Do you wish you had a resource to simplify your digital marketing life? I’m talking about a technique that gives you greater efficiency, and who doesn’t want that?
It’s a tool that you probably already use in your day-to-day life. You likely spend far more time using it than you should. Maybe you’re chasing down facts, looking to buy something online, or just want to order pizza.
Any ideas what I’m talking about yet? If you haven’t guessed, it’s Google. The search engine is great as it is, but there’s a way you can make it even better.
How? By using Google Search operators. You find virtually anything you’re looking for, but only if you know how to use them.
In this post, I’ll show you how to use Google search operators to simplify your digital life and daily tasks.
I’ll detail how they can help you and even touch on some advanced Google search operators.
Let’s get going.
A Nifty Trick to Make All Google Search Operators More Effective
One thing that I wanted to point out before we move on is the power of the minus sign in your search queries.
If you stick the “-” in front of any of the Google search operators in this article, they automatically do the opposite of what they usually would.
You can also stick the minus before any words or phrases you type into the search engines. This excludes that specific word from your search results.
For example, if you want to learn more about Matrix software, haircare products, or math but not the movie, you could search for terms like: “matrix -movie.”
The minus sign tells Google that you don’t want to see any mention of the movie in the title tags or content:
Once you start playing around with these Google search operators, you’ll see the power of the minus sign and how it can transform your search experience.
While I’ll provide a few specific examples of its use throughout this article, know that the minus sign can be used with any search query, word, phrase, or operator when using search engines.
Understand How Quotes Work – “Insert Keywords Here…”
One final basic feature to understand before we look at Google search operators is the use of quotation marks.
When we’re using search engines, we usually do a broad search. Google considers and ranks any pages that contain those search terms in the title tags in any order.
If you search for:
You’ll get results where “content” and “strategy” aren’t always together.
If you want to be 100 percent sure that you are only getting results with a specific keyphrase, you need to put it in quotation marks. That gives you relevant results and shortens your search time.
For example, let’s see what happens if you type into the search box:
As you can see from the above image, every result has the exact key phrase “content strategy” in the title tags or the anchor texts.
1. Dig Into Any Domain – “Site:”
There are many situations where you’ll be looking to explore a particular website.
That’s where the “site:” Google search operator comes in.
It’s simple to use. Just put the domain name immediately after the colon.
For example, if I wanted to see every web page that Google had indexed from QuickSprout, I would search query:
Or if I use Google search operators to search for “Neil Patel,” I get this:
See? I get precisely what I’m looking for.
However, you can take things a step further and only retrieve search term results from a specific folder within the search engines. For instance, if you wanted to see all of QuickSprout’s blog posts from 2018, you could search:
You can also look specifically at subdomains.
For example, if you wanted to see blog posts for Hubspot which uses subdomain hosting, you could search query:
However, the real power comes from utilizing Google search operators and other webmaster tools.
Instead of getting lost in endless search results and anchor texts, a website’s blog post list is more valuable. This is where you may find a website scraper (a tool that crawls through web pages and extracts information from them automatically) useful.
There are many free scraper tools out there, like Google Parser, but these scrapers often offer limited features.
If you’re looking for a more comprehensive tool, I suggest using Scrapebox.
Just enter your search query in.
When you click the button to submit, you get a list of URLs and anchor texts from the search results, which you could then copy into Excel or Google Docs.
There are several potential uses:
Possible use #1 – SEOs can use the ‘site:’ operator when conducting a Google search to find skilled writers. Using this operator, you can find websites with tons of guest posts from some of the top writers in the internet marketing community, such as the high-traffic site Boost Blog Traffic.
However, if you’re interested in a specific niche within the site, you can narrow down your search results by combining the site operator with a niche-specific keyword. For example, if I was starting up a new content marketing blog, I could type into the search box:
site:boostblogtraffic.com content marketing
Check out the most relevant and authoritative search results. They’re the perfect starting points. Once you’ve found a relevant article, check the title tags and anchor texts, and make a note of the author and contact information.
Possible use #2 – Find guest post locations: Looking to quickly create a list of blogs that accept guest posts? Use the site operator and minus signs to exclude certain websites.
Remember when we excluded references to the Matrix movie before? Let’s see another example. If I want to exclude my blogs on specific sites from a search query, I could use the minus operator to do so:
neil patel -site:quicksprout.com -site:neilpatel.com
Now we’re left with a mixture of social profiles, a few mentions, anchor texts, title tags, and my guest posts on sites like Entrepreneur.com and Forbes.com.
