Effective search engine optimization is based almost entirely on your access to relevant data. SEO companies and consultancies thrive on up-to-date, accurate data for their optimization strategies, and one of the best ways to obtain this data is through correct usage of search engine commands. Alright, alright, enough with the dry. I hope this list of Google operators and other search engine commands will both remind you of techniques you already knew and help you find some new and efficient ways to gather data for your SEO efforts. Whether you’re a seasoned search expert or just looking for better ways to discover data on the web with some handy Google search operators, you can benefit from this brief list of Google search commands and search engine operators. I’ve ordered the post by what may be less well-known at the top to the more common search engine commands at the bottom. If you’re just starting out, jump to the end and read up. If you’re a seasoned search veteran, continue ahead and see if there are some search engine operators you’re not familiar with.
This is the Google command that turns off custom search. Yes, it’s amazing. Type in a regular search query, hit enter, and then throw this little gem on the end of the resulting URL and run the search again. Now, the search results have been modified to ignore browsing history, location, and other personalization signals. If you want to have this automatically added to the end of all of your Google search queries, download the Chrome browser and follow the instructions in WhiteFireSEO’s very own tutorial on how to disable personalized search.
Adding a URL to the “link:” Google operator will pull all of the pages in Google’s index that link to that URL. So the search link:www.whitefireseo.com would return all of the pages on the web that link to this site’s homepage. Nifty, yes? This Google command is a good way to find out who’s linking to your competitors so you can seek out links from them. It’s important to note, however, that it only returns results for that page, not the root domain. For a gross link count, use the next operator in our list.
Yahoo!’s “linkdomain:” search operator will pull all of the pages in Yahoo!’s index that link to any page on the specified domain. Yes, you read that right, it will pull every link that’s pointed at the specified site, regardless of which page or subdomain it’s linked to, as long as it resides on the root domain. So performing a linkdomain:whitefireseo.com search will redirect you to Yahoo!’s Site Explorer and display every page in its index that points to any page on this website. This is a great starting point for link building, but you can only export the first 1,000 results into a CSV, so you might run into difficulties if you’re dealing with a well-aged domain.
As a companion search to Yahoo!’s “linkdomain:” search engine operator, Bing’s “linkfromdomain:” tool is invaluable. With this addition to any Bing query, you can see all of the outbound links from a domain. So not only can you pull all of the inbound links to a page you want to specifically target with Yahoo!, you can also see all of the places THAT page links to with Bing, for even deeper link prospecting.
Blekko is the likely the biggest up-and-coming search engine for regular users and especially SEOs. Their innovative “slashtag” approach to web searches makes snooping around for specific data surprisingly easy. Here are some of their more useful slashtag tools for SEOs.
The “/twitter” slashtag will return all of the tweets for the search query you input. With the recent (hopefully temporary) demise of Google’s Realtime search, this is a great alternate solution for finding tweets on relevant topics. Unfortunately, you can’t sign up for alerts with this tactic, but the best part of this operator is yet to come.
If you use a URL (ex: whitefireseo.com) in conjunction with this slashtag, Blekko will pull all of the links within the tweets that link to that domain, even if it’s a shortened URL, regardless of the shortener used. Oh yes, feel the power. If you’re searching for buzz about your site, throw your root domain into a Blekko /twitter search and see who in the wide world of Twitter is talking about your brand.
The “/date” slashtag in Blekko is a fantastic operator to use in conjunction with their other slashtags. Essentially, you can run a search for whitefireseo.com /twitter /date and Blekko will pull all of the tweets that mention that URL and list them in chronological order, starting with the most recent. Yes, it’s a beautiful thing.
The “/links” slashtag is added at the end of a URL placed into Blekko’s search to narrow the results to all of the pages that link to that URL. Essentially, this does what Google’s “link:” operator does. Hooray for more resources!
Basic Universal Search Operators
These operators are fairly universal in their application, meaning that all of the major search engines use a syntax that is similar if not identical to the ones listed here.
The “site:” search engine operator limits the search to pages residing at the URL that you specify. For example, site:whitefireseo.com will return all of the pages in the search engine’s index from that site. This can be used in conjunction with a normal query (site:whitefireseo.com seo services) or with other search operators (site:whitefireseo.com -”seo services”).
Find a site with no search function? Throw the root domain into a “site:” search and add whatever you’re looking for in a regular query. Ta-da! Instant custom search engine.
This search operator narrows your search down to sites that include links with your query as the anchor text. This is a fantastic way to see who’s linking out to other sites with anchor text that you want. So if you’re trying to build links for a page that talks about keyword research, allinanchor: “keyword research” would return all of the pages on the web that use the phrase “keyword research” in their link’s anchor text.
The “allintitle:” command limits your query to pages that include the keywords in the title of the page. This is a great way to get an idea of how many people are actively targeting a phrase on their pages. So, if you put allintitle: “utah seo services” in as your query, you’ll get results for all of the pages that contain the exact phrase “utah seo services” in the title of the page. Since any SEO worth his/her salt knows that their targeted keyword phrase should be in the page title, this will show you roughly the extent of the competition if you’re trying to rank for a certain phrase or term.
Using the “allinurl:” operator does much of the same that the “allintitle:” operator does. Specifically, it will search only for pages that contain the query’s phrase in the page’s URL. Pretty self-explanatory, and it’s another good way to take a gander at the competition.
The plus (+) sign is generally used at the end of another search operator. For example, the search site:whitefireseo.com +seo services will return results from this domain that match the “seo services” query. Use the plus sign in searches to add additional elements to your operators.
The minus (-) sign is used to exclude results in addition to other search operators. As you can probably guess, the minus sign does the opposite of what the plus sign does; add it at the end of a search query with an operator and you’ll exclude results that include the indicated query or phrase. The search site:whitefireseo.com -cannibalization will return all results from this site that does not include the term “cannibalization.”
The quotes (“ “) operator should be fairly familiar to anyone reading this post, but for those that don’t know, surrounding a query in quotes performs a search for that exact phrase.
So if you search for seo in utah, you will get results for any page that matches the terms seo, utah, or any combination or variation on the two. If you search for “seo in utah” (using quotes), you will get results only for pages that utilize the exact phrase “seo in utah” on the page.
And there you have it! These are some of the best data-mining and time-saving Google commands and search engine operators out there. Are there any big ones that I missed? Let me know in the comments.