Google Search Operators That Are Helpful for SEO

SUSO 03 November 2022

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.

Author: Hadi Waqar, SEO Analyst

Hadi Waqar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

google "" search operator

Exact-match results

Example: “seo basics for beginners”

results without double quotes

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.

single word in quote

Example: “barista”

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”.

google OR operator

Using OR operator

Example: seo OR barista

| operator in place of OR

Pipe (|) operator used in place of OR

Example: seo | barista

AND

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.

google AND operator

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.

google () operator

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).

google - search operator

Display results related to fox (exclude news related results)

Example: fox -news

normal search

Normal search results related to term “fox”

Example: 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.

* operator

Asterisk “*” acts as a wildcard

Example: marketing “affiliate * seo”

$

Use the $ sign to search for prices. The Euro (€) sign also works, but not GBP (£).

google $ operator

Example: iphone $200, iphone €200

Example: iphone £200 (doesn’t work)

site:

Limits search results to a specific website.

google site: operator

Example: site:susodigital.com

intitle:

Find pages that contain a specific word or phrase within the page title.

google intitle operator

Example: intitle:seo

Example: intitle:SEO vs PPC

allintitle:

Similar to intitle:, but allintitle: returns results that contain all specified words will be returned.

google allintitle: operator

Example: allintitle:how to create an seo strategy

inurl:

Helpful in finding specific words (or phrases) in the URL. The example below returns all results containing the word “suso” in the URL.

google inurl operator

Example: inurl:suso

allinurl:

Similar to inurl: but this operator only returns results containing all of the specified words in the URL.

google allinurl operator

Example: allinurl:suso digital reviews

intext:

Displays pages containing a specific word (or phrase) within the content.

google intext operator

Example: intext:keyword cannibalization

allintext:

Similar to intext, except this displays pages that contain all of the words from your query within their content.

google allintext operator

Example: allintext:keyword cannibalization occurs

inanchor:

Displays results that are linked with specific anchor text.

google inanchor operator

The example above displays results that are linked with either “keyword” or “cannibalization”

Example: inanchor:keyword cannibalization

allinanchor:

Similar to inanchor: but displays results containing all of the words specified in the query as the inbound anchor text.

google allinanchor operator

Example: allinanchor:keyword cannibalization

related:

Used to find websites that are related to the domain under consideration. A great way to find potential competing domains!

google related operator

Example: related:entrepreneur.com

define:

Returns the definition of a specific word (or phrase) displayed as a card.

google define operator

Example: define:cannibalization

filetype:

Displays results of specific file type (i.e. PPT, PDF, TXT etc.)

google filetype operator

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.

Technical 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.

check pages in index

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/

list blog posts on the website

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://

find http pages on the website

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.

filetype operator

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.

duplicate content

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”.

duplicate content pages

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”

internal link opportunities

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

competitors content

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.

filter by time in google serp

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

refining search to topics

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.

finding potential cannibalization

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.

Link Building

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”.

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:

multiple phrases for link prospecting

You can go further and find link prospects for multiple keywords or topics too:

link prospects for multiple keywords and topics

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:

link prospecting by tld

Here’s the same search, but for UK websites using the site:.co.uk operator.

link prospecting by .co.uk tld

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:

social profiles for link prospecting

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.

brand mentions

You can also limit these results to the most recent mentions using Google’s built-in filter.

brand mentions by filtered results

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:

pr agencies in U.K

Using Google advanced operators, you can easily find these kinds of resource pages:

resources

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.

search operators combination to narrow results

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:

  1. Create a visually appealing and engaging infographic
  2. 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).

websites to pitch infographic

You can also narrow down the results further by adding the topic into quotes: “topic” (intitle:”infographic” | inurl:infographic).

narrow results to pitch 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

link operator

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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