GOOGLE SEARCH OPERATORS

How to perform advanced searches

What are Google operators? And what are they for? They are instructions that you add to the Google search bar.

Many of these instructions are useful for both an average user and an advanced user. Google has simplified search tools by adding additional functions to the search page (query).

The simplified functions are available in the tools menu on the Google homepage and advanced search page.

Some have been completely replaced by the advanced platform (which can be accessed from the settings menu under the query window).

Among the options available only through the front end, we also highlight image search.

Apart from the simplest ones, they are typically used by SEO professionals, i.e., people who rank a page high in the search engine results.

In the next lines, I will give you an overview of the available Google operators and explain how to use them and for what purposes.

If you are particularly interested in SEO, you can deepen your knowledge by taking an SEO Specialist Course with certification from Digital Coach.

Search operators can be used individually or combined. This is one of the reasons why they may seem complex to less experienced internet users.

Google operators useful for everyone

Google search commands are widely used and serve to add specific search filters to the queries made online every day. Usually, it’s easier to type these instructions directly into the Google search bar.

Rather than open the advanced search platform, accessible from the settings menu > advanced search on Google, and fill in all the fields in the filter form.

In addition, some instructions are not available in the preset advanced searches, and using this tool would waste effort and time.

In the next paragraphs, we will discuss operators useful for everyone and then delve deeper to cover more specific operators.

Exact phrase operator (” “)

The quotation operator, within which the search key is inserted, is used to perform an exact search, where the phrase must be present exactly as it is written, without intermediate words.

The search engine will only return pages that contain that exact formulation. For example, if I search for “Ferrari Testarossa”, I will find exclusively pages that contain that exact phrase.

And if I search Ferrari Testarossa, I will find pages that contain both Ferrari and Testarossa, as well as those that contain them far apart.

And with anything in between the two searched words (for example: among various Ferrari cars stands out the Testarossa model).

Currency Operators

These operators placed before a digit expressing numbers indicate to Google that we are looking for a price.

Currently, the $ operator is available, while all other currencies, such as £, British pound, or ¥, Japanese yen, are excluded.

If I search for an iPhone for $500, I will find pages that talk about the iPhone and have a price of $500.

Pay attention to the fact that currency symbols should be placed before the digit and not after – as is done in common usage – otherwise, the Mountain View search engine does not recognize them.

In a practical test, it is easy to see that even with the correct syntax.

Google has difficulty understanding when prices are being discussed and when not, so we can expect various spurious results among those that will be returned.

Operator .. (note that there are two dots)

The dot-dot operator tells Google to search for a number within the assigned range; it can be combined with $ to get a price in a desired range, for example, Jeep Avenger $500..$5000.

google search operators tool

Google Boolean Operators

Boolean operators consist of the AND, OR, and – (the minus sign replaces the NOT operator) functions that allow you to define the truth of a statement in Boolean algebra.

In some cases, they can be very useful, allowing for a highly nested cross-search in combination with other search symbols.

Parentheses operators are used to nest various boolean operators in a comprehensible way, for example, in a search like (car OR machine) AND (used OR km0).

The AND operator (uppercase) alone is not often used because Google implies an AND every time we put a space between two words.

For example, the search advanced search is practically equivalent to advanced AND search.

From an empirical analysis, it seems that advanced search favors the proximity of the two words, so much so that the first result with the title “advanced video search” is only third, while with the AND operator, it is second.

On the other hand, AND may have its necessity in nested searches in combination with other boolean operators.

With the OR operator (always in uppercase) or | (pipe symbol), we ask Google to find pages that contain either one or the other of the words around OR, not necessarily together.

For example, searching college OR university will find pages that contain either college or university or both.

With this operator, it is important to balance terms of similar relevance; if the first of the two is much more relevant, pages with the second occurrence will be very rare.

For instance, searching should I buy stocks (“Tesla” OR “Nikola”) may result in very few occurrences of the second term.

As observed in trials, often one of the terms in OR pairs is much more frequent than the other, so the results page will be composed only of this term.

Therefore, it is advisable in many cases to perform separate searches, i.e., first search for should I buy Tesla stocks and then should I buy Nikola stocks.

The minus operator (sign -) corresponds to NOT. It returns pages that do NOT contain the term following the -.