You could also tack on “guest post” to the end of the search terms to remove social profiles from the results. However, it could result in search engines missing a few posts.
Possible use #3 – Find pictures: There are many reasons you might want to find the pictures that a particular site uses for many reasons.
- Looking for successful competitors to study.
- Trying to find someone’s infographics.
- Looking for pictures for a new post.
Whatever the reason, the “site:” operator is extremely beneficial.
It works the same in the image search query as in the text search. In fact, many of the Google search operators in this article work for both.
For instance, if you want to find infographics on QuickSprout, you could go to Google’s image search and type in:
You’ll see all of my infographics at your convenience instead of having to troll through the site, which would take hours.
2. Looking For a Specific Title Topic? Use This – “Intitle:”
Finding other relevant content or specific types of articles (e.g., a list, a summary, etc.) can be time-consuming. There’s an easy solution to that, though: use the “intitle:” search operator.
Simply add your search term after the colon. Then, Google shows you pages with those search terms in the title rather than just the meta description or title tags
For example, the search query:
intitle:”email marketing tips”
brings up results where the exact phrase “email marketing tips” is in the title rather than the title tags:
However, you need to be careful with this operator. If you use it without quotations in this particular situation:
intitle:email marketing tips
Other relevant information like marketing and tips may just get a mention somewhere else on the page – like in the content, title tags, or anchor text.
That just leaves us with one final problem.
What if you want to guarantee that an exact match shows in the search results? What if you seek specific words in a title but don’t care what order they are in?
That’s when you would use the Google search operator multiple times, like this:
intitle:email intitle:marketing intitle:tips
Most of the time, just using the operator once is enough, but if you want to be 100 percent sure of your results, break it down as I did in this example.
3. Track Down Link Building Footprints – “Inurl:”
Footprints are common words or phrases that appear on pages.
For example, footprints for sites that accept guest posts would be:
- “Guest post by”
- “Submit guest post”
- “Apply for guest post”
- “Guest post written by”
- and so on…
While phrases in the content can certainly play a role, some of the most effective footprints are found in your posts’ URLs.
For example, if a post URL contains the words “guest” and “post” in it, there’s a good chance that it’s from a site that accepts guest posts (or is writing about how to write guest posts).
We’d be looking for something like this:
With the “inurl:” search operator, you can look for pages like this. This search term operator tells Google only to return results where the words to the right of the colon are in the URL.
To continue with our example, you could type into the search engines:
Inurl:”submit guest post” or Inurl:”write for us” to find places to guest post:
There are a few things to note here. The first is that since the whole phrase “submit guest post” is in quotation marks, only pages with a URL with those words in that exact order show up.
That’s not ideal because when you scroll through the title tags, you’ll notice it excludes search term results that you want.
To fix that, you can do the same thing we did with the title operator and search query for:
inurl:submit inurl:guest inurl:post
Now you’ll get results from the search engines where the footprint words are in a different order, or there are words between them.
You’d be wasting your time if you just go through hundreds of pages like this. After all, you’re only interested in sites generally related to yours.
You can do the same search query but apply a keyword at the end.
With a search like:
inurl:submit inurl:guest inurl:post marketing
You’ll only get results for potential guest post opportunities on sites related to marketing. Checking the anchor texts and title tags should prove that.
Alternatively, if you write about multiple topics, you could include multiple keywords (e.g., marketing, SEO, inbound).
Just by using a single footprint, you could potentially snag hundreds of potential leads; if you find a few more good ones, you’ll be all set for a while.
Using Google search operators, you can significantly narrow down your search needs.
One technique for personalizing content is location-based targeting – meaning dividing content by geographic area.
Here’s an example.
Pretend that a food marketer named Mike was researching a post for the nutrition case study site about grass beef options for Canadians.
To find sites and farms that sell it, he could use the “inurl:” operator to target only domains that end in “.ca,” the Canadian extension.
Mike could search query:
grass-fed beef inurl:.ca
He’d then get a bunch of results that would help him create the post.
You could use this search operator to search for domains with any top-level domain.
4. Have Two Things on Your Mind? Find Either of Them With – “OR”
It’s frustrating when you have to sift through the same search results and identical URLs to find new ones. This is especially true when you need to enter similar search terms repeatedly.
Take guest posts, for instance. You might use the search string I discussed in the previous section.
What if you write about multiple topics, though? If they’re closely related, like SEO and link building, you can probably just type those words after and have no big problems, like this:
inurl:submit inurl:guest inurl:post SEO link building
However, search phrases like “SEO” and “link building” often produce duplicate results, making it difficult to find fresh content.
