October 21, 2014

7 Best Search Operators to Help With SEO

Published: 21 October 2014 

No matter how much you think you know about Google, there’s always something more we could all learn. It is an unbelievably powerful tool, but if you don't know how to harness it, you aren’t getting the most out of it, and your competitors may be.

There are seemingly infinite tools that Google has to help your experience of the internet be easier and better. Unless you’re using those tools all the time though, it’s easy to forget what they are and when they’re useful.

What are Search Operators?

Search Operators are super simple, they’re like cheat codes for searching! Did you know that they can actually be really helpful when you’re researching and forming your SEO strategy?

Search Operators allow you to control what kind of information the search engine brings back to you when you give it a request. We think these are the 7 best Search Operator tools for SEO strategising… and to be honest, they’ll help streamline your search engine use overall.

1. Site: Operator

The site: operator allows you to restrict your search for a term to one particular website. First include the operator and the website you want to search, then include the search term.


In the example above, I haven’t searched the entire web for information about cheeseburgers, I have restricted the search to buzzfeed.com. As you can see, the search has returned only 1,230 results, which is a lot less than if I’d put the query to the whole internet!

This is useful for SEO planning and research because you can skim through your competitors websites really quickly to see what kind of content they’re producing, and you can deduce the keywords they are targeting.

This operator can restrict your search to sub domains, domains or top level domains. Top level domains are just the suffix on the end of websites, like .org, .com, .com.au and so on. The domain is the website, like buzzfeed.com, and a subdomain would be something like food.buzzfeed.com or www.buzzfeed.com.

Which domain you decide to restrict to all depends on what information you’re trying to find. If you know you are looking for material related to universities and education, you could restrict your search to site:.edu, or if you work in the not for profit sector you could stick to site:.org



2. Intitle: Operator

Now that you've found out about what your competitors are doing on their site as a whole, you might want to get even more specific to see the titles of the web pages and articles they’re publishing. This could help you think about the kind of content you want to make, and allow you to quickly see if your competitors are talking about the specific product or service you’re trying to market.


I knew that Buzzfeed.com had loads of articles about Cheeseburgers, but now I can see that they have only written 2 articles about bacon cheeseburgers.

This might tell me several things:

1) There is a gap in the market for content specifically about bacon cheeseburgers
2) I can now decide what kind of content I might want to write based off what kind of content I’ve found that Buzzfeed.com have written or
3) Maybe articles specifically about bacon cheeseburgers aren’t that popular and I should potentially write about something else.

3. Inurl: Operator

This operator is similar to intitle: but it allows you to get even more specific, as it finds pages that have used your search term in the URL. Key words in the URL of a page is a really important part of basic SEO, so don’t forget to include this in your research.


This tool is also useful for finding people’s names, or particular products that are listed on a site. If you’re interested in seeing who your competitors have been able to get to do a guest post on their blog, you could type inurl:“guest post” site:yourcompetitor.com, and this should bring up all the guest posts on their site.

You can even use these search operators in conjunction with each other, like the example below. This is showing you only results that have “burger” in the URL, “bacon” in the title and are from the Buzzfeed.com. This only shows 11 results, so you didn’t have to waste your time going through thousands of posts to find what you were looking for on the site.


4. Related: Operator

How long has it been since you re-evaluated who you consider your competition? Using the related: operator is a great way to research who Google considers related to your site (or whichever site you search) based on user behaviour.


If there are any sites related to yours that you've never heard of, probably best to dig a bit deeper. Who are they and what is their SEO strategy?

5. Cache: Operator

Running a search with the cache: operator attached to it allows you to see the version of the site that has been most recently saved by Google. This tells you what version of the site Google is holding in their index. It can be a good idea to run this operator on your own site, because that will show you how recently Google indexed your site, so you will be able to see whether any SEO efforts you have put in recently have been seen by Google, and that way you can track and measure their effects more accurately.

This is what you’ll see at the top of the website when you run the cache: search operator:


6. “Query” Operator

This might seem like a really simple one, but putting your search term with a query in “quotation marks” can be a really great tool for giving you ideas for link building. Putting a search term in quotation marks means that you’ll get back only results that include an exact match for your term. If you are looking for someone who might be able to write an interesting blog about your keyword for a guest post, you could find them by searching for your keyword plus a catchy content title, or you could find a different medium to have people talk about your product than you ever have before.



7. Link: Operator

Now before I start explaining this operator too much, don’t get too excited! This operator will help you find links to your website, but this is not a replacement for Google’s webmaster tools. The link: operator only gives you a sample of the links leading back to a particular domain.

It is useful for finding out the kinds of places your competitors have built up links. Of course you can use services such as Majestic or aHrefs to do this kind of research, but this search operator is a good option if you are just doing some preliminary research or your company doesn't have the paid versions or premium accounts on those link building service sites.


When performing SEO, it can be easy to forget to use Google as the amazing tool it’s designed to be. We can tend to just focus on ranking better on it’s fickle pages, not thinking about how it can actually help us. With a little practice, these search operators will become second nature and give you a real competitive edge against your rivals.


Ben Maden

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