For example, if I want information about Ferraris but don’t want biographies of Enzo Ferrari or references to Enzo Ferrari, I can type Ferrari -Enzo and clean the results from pages referring to the founder.

It can be combined with other operators to find only pages that do not meet the given condition.

For example, the search cartoon cat mouse -“Tom & Jerry” will give us pages about cartoons with cats and mice that do not contain any occurrences of “Tom & Jerry” in the text.

google boolean operators

Useful search operators for SEO

These advanced search operators on Google are mainly used to understand if competitor pages on the SERP (Search Engine Results Page) for a keyword are well-optimized.

They allow us to narrow down the search to the three essential text modules of a page: the text, the title, and the URL.

They also enable us to find which words on a site are used as internal or external links and to discover which sites the links point to.

In short, they are search tricks especially valuable for professional use.

 

Navigate Google like a pro! Claim your free ebook today and harness the full potential of search operators effortlessly
SEO-SEM Specialist ebook guide

Filetype: and ext:

The operator filetype: (or ext:) will give us results only for files with the desired extension.

This way, if we search, for example, filetype:pdf boolean operators Google (or identically ext:pdf boolean operators Google), we will get only PDF files containing the entered search keywords.

file extension

Site:

Many sites do not have an internal search engine, so if we want to search for something within that site, we can narrow down the search using a site search on Google.

For example, site:digital-coach.com Google search tricks will give us the pages from Digital Coach that match the entered key, including a page talking about it.

If we don’t enter any keywords after the domain, we will get the number and list of all indexed pages of that site, ordered by relevance, which can be useful in an SEO audit.

Searching site:digital-coach.com, for example, we can discover that it has 4,970 indexed pages and that the most relevant one, i.e., the best-indexed page on the site regardless of the keyword, is the SEM-related page.

The internal search engines of many sites are of poor quality, and the site: operator is sometimes preferable to internal search.

Define:

With the define: operator, we have direct access to a monolingual dictionary (in the language of the searched word) accessible directly from the query.

If I search for define:operator, I will find, as the first result, a dictionary card.

This can also happen with differently formulated searches (for example, what is a search), but not necessarily (for example, searching for what is an operator does not show any dictionary card).

direct access to monolingual vocabulary

Cache:

Cache:sito.com returns the requested page as saved in Google’s cache – see, for example, cache:digital-coach.com.

It can be useful if the original page has been modified or deleted. This is a very limited utility function (only the latest cache copy of each page is available, if present).

Usually, it’s more useful to use sites like The Wayback Machine or others, which have multiple copies of the same page taken at different times.

Intext: and allintext:

The intext operator performs the search in the body of the page, not in the title or URL; if the keyword is only present in the title, the search will not retrieve it.

Additionally, the page ranking may be very different from simply searching for the keyword. However, if the pages are optimized for SEO on that keyword, differences may not be noticeable.

The operator can be preceded by the minus sign, indicating a search for pages that do not have the term in the body.

Allintext is equivalent to a multiple intext search. If I write allintext:bread salami cheese , I get results equivalent to the more laborious search (intext:bread AND intext:salami AND intext:cheese).

Intitle: and allintitle:

The same considerations as for intext/allintext apply but with reference to the title of the page. Google will search for pages that contain our keyword in the title or those that contain our series of keywords.

Operators inurl: and allinurl:

Similar to before but with reference to the URL of the page. Google will directly search in the URL of pages for those that contain the keyword or those that contain the series of keywords.

url of the page

Inanchor: and allinanchor:

Similar to before but with reference to words that refer to internal or external links.

Google will search for pages that contain the keyword or series of keywords as an anchor for an external or internal link.

It can be used, for example, to see which pages link to our site by indicating their name.

In this case, you will need to exclude our site from the search results, otherwise, you will have a SERP monopolized by internal links.

For example, if I try to search inanchor:digital-coach.com -site:digital-coach.com, I find sites that use the phrase “digital-coach.com” as an anchor.

Link:

The link operator returns all pages that link to the site using an anchor. Taking the previous example and typing link:digital-coach.com, we will find all pages that link to Digital Coach, with any anchor text.

So, while with inanchor: we find all pages that link to anything starting from the word digital-coach.com, with this operator, we will find all pages that link to digital-coach.com starting from any word (for example, the classic “click here”).