When you type them in like above, Google excludes non-relevant results to both of them causing you to miss out on some valuable targets.
That’s where the “OR” Google search operator, also called the boolean operator, comes in.
Using the boolean operator in your search query signals to Google that pages containing the keyword either to the left or right of the operator are relevant to your search.
For example, if you searched for:
apples OR oranges
Google returns any page that has either “apples” on it or “oranges” on it. The page doesn’t need to be related to both to show up.
You can also write it as:
The vertical line means the same thing as “OR.: As a quick note, you must capitalize the “OR”, or Google recognizes it as the normal word and considers it part of the phrase you’re searching for.
Back to our example. If you have two only somewhat related or unrelated topics, you can use the boolean operator. Either of these two statements work:
inurl:”submit guest post” “content marketing” OR SEO
inurl:”submit guest post” “content marketing”|SEO
The powerful thing about this is that you can use the OR statement with three or more options, too.
inurl:”submit guest post” “content marketing” OR SEO OR “email marketing” OR “baking pies”
Find brand and name mentions: When you’re trying to work in link building and anchor texts to your web site, who are the best people to contact?
The best people are the ones that like you and are linking to you.
However, not all website owners notify you when they link back to your site using anchor text. This sometimes becomes a missed opportunity for both parties to form a mutually beneficial relationship.
You can get around this by monitoring brand mentions to identify when people add inbound links or mention your brand. Then, reach out to them and build a connection that could lead to even more links in the future.
By using this approach, you can earn high-quality backlinks on several high-authority domains, improving your backlink profile and anchor texts.
One way of finding these mentions is by using a tool like Ahrefs or Majestic to find new backlinks. Although, this isn’t the only option.
You can use Google Alerts to tell you when Google finds that someone linked your profile or mentioned you. The problem with this is that you’ll miss any past mentions.
Finally, you can use Google search operators!
First, determine the terms you want to search for. Typically, you’d include:
- your site’s name
- your author (or authors) name(
- and possibly your product’s name (if you have one).
For QuickSprout, I’d want to look at:
- Neil Patel
- Quick Sprout
Using the “OR” operator, I can search query for all of these simultaneously, for any mentions:
“Neil Patel” OR “Quick Sprout” OR Quicksprout
However, there’s a problem – I get a ton of QuickSprout and NeilPatel.com results. Too much information.
To make the search more concise, let’s use the “site:” operator from earlier.
Remember, you can eliminate results from the search engines by using a minus sign in front. So, “-Quicksprout.com” removes all of the results from the blog.
On top of your site, you probably want to remove posts from social sites. Make a list of any site you want to exclude. For me, that’s something like:
Finally, let’s put it all together into one search string:
“Neil Patel” OR “QuickSprout” OR Quicksprout -site:Quicksprout.com -site:neilpatel.com/blog/ -site:neilpatel.com -site:blog.crazyegg.com -site:twitter.com -site:facebook.com
Obviously, it’s hard for me, because I still have guest posts showing up, but if you eliminated those too, you could find some mentions.
That being said, if I dig in a few pages into the results, I can start to see some mentions:
5. Can’t Put Your Finger on It? Use a Wildcard – “*”
Don’t you hate it when you’re looking for a specific post but can’t find it?
Maybe you remember three or four words of a phrase, but that’s not enough to generate relevant search query results.
That’s where the wildcard Google search operator or the asterisk “*” comes in handy.
Including this in any search tells Google to replace it with any word(s). It will sometimes put multiple words in its place.
To see it in action, let’s say you wanted to discover marketing books.
If you search for:
top * marketing books
Google brings up results that include things like:
- The top 10 marketing books
- My top 5 marketing books
- Top content marketing books
- Top direct marketing books
and so on.
Here’s another example:
best * marketing resources
Guess what comes up from this search term in the title tag:
You get all types of marketing resources, from online marketing to startup marketing.
6. Specifics Don’t Always Matter: Find a Range of Results – “..”
When you’re researching a topic for a post, particularly list posts, this Google search operator is gold.
You can use it to find various topics in the search engines.
For example, if you search for:
“best 5..50 nutrition” tips
You get results that contain:
- best 5 nutrition
- best 10 nutrition
- best 22 nutrition
- best 50 nutrition
- and everything between 5 and 50
7. Some Tactics Require Specific File Types – “Filetype:”
While it doesn’t come up too often, it’s good to find certain types of files.
