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Understanding Google’s Search Operators

David Oltean | September 2, 2019 | Digital Marketing, SEO

As a digital marketer or SEO, it’s incredibly helpful to understand how to use search operators: Google’s built-in commands for modifying or refining search queries. 

What Are Search Operators?

Search operators are symbol characters or command phrases created by Google to modify the intent or results of a Google search. Some search operators refine results by setting specific text, media type, website field, or domain name requirements. Others are used to alter Google’s semantic interpretation of the query or to establish logical conditions for executing the search.

Climb Marketing SEO Page Example of Inurl Advanced Search Operator

An Example of the “Inurl:” Search Operator

These commands are typically classified under two categories: basic operators and advanced operators. While basic search operators are typically symbols that help to modify or refine search intent, most advanced search operators are word commands that are used to set technical boundaries or requirements for search results. We’ve listed Google’s major basic and advanced search operators below along with an example of each one. Some of these operators are a bit obscure, though you may find them helpful in certain situations.

Basic Search Operators

Basic search operators are primarily used to influence or alter the intent of a search. Most of these commands are executed with single symbols or by surrounding search terms with symbol characters.

Command Effect on Search Results Example
” “ Putting search text within quotes returns listings with an exact match of the text “AMD FX 6300”
* Asterisks (*) are used as wild card symbol to represent any word “Star Wars episode *” shirt
OR This returns results related to only one of the search terms or both Pictured Rocks kayak OR boat tour
| The vertical pipe is the same function as the OR operator Pictured Rocks kayak | boat tour
A minus symbol in front of any term or operator will exclude the term or operator filter from results fender repair -car
#..# Surrounding “..” with numbers will set a numeric range to match the search Fender Stratocaster 1975..1979
( ) Search terms or operators within parentheses receive priority for the order of how the search is executed  (Fender Stratocaster 1975..1979) value
$ or € Searches for standard SERP listings (not Shopping listings) with prices but only works in USD ($) or Euros (€) guitar $299.99

Advanced Search Operators

Advanced search operators often set technical limitations on searches or require certain website fields to match with search text rather than altering or refining the intent of the search like most basic operators. Some advanced operators are designed to analyze a single domain, and these commands can often be used for SEO analysis or strategy. Most advanced search operators are word commands followed by a colon symbol with the exception of the “around(#)” command, which utilizes parentheses around a certain number.

Command Effect on Search Results Example
site: Limits search to website or domain extension
allintitle: Text in meta title tag must contain all words listed allintitle:guitars Michigan
intitle: Text in meta title tag must contain any words listed intitle:guitars made in Michigan
allinurl: Text in URL must contain all words listed allinurl:Ann Arbor roof repair
inurl: Text in URL must contain any words listed inurl:Ann Arbor roof repair
allintext: Limits search to pages containing word(s) or phrase(s) in text allintext:advanced google search operators
intext:”” Limits search to pages containing word(s) or phrase(s) in quotes in text intext:”advanced google search operators”
around(#) Limits search results to pages where two or more terms are within a certain number of words of each other Schwinn Le Tour AROUND(3) 1975
cache: Displays most recent cache snapshot of website and time/date
define: Provides definition results for the term entered define:obfuscate
filetype: Limits search results to a specific file type (PDF, TXT, PPT, etc.) filetype:pdf
related: Shows websites similar to the website entered
info: Searches for contact details and information regarding the domain entered

In addition to the advanced operators listed above, there are number of commands used to limit results to specific type of media or topic. These include “map:”, “news:”, “weather:”, and “stocks:”, but these operators are often redundant with standard searches for the type of media. For example, searching “weather:detroit” and “weather detroit” returns the same weather multimedia SERP as the top listing.

Combinations and Negative Commands Work Too

Another great thing about search operators is that they don’t have to be used individually – you can combine multiple basic operators, advanced operators, and text searches to further refine the results. You can also employ a reverse effect for most search operators by adding a minus (-) symbol in front of the text command. Some examples of this include:

  • Finding specific content on a defined website: “ stratocaster 1975..1979”
  • Removing a certain website from results: “ climb marketing” would remove our website from the search results
  • Finding duplicated or plagiarized content on other websites: searching for “ “pour one out for the dead search operators”” would help ensure no one is copying this article
  • Identifying non-https pages or poorly optimized URLs: if we were looking to correct URLs with underscores instead of dashes, “ inurl:_” would help us identify any URLs that require fixing

Pour One Out for the Dead Search Operators

In addition to the search operators listed above, there are a handful of commands that are no longer active or do not function properly. These include the “link:” operator which identified pages linking to a particular domain, “daterange:” (which can be substituted with a #..# operator for yearly ranges), and the tilde symbol (~) which was designed to search for synonyms. The “allinanchor:” and “inanchor:” advanced operators were meant to identify pages with specific anchor text in links, though the results for this command are quite unreliable.

Test Out Google’s Search Operators For Yourself

Want to put some of these search operators to the test? Head over to Google and get started, or check out our article on some of the advanced search operator methods we use for SEO analysis and strategy.

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