This operator allows us to find the links that contribute in part to the Google ranking of digital-coach.com without the need for third-party tools.

Level up your Google search game! Test your SEO expertise with our SEO Specialist challenge and dominate online searches

seo specialist test

Operators for very specific uses

These Google search operators can be used in cases of specific interests by the user in a particular field, especially regarding stock trends, movie reviews/schedules, weather, currency conversions, or unit measurements.

Movie:

You might need to search for the title of a movie that is also a common name. If you want to narrow down the search to the movie only, the “movie” operator can be useful.

Searching movie:persona will provide information only about the movie with this title, avoiding other meanings of the term “person.” In most cases, simply writing person movie is sufficient;

Google understands what you are talking about without the specific operator.

Stocks:

If you are interested in the stock performance of a particular stock, sometimes just entering the stock name or code known in its index is not enough to get the dedicated Google card.

If you search stocks:Facebook, you are sure to see the card with the stock market performance of the searched stock.

stock market performance

Weather:

Followed by the name of a city/region, it will give us, as the first result, a card with the weather forecast for the indicated location. For example, we can search for weather: US but also weather: Canada.

weather forecast

Operator in

The “in” operator converts a unit of measurement or currency into another: for example, I can search for $100 to get the current exchange rate or 100 ounce in kg to have the mass expressed in metric units.

in transforms a unit of measurement

Active but rarely used operators

These Google search operators, while having their utility, have been discouraged by Google itself, and it can be presumed that they do not always provide very reliable data.

However, some, like the before: operator, certainly maintains their usefulness when used on mobile devices, where the Google search engine’s tool window has fewer options, as we will see shortly.

After: and Before:

The after: and before: operators allow us to find pages published before or after a certain date.

They can be fully replaced and used more efficiently with the “date range” function in Google’s tools, so their use is very limited. The format for using them is before/after:YYYY-MM-DD or before:YYYY.

For example, to find information about the attacks on the Twin Towers in New York published before their fall, you would write before:2001-09-10 Twin Towers attack.

The operator has a strong utility on mobile, where in the search tools, I have various after options (last hour, last day, last week, last month, last year) – albeit very limited – but no before option.

date range function

Asterisk Operator (*)

The asterisk operator now appears to be of limited utility. Its native purpose would be to act as a wildcard to search for a phrase with a free word.

For example, how to cook * roast, or to search for a combination of common words with the given word, as in shoes *, or even to find words that start or end in a given way, such as arche* or *logy.

Trying such sequences on Google yields almost exclusively uninteresting results. For example, searching for *logy returns SERPs that directly contain “logy.”

Attempting to refine the search with the - operator (and thus searching *logy -logy) only brings back pages with accents or special characters above the vowels in logy (Lögy, Logià) and not geology, astrology, as expected.

It retains some interest for very limited uses, such as searching for common phrases where you have forgotten a term, like those who go * lose the *, or * sings and * sleeps*.

Plus Operator (+)

With the plus operator before a term, Google includes results in the search results containing accents or graphical symbols.

For example, a search like +meta gives different results than one with just meta, because the algorithm knows that we are looking for words with a graphical symbol, for example, metà.

Empirically, this operator is also of limited utility, as it mainly returns results with the word “meta” without any graphical symbols.

google operator algorithm

Conclusion

The Google search commands we have discussed are used directly in the query window.

Since the advanced search platform or Google’s tool menu provides a much simpler approach to searches and replaces almost all of them, they become more convenient only when frequently conducting this type of search.

For sporadic use, such as searching in a site or using filetype Google, it is certainly more convenient to resort to advanced tools than to remember the site: or ext: command.

However, if a person becomes skilled in their use due to frequent use, they represent a faster alternative and, most importantly, can be used without limitations even on mobile.

If you are interested in topics related to SEO for blog construction in addition to Google operators, you can download the free book that Digital Coach has prepared on the subject.

 

Discover a hassle-free approach with Google’s advanced tools. Ready to elevate your search game? Reach out to us for expert guidance

Imprenditore, Freelance o Agency Owner!
Trasforma la tua attività in diretta con noi grazie all’AI Business Coaching - Workshop Online Esclusivo