The “filetype:” operator lets you specify any of several different file formats:
You can combine this with a regular search or any of the Google search operators discussed so far.
Say you’re looking for books from your favorite bloggers. You could use this to find any free ebooks or guides from a specific blogger.
For example, if you love Ramit Sethi, you could search his blog like this:
Then you get a list of the PDFs published by Ramit over the years.
8. Always Have a Backup for Research – “Cache:”
As an SEO expert, you’re constantly looking at other websites to learn from your competitors or to see where you can get new links to help your SEO strategy.
Sometimes, one of the sites you’re researching goes down for an extended period. However, that needn’t stop you from getting on with your work.
Luckily, Google has a temporary solution called the “cache:” operator.
This Google search operator is slightly different from the rest: Instead of searching in Google, you enter it in your address or browser search bar. However, you need Chrome or Google as the major search engine for it to work.
All you do is add “cache:” before a URL, and Google shows you a cached version and when it was last visited.
For example, if you used Google search operators to find one of my older articles, you’d see this message.
9. Don’t You Love Relatives? – “Related:”
Everything on the web is connected, in one way or another, just like people. That doesn’t mean discovering related content is always easy, though.
This is where the “related:” search operator proves invaluable when you’re looking for similar sites or content.
Scenario #1 – Quickly find top sites in a niche: This Google search operator could be useful if you’re looking for popular blogs in a new niche. As long as you can find one, you can find the rest.
For example, let’s say that you’re new to SEO and Internet marketing, but you’ve stumbled upon QuickSprout and love the topics there.
You can use the “related:” operator to find sites that cover many similar topics to your search terms.
It’s simple. Just search:
I’d say Google is pretty spot on. The first result is Moz, which covers similar topics, and the rest are about SEO, social media, and marketing, which is precisely what QuickSprout is all about.
Scenario #2 – Find similar content: When you stumble upon a great post, you’d often like to read more posts like it.
For example, say you came across this post with 44 content marketing resources on my blog.
While you could just search query “content marketing resources” to find more in this case, it’s not always so obvious.
Let’s look at what we get when we search:
We get some extremely similar content.
If you just search for “content marketing resources”, you get some of the same results, but you’ll also miss some.
Scenario #3 – Find more potential backlink sources: If you’ve created a great piece of content, you’ll typically want to reach out to people who might link to it.
Say you wrote an awesome article about how to promote a blog post.
Now you need to find site owners to contact that probably like it and potentially add an anchor text to it.
You can start by Googling some standard keywords:
- post promotion
- content promotion tactics
- how to promote a post
Then, copy down the URLs of the top results and plug them into a backlink profile database, like my backlinks discovery tool. From there, you can see past backlinks to other sites. Chances are, they’ll enjoy your content, too.
However, if you do that, you limit the number of people you can email. Using the “related:” search operator, you can find more similar content beyond just general keywords.
Use “related:” with one or more of the other URLs you’ve already found. Obviously, the more times you use it, the more similar URLs you find. You can then run these through a backlink profile database and find more people to contact.
For example, I found a HubSpot article on promoting content and found several other related articles:
10: Scout Social Media – “@”
Where would we be without social media? For many of us, it’s the go-to tool for promoting, building relationships, and finding contacts. However, there is a faster way to find the details you need.
You can use the “@” to find social media profiles associated with a particular email address. For instance, if you’re trying to find the Twitter account of a blogger you admire, you can use the query “email address @twitter” to see if their Twitter handle is connected to their email address. This can help you connect with individuals on different social media platforms, expanding your reach and building valuable connections.
Example – neilpatel@twitter
It can also help you quickly find email addresses associated with specific domains or individuals. For example, say you want to find the email address of the CEO of a company called “XYZ Corp,” whose website is xyzcorp.com.
You can use the query “CEO email @xyzcorp.com” query to see if the CEO’s email address is publicly listed on the website or elsewhere online. This can be immensely helpful for outreach campaigns, networking purposes, or just general contact information.
11: Narrow Down Google News Results – “source”
If you want to explore one of the more advanced Google search operators, you can use source:
This operator lets you specify the domain or website from which you want from Google News results.
Using this operator can be very useful. When you’re trying to find information from specific sources or publications, it saves you time.
For example, if you want to search for articles on Forbes.com that mention the keyword “Neil Patel,” you can use the “source:” operator to narrow your search results to that domain.
Like in this example:
You get this:
Example – neil patel source:forbes
12: Remove a Certain Keyword – “-Keyword”
If you’re tired of getting irrelevant search results, then you’ll probably wish you’d found this Google search operator sooner.
