Learn how advanced Google search operators can improve your SEO by helping identify technical and on-page SEO issues as well as link building prospects.
Google Search Operators That Are Helpful for SEO
Author: Hadi Waqar, SEO Analyst
What is a Google Search Operator?
Google Search Operators, (also known as “advanced operators” or “Google search commands”) are queries that you can enter directly into Google to refine your search query.
Apart from improving your searches, they can also be used to help identify potential SEO technical SEO issues, on-page optimisations and can even help with your link-building efforts.
Once you master some of these search commands, it will not only make your work easier but also extend the capabilities of a regular text search.
Google Search Operators: A List
Before you show some Google Search Operators that are useful for SEO, let’s look at the most common and basic search commands that you can use.
Search for an exact-match word or phrase by putting the search term inside double quotes. This forces Google to only display results using the exact-match term present inside the quotes.
Example: “seo basics for beginners”
Broad results without the double quote
Example: seo basics for beginners
You can also use this command to exclude synonyms when searching for a single word inside the quotes.
OR or |
Search for X or Y. The OR operator (in all caps) forces Google to display results that contain results related to either X, Y or both X and Y. You can also use the pipe (|) operator in place of “OR”.
Using OR operator
Example: seo OR barista
Pipe (|) operator used in place of OR
Example: seo | barista
Search X and Y. This forces Google to display results related to both X and Y. Note that by default, Google displays results in logical AND, which means that this operator mostly functions as a normal search.
Using AND operator
Example: seo AND coffee
Use a pair of round brackets (parenthesis) to group operators together and, more importantly, to control the order in which Google executes the operations.
Display results related to either beer seo or wine seo
Example: (beer OR wine) seo
Use the hyphen if you want to exclude any term or search phrase from the results.
For example, here’s how you would use this command to display results related to fox (the animal) and not Fox (the news channel).
Display results related to fox (exclude news related results)
Example: fox -news
Normal search results related to term “fox”
The asterisk “*” acts as a wildcard which matches any word or phrase within your query. In short, this represents a space that could be filled by anything.
Asterisk “*” acts as a wildcard
Example: marketing “affiliate * seo”
Use the $ sign to search for prices. The Euro (€) sign also works, but not GBP (£).
Example: iphone £200 (doesn’t work)
Limits search results to a specific website.
Find pages that contain a specific word or phrase within the page title.
Example: intitle:SEO vs PPC
Similar to intitle:, but allintitle: returns results that contain all specified words will be returned.
Helpful in finding specific words (or phrases) in the URL. The example below returns all results containing the word “suso” in the URL.
Similar to inurl: but this operator only returns results containing all of the specified words in the URL.
Example: allinurl:suso digital reviews
Displays pages containing a specific word (or phrase) within the content.
Example: intext:keyword cannibalization
Similar to intext, except this displays pages that contain all of the words from your query within their content.
Displays results that are linked with specific anchor text.
The example above displays results that are linked with either “keyword” or “cannibalization”
Example: inanchor:keyword cannibalization
Similar to inanchor: but displays results containing all of the words specified in the query as the inbound anchor text.
Example: allinanchor:keyword cannibalization
Used to find websites that are related to the domain under consideration. A great way to find potential competing domains!
Returns the definition of a specific word (or phrase) displayed as a card.
Displays results of specific file type (i.e. PPT, PDF, TXT etc.)
Example: site:entrepreneur.com filetype:pdf
13 Ways Google Search Operators Can Be Used for SEO
Google advanced search operators are very powerful when they are combined together. By combining multiple operators, you can quickly and easily identify issues that you may not have otherwise spotted.
Let’s look at 13 different ways you can use Google search operators to help with your SEO.
Find How Many Pages Google Has Indexed on Your Site
To find out the total number of pages that Google has indexed for a particular website, use the site: operator.
Note that when the site: operator is used in combination with the inurl: operator, you can also limit the results to specific SILOs (or subsections) within your website.
For example, you can use the following command to find all blog posts within a website: site:domain.com inurl:/blog/
Find Indexing Errors
Google indexing errors are very common for most websites.
