What is a Google Search Operator?
Are you tired of reading through numerous search results but still not finding what you want? To make life easier, search engines have a list of search operators that filter the results you see on the search engine results page (SERP).
A search operator, or a search parameter, is a string of characters used in a search query to narrow the focus of the search. Search operators, luckily, are not exclusive to Google. Major search engines like Bing, Yahoo and Yandex each has its own search operators that enable users to look for specific results. These tricks are not only convenient for regular users, but also valuable for search specialists to uncover issues that otherwise are hidden in websites.
Top 14 Google Search Operators
There are, of course, more than 20 parameters available on Google. These 20 are, in my opinion, the most useful search operators for regular users and SEO specialists. All example included below are embedded with links to the actual SERPs, so feel free to explore!
Tip: Space indicates to Google 2 different parameters – so use it with caution!
#1 Use double quotes to search for an exact query
This is one of the most basic search operators. By adding ” “, you are commanding Google to only display pages with the same words in the same order you specified. This can be very helpful if you are looking for very specific terms.
#2 Use two periods to search for a number range
When you are looking for a range of number, simply add two periods .. without space in between the numbers. This works for all sorts of numbers, including price, date, measurements etc. For instance, the query below returns results that contain phones within the budget of $500 to $1000.
#3 Add an asterisk for unknown or wildcard search term
Say, you have something in mind but you can’t really figure out the whole phrase. By using an asterisk * to replace the missing word(s), you will be able to search all variations of that phrase. You can even use more than one asterisk in the query. This Google search hack will come in handy if you are looking for an idiom or lyrics of a song. The following example returns with results containing the idiom ‘wearing a different hat’.
#4 Use minus to exclude a keyword
By using a minus sign –, you can exclude a specific keyword, key phrase or even domain from all results shown. For example, you want to look for information on giants, the mythological creature, but the search results are full of news about the baseball team San Francisco Giants and American football team New York Giants. To exclude results about the 2 teams, simply add a – after your search query giants.
Tip: Remember to add quotes ” ” if the term you want to exclude contains space in between.
#5 Use a tilde to search for similar terms
Add a tilde ~ in front of the search query to get results for similar keywords. The include similar words operator will return with results that contain synonyms of the original search query. By searching ~jacket, you will also get results about coat, vest and outerwear.
#6 Use OR to search for 2 queries in a single search
Remember the mathematical statement If A OR B? When doing Google search, use the capitalized OR to get results for multiple terms in one-go. In the example below, the results will only contain pages that have either Nike or Adidas!
#7 Use AND to search for multiple must-have terms
By adding the capitalized AND in your search query, you can instruct Google to display results that contain both search terms. For instance, the following query returns only recipes that need both cheese and bacon.
#8 Use site: to search for pages within a specific site
If you only want to look for results within a given website, simply add site: in front of the domain. This parameter, when combined with the exact phrase match parameter, can be very useful for both search specialists and marketers. Not only can you identify specific keywords in your own website, but it is equally powerful in analyzing your competitors’ sites.
#9 Use related: to search for similar sites
When you already have a website in mind, you can add related: in front of the domain in order to search for similar websites. In the example below, the results returned contain pages such as gap.com, jcrew.com and urbanoutfitters.com. Therefore, this is a great way to analyze your competition in the online space.
#10 Use define: to search for definitions
If you are looking for definition for a specific search term, simply use the define: parameter to get most relevant definition available online. Logically, most results are snippets collected from Wikipedia and online dictionaries.
#11 Use intitle: to search for terms in page titles
This parameter allows you to search for specific terms in the page’s titles by adding intitle: in front of your search query. To optimize your page titles for SEO, the intitle: search operator can be helpful in identifying organic competition.
#12 Use inurl: to search for terms in URLs
Similarly, you can use the inurl: parameter to look for specific keywords in the URLs.
#13 Use filetype: to search for specific file type
If you are looking for Google search hacks for a project or a presentation, this parameter can be immensely useful. Say, you are preparing for a presentation about Hong Kong history under a very tight deadline. To avoid wasting time in converting text into Powerpoint slides, you can search specifically with the parameter filetype: to get results in Powerpoint format. Other file types that Google search supports include ppt, pptx, pdf, doc, xls, ini and other file extensions.
#14 Use link: to find pages linking to a specific site
The link: parameter can uncover pages that links to a specific website, which can be quite useful when analyzing your site’s backlink profile.
If the above parameters are too complicated, you can also consider using Google Advance Search, which include some basic parameters for users. Other than the 14 Google search operators listed above, there are still plenty of Google search hacks that can save time and effort when doing online research.
- Convert number into words
- Calculate simple mathematics
- Convert units and timezones
- Look for real time information (time, weather, showtime)
- Find directions
- Get translations
These are part of the Google snippets or Knowledge Graph that enhances the overall user experience. After all, search engines are designed to make our lives easier, right?
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