The “-keyword” operator tells Google to exclude search results that contain a specific keyword or term, and it’s a great way to get relevant search results.
For example, let’s say you’re searching for information about Apple Inc., but don’t want articles related to the fruit.
By including “-fruit” in your search query, you can easily exclude irrelevant results and get better, more targeted results related to Apple Inc.
13: Monitor Your Anchor Text – “Inanchor”
The “inanchor” operator narrows your search results to only pages that contain links with your specified anchor text. This means you’ll only see pages that contain information directly related to your chosen keyword(s).
Let’s say you’re interested in learning about recent marketing trends, and you only want to find web pages that have “marketing trends 2023” in the anchor text of at least one of the links. You could use the inanchor operator to search for:
inanchor:marketing trends 2023
By using the “inanchor” operator, you can filter your search results and get more targeted information that matches your specific search criteria.
14: See How Phrases Are Linked Together – “AROUND”
The “around” operator is a Google search parameter that allows you to search for specific keywords. You can use the “around” operator along with a number indicating the maximum number of words allowed between the two keywords to do this.
Let’s go with SEO trends in 2023, and you’d like to find pages where the keywords “SEO” and “2023” appear within three words of each other.
If you search for “SEO AROUND(3) 2023,” you’ll get results that contain the keywords “SEO” and “2023” within three words of each other, like this:
SEO AROUND(3) 2023
By using “around,” you can quickly find pages where the keywords are close together, making it easy to skim through and find the exact information you need.
15: Grouping Multiple Operators “()”
With this technique, you can customize your searches to only return results that meet specific criteria. For example, if you’re searching for marketing blogs referencing Neil Patel and content marketing, you can type “(Neil Patel AND content marketing) blog” into the search bar.
Another great feature of grouping multiple operators is that it can include OR operators, allowing you to expand your search criteria even further. Here’s an example:
apple AND (tech OR fruit)
As you can see, grouping multiple operators is a powerful tool for optimizing the relevance and specificity of your Google search results.
Integrating Google Operators Into Your Workflow
Are you tired of wading through irrelevant search results on Google? Then it’s time to integrate Google search operators into your workflow!
For instance, if you’re searching for email outreach templates on digital marketing blogs, you can try using the query “email outreach template site:neilpatel.com”.
Here’s another example: let’s say you’re looking for job listings for software engineers in Chicago. You can use the query “software engineer job Chicago” site:indeed.com. Then you’ll only see job postings for software engineers in Chicago and listed on Indeed.
Moreover, the beauty of integrating Google search operators into your workflow is that the possibilities are practically endless. For example, you can use the “intext:” operator to search for keywords within the text of a webpage or article, or use the “filetype:” operator to search for specific file types, such as PDFs or Word documents.
By mastering these search operators, you can quickly become a Google search pro and take your productivity to the next level.
An advanced Google search is a powerful tool that allows you to refine your search and find more specific and relevant results.
First, head to the Google search bar and select “Settings” in the bottom right corner. From there, select “Advanced search.”
Next, you’ll see a form with various fields that you can adjust to refine your search, like “all these words,” “this exact word or phrase,” and “none of these words.” Use these fields to input your desired search terms.
You can also specify things like language, region, file type, and even last updated date.
Once you’ve adjusted these settings to your liking, simply hit “Advanced Search” to submit your refined search.
This should help you to get more specific and relevant results for your search queries.
A Boolean search allows you to use particular words or phrases to refine your search results. This is a super-useful research tool, allowing you to find the information you need more easily.
Boolean searches use operators such as “AND,” “OR,” and “NOT” to combine keywords or phrases to refine your search. For example, you might use “AND” to search for results that include both “digital marketing” and “social media.”
Google search is the default search engine that most people use to find information online. It’s a quick and easy way to search for a wide range of topics, from news articles to product reviews to educational resources.
In contrast, advanced search is a more sophisticated way to conduct searches on Google. It allows you to refine your search using specific filters and parameters, such as date range, language, and file type.
Integrating Google search operators into your workflow can help you save time and boost your productivity by allowing you to find precisely what you’re looking for in just a few simple keystrokes.
However, you must learn how to use Google search operators effectively to get the most out of them.
With the examples in this article, you can see the difference they make to the search results and how they hone in to deliver the precise results you want.
Keep these operators in mind as you do your day-to-day work and see if you can use them when looking for something. It takes some creativity and practice, but you’ll quickly get the hang of it.If you use any of these Google search operators, let me know how they work for you.
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