Implementing https:// is very important for a website these days, but if the switch from HTTP to HTTPS protocol is not done properly, it could lead to indexing errors, such as your website being accessible from both http:// and https:// protocols and more.
You can find non-secure (http://) pages in the index by using either of the following Google search operators:
- site:domain.com inurl:http://
- site:domain.com -inurl:https://
There are around 57k non-secure pages indexed by Google for the above website. This means that all 57k of these pages also have a secure (https://) version of the same page being indexed – wasting precious crawl budget.
Find Other Types of Files That Are Indexed
Sometimes there are file types (such as pdf, word documents, text files) that may be mistakenly indexed.
Using the “filetype” search operator makes it very easy to find files like these.
For example, here’s what you would use to find potential PDF files that may be indexed on your website: site:domain.com filetype:pdf.
It’s important to note here that you can also combine operators to return multiple file types.
Content / On-Page SEO
Find Duplicate Content Issues
Duplicate content is a very common issue with not just eCommerce websites (where product descriptions are copied across multiple sites), but also for general site masters whose content is copied and republished by others without consent.
Here’s an example of text that first appeared on SEMRUSH.
To check how many other websites have copied the exact sentence, you can use the following command: -site:yourdomain.com “snippet of text from your website”.
In the example above, we can see that 4 other results contain the exact same text as the snippet from semrush.com.
If you find that other websites have copied your content, you can either reach out to them and ask for a link or submit DMCA complaints against them.
Find Internal Linking Opportunities
Internal linking is a powerful SEO tactic that helps users and Google navigate your website.
It’s especially effective if you’re adding internal links to relevant pages on your website.
For example, let’s say you have a blog post on your website about the best iPhone general accessories (i.e. domain.com/blog/best-iphone-accessories/) and you also have another post about the best iPhone airpods (i.e. domain.com/blog/best-apple-airpods/) in particular.
It would be great to add an internal link from the general accessories page to the airpods page as users looking to purchase airpods may want to compare different models based on their budget.
But how do you know where on the page you might be able to add the internal link?
The following Google search command can be used to identify potential internal linking opportunities: site:domain.com -inurl:domain.com/the-page-you-want-to-add-an-internal-link-from/ “your topic or keyword”.
Here’s an example: site:tomsguide.com -inurl:https://www.tomsguide.com/best-picks/best-apple-airpods-alternatives “airpods”
This search is showing all other pages on tomsguide.com that contain the word “airpods”, apart from https://www.tomsguide.com/best-picks/best-apple-airpods-alternatives/.
So, we can click on the results to find the best possible place to add an internal link towards the best apple airpods alternatives page.
Find Your Competitors’ Content Output
Most websites’ blogs are published under a subfolder (i.e. domain.com/blog/) or subdomain (i.e. blog.domain.com).
Using the following Google advanced search operator, you can check how often your competitors are publishing content on their blogs: site:competitordomain.com inurl:/blog/ or site:blog.competitordomain.com
For example, adidas.co.uk has published over 300 blog posts.
You can also get more specific data such as how many of these blog posts were published in the past month by clicking on Tools > Any time > Select time period.
Filtering by time gives you an insight into how your blog output compares to that of your competitors i.e. are they publishing more blog articles than you?
It also allows you to spot potential trending topics that may be worth covering on your own blog.
You can refine your search further to check how many articles your competitors have written about a specific topic.
Use the following search command: site:domain.com inurl:/blog/ topic
For example, adidas.co.uk has published around 36 articles that are related to “workouts”.
Find Potential Keyword Cannibalisation
Keyword cannibalisation occurs when multiple pages on the same website compete for the same term, but importantly, neither page is able to rank to its potential as a result.
You can use the following Google search command to find potential keyword cannibalisation on your website for important keywords – site:domain.com topic.
This site search returns all pages within your website that are about a particular topic.
In the example above, there are several pages that may potentially compete for the keyword “iphone 14 review” due to a content overlap.
Note that this check only indicates that there may be some cannibalisation – you will still need to explore the rankings of the pages to confirm whether they are indeed competing for the same keyword.
