, is digesting this information and then putting it back out to you based on these search results. So sometimes you might see something, whether it be some of these related searches or the most relevant ones that is showing, maybe weren’t quite on point for that keyword you were looking for. That would show that there’s a weak market there. That’s maybe some low hanging fruit.

If you’re looking to enter into that red balloons for Minneapolis market and the results you’re getting back here are not very restricted to red balloons, even though that’s what you’re searching for, that might be something you can get in there and have some good victories on for SEO, because there’s not a lot of highly relevant competition. So again, I’m going to link in the show notes this article from Search Engine Journal. It’s back from 2017. There might be some better ones out there now, but this is one that’s pretty slick. That has some more, maybe a lesser use search operators, but hopefully that helps everybody out. Using those search operators isn’t something that a lot of people do out there, but hopefully you can see through some of these illustrations where it can be extremely handy, a big time saver, and really help you be more powerful in your Google searches.

So with that, let’s move on here to our five star review of the week. We have a review here from Shannon L. Matrin. It says, “Super valuable info. If you have a local business, this podcast is a must listen if you want to be found online. I’m a web designer and I just sent this podcast over to a few of my clients so that they can understand what the opportunities are to get more leads.” And that’s awesome, Shannon. Hopefully this is what we’re doing here, right? It’s not just SEO. It’s getting more leads, really, at the end of the day. And I liked the underscore that you had on that. It’s not just for rankings or web tricks or whatever. Like we’ve said before, it’s to get your phone to ring and your email to ding. That’s the whole point of SEO. It’s not just ranking, it’s getting more leads, right?

So I appreciate that. Everybody else, if you’ve not left us a review, we would love to hear it. As you know, we read one each episode here and as long as we keep getting them, wow, we’re going to keep reading them. You can go to localSEOtactics.com down to the bottom left corner, click on the reviews and you can read more of these reviews to see that I’m not making them up. These are legit reviews. And also leave one for us. We’d really appreciate that. It helps the show out, lets us know we’re doing the right thing and just helps spread the word and show everybody else the value that we’re providing, which hopefully manifests into results and leads for all of you out there. So that’s it for this episode. Hope you enjoyed it. Until next time, take care.

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