Perhaps the most well-known of these special commands is the "key phrase" with which we place a key phrase in double quotes, for example ["Indian restaurant"] which will then only show results for that exact phrase, as opposed to typing the same query without the double quotes and getting a result-set that matches both words but not necessarily in the exact same position they were typed.
Another simple, but lesser-known command is the +inclusion command which forces the indicated word to be included in the search, for example if you mean to search for the 60s English rock band The Animals, you could type [+The Animals] to force the word The to be used as well as Animals. The opposite to this is the -exclusion command which will do just that, for example try searching for [-The Animals] (placing the minus sign before the word the) and you should get a list of websites about pets and beasts but not 60s rock groups!
Another of the basic commands is the OR operator. Try typing in [+the animals OR kinks] and you'll notice that the results produce just that : web pages for either key phrase: The Animals (rock group) or The Kinks.
Finally, the last of the basic commands, or operators as they are also known, is the wildcard operator which is possibly the most powerful of the basic operators and yet the easiest to use. Simply type a search phrase and replace one or more words from the phrase with the * operator, for example : [the * animals] will show results for the farm animals, the little animals, and so on.
Advanced Search Operators
The operators described above are simple, in that they perform simple operations. The main reason I wanted to write this article was to look at the more advanced search operators that Google supports, both as a point of reference for myself and hopefully a useful resource to other developers and web users. The advanced operators can be used by web developers and marketing consultants as powerful analysis tools for search engine optimisation purposes. Each of the advanced operators discussed is used with the colon (:) for example : [operator:query].
Site Restricted Search (site:)
The site restricted search operator is used to restrict a search to a specific domain or sub-domain.
The above example will list all of the pages from www.bbc.co.uk, this can be used by webmasters to determine how many of their websites pages are currently indexed as well as looking at competitors websites indexing.
It is possible to search specific directories too:
and combine the site operator with other keywords and operators:
Example site:www.bbc.co.uk/sport "winter olympics"
It is even possible to use just a top-level-domain in a search:
Example site:co.uk olympics
The above example will only show results from .co.uk domains for the keyword olympics.
Related URL Search (related:)
Related URL search will show related pages to the URL you typed. Google creates these results by first looking at the web pages that are linking to the URL you typed and then gathering other web pages that are linked to from the webpages that link to the entered URL.
The example above will show other news websites than the BBC. This operator is very useful for checking out what kind of neighbourhood your website is in, or that of your competitors.
URL Keyword Search (allinurl:) (inurl:)
Only web-pages where the keywords form part of the actual URL will be shown, this can be either the domain name itself or the directory, filename.
Example allinurl:web design london
Interesting tool for finding we bpages that are using your target keywords as part of their url.
You can also use just inurl: for single keyword searches.
Title Keyword Search (allintitle:) (intitle:)
Only web-pages where the keywords form part of the page title will be shown.
Example allintitle:web design london
As the title of a web page is perhaps one of the most important elements in search engine optimisation this can be a very useful tool for checking out who else is using your keywords.
You can also use just intitle: for single keyword searches.
Anchor Text Keyword Search (allinanchor:) (inanchor:)
The anchor text keyword search operator will show web pages to which other web pages have linked using the keyword as the anchor text of the link.
Example : allinanchor:web design london
You can also use just inanchor: for single keyword searches.
When used together with the title keyword search the combination shows websites that are almost definitely targeting the keyword you entered.
Body Text Keyword Search (allintext:) (intext:)
Only pages having the keyword contained within its body text will be shown.
Example allintext:web design london
This tool can be very useful for finding good examples of keyword distribution as Google will return the top most relevant web pages for the keyword you type.
You can also use just intext: for single keyword searches.
URL Information Search (info:)
Exactly what it says on the tin, this operator will return information about the given URL.
Can be used for quick access to information about a website or web page as well as quick links to other operators - related, link, site, etc. It is also useful to check when/if a website has been indexed.
Cached Page Search (cache:)
Shows the last copy of a web page that Google saved. In other words you can see the actual content that Google have on file exactly as their crawlers saw it.
This tool can be used to see how your website looks to a search engines.
Filetype Search (filetype:) (ext:)
Search for specific filetypes or extensions, only webpages of that type will be shown.
Useful when used in conjuntion with other operators:
Example site:bbc.co.uk filetype:doc
The above example will return all word documents from the bbc.co.uk website.
Last But Not Least - Synonym Keyword Search (~)
I nearly left this one out and its one of my favourites. The synonym operator is not used with a colon (:) you just place a squiggly line (~) before the keyword and Google will return results for both the keyword AND related keywords or synonyms.
This example would show results for property but also other keywords that Google relates to the keyword property. The related keyword will even be highlighted in the results giving you an instant source of new keywords to use on your web pages.
- Google Search Basics - Google article about search operators
- Google Search Options - Wikipedia article about Google search operators