Links are very important for SEO but finding relevant, and high-quality link-building opportunities is not an easy task.
This is where Google’s advanced search operators come to play, as using them can enhance your link-building strategy.
Below, we’ve mentioned some of these advanced search operators and shown them in action.
Find Link Prospects
Guest posts are one of the most widely used and effective link building strategies.
There are plenty of ways to find guest posting opportunities using Google advanced search operators.
The most common and widely used phrase to search for is “write for us”.
Other phrases to include are:
- “become a contributor“
- “guest post“
- “contribute to“
You can also use more than one of these phrases within the same search:
You can go further and find link prospects for multiple keywords or topics too:
You can also limit the results to a specific country. For example, if you have an Australian website and are looking for link prospects from Australia, you can use a search like the one below:
Here’s the same search, but for UK websites using the site:.co.uk operator.
By combining multiple keywords and Google search operators you can easily find high quality and relevant link prospects.
Find Social Profiles for Link Prospects
Once you’ve found potential link prospects, the next step is to reach out to them to ask if they’d be willing to add a link to your website.
If you know their name, you can quickly find the social profiles of any author/influencer/person that you want to reach out to.
Example: if you want to reach out to John Mueller, you can use the Google search operator below:
You can then use this information to contact the authors/influencers or any other person directly and build new relationships.
Find Brand Mentions
Google advanced search operators are helpful in finding how often other websites are talking about you and your competitors – i.e. brand mentions.
Importantly, you can use Google search commands to find brand mentions where other websites have mentioned your brand or website but have not linked to you.
To find all pages where your brand name has been mentioned in the text, use the following advanced operator: intext:”brand name” -inurl:yourdomain.com.
You can also limit these results to the most recent mentions using Google’s built-in filter.
You can then reach out to these websites that have mentioned you and ask them to link back to your website if they aren’t already doing so.
Find Resource Page Opportunities
A great link-building tactic is to find pages that roundup the best resources on a particular topic; here’s an example of an article about the best UK based PR companies:
Using Google advanced operators, you can easily find these kinds of resource pages:
This will display results related to “SEO” resources, just note that you may need to filter through them to find legitimate resource pages.
Therefore, it’s good practice to narrow your search down further by using a combination of search operators.
By the end of the exercise you should have a list of relevant resource pages that you can then reach out to and see if they will consider adding your brand/website to the list.
Top tip: many resource pages will contain links that are broken (i.e. the page returns a 404 error or the site itself no longer exists), which gives you an opportunity to suggest to the site owner whether they’d consider replacing the broken listing on their article with your website instead.
Find Sites That Post Infographics
Website owners love infographics as they are visually appealing and engaging.
In addition to social media, infographics are also great for generating high-quality traffic to websites from not search engines.
Here’s a strategy that you can use for link building with infographics:
- Create a visually appealing and engaging infographic
- Pitch the infographic to websites that accept and would feature the infographic on their website with a link to your website
Here’s how to find websites to pitch the infographic to using advanced search commands: topic (intitle:”infographic” | inurl:infographic).
You can also narrow down the results further by adding the topic into quotes: “topic” (intitle:”infographic” | inurl:infographic).
Find Sites Linking to Your Competitors
Are your competitors outperforming you as they are consistently acquiring new links, but you don’t know from where?
Google’s link: operator is very useful in identifying which sites they’re getting links from.
Even though this operator was deprecated in 2017 it can still yield some decent results.
Here’s how to use it: link:yourcompetitor.com -site:yourcompetitor.com
The above result displays all of the pages that are linking to susodigital.com, but does not include any internal links (hence why we’ve included -site:susodigital.com).
You can also filter down the results to more recent ones by using the built-in Google SERP filter to find your competitors’ most recent backlinks.
The Bottom Line
In this blog post, you’ve seen how Google advanced search operators can be a powerful tool to understanding your website’s technical SEO performance as well as identifying link building opportunities.
Remember, putting even a few of the Google search operators listed above to use will give you an edge and offer quick, actionable insights into your website’s SEO.
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