Use Google like a pro: powerful operators for finer search results

Since Google serves more than 70% of all search queries, it’s only fitting that we focus on how to make the most of it.

Most people – especially those not in the world of SEO and content creation business – pay little attention to how they use Google’s search form. The average user simply types a query, to which they get a myriad page URLs returned in an incredibly short time.

This type of search does not get you refined, targeted results. If you deal in content creation (like me), having advanced Google search skills is a must. You need to know how to use Google’s special operators to get more refined and relevant results. Using special operators cuts down on time spent searching so you can focus on crafting cool sentences.

Google is not perfect

Note that Google isn’t perfect. The web is a highly dynamic maze of web pages where new content is added every second, which means that you can get outdated results from a search query if a new page relevant to your search phrase is not yet indexed.

Google employs a bot (or multiple bots) to scour and index web resources. Some relevant sources might not yet have been indexed by the time you issue a query.

These nifty hacks are especially useful when you already know the domain (or specific web page) from which to pull info.

Operators for specificity

Applying skillful Google searching can yield some interesting results. Using special Google operators, you can filter returned pages so that they are more relevant to your search phrase.

Here are the operators:
Operator Description How it is used
“”  used as delimiters with phrases (not single words)  “andy is awesome” returns documents containing the entire phrase andy is awesome
 –  specifies that the returned results must not contain the specified phrase  – andy returns documents that don’t contain the word andy
 .  wildcard for a single character  andy.content returns documents with the phrase andy content, andy1content, andyAcontent, andy-content, and so forth
 *  wildcard for a single word  andy * content returns documents with the phrase andy the content, andy in content, andy or content, and so forth
 site  returns results from websites within a specified domain  site: google.com  andy  returns all websites containing the word andy within the google.com domain.
 inurl  returns results from sites that  contain the specified phrase in their URL   inurl: andy content  finds websites that contain the word content in the text and andy in the URL.
 allinurl   results are restricted to websites whose URL contains the specified phrase or words  allinurl: andy content (equivalent to inurl: andy inurl: content) returns all websites with the words andy and content in the URL
 intitle   returns documents whose titles contain the queried phrase   intitle: andy content  returns websites with the word andy in the title and content in the text
 inanchor  returns websites with links containing the specified phrase in the description  inanchor: andy returns documents containing links with descriptions containing the word andy
 allintile  works like intitle except it restricts results to phrases in the title  allintitle: andy content returns sites with andy and content in title. Also equivalent to intitle: andy intitle: content
 filetype, ext (ext = file extension or type)  returns documents of the specified type  filetype: doc andy returns doc files containing the word andy. Do the same for xls, pdf, or any other file type
 link  returns websites containing links to the specified location  link: http://andycontent.com returns documents containing one or more links to http://andycontent.com.
 allintext  returns documents containing the specified phrase within the text but not in the URL, title, and link descriptions  allintext:andy content returns documents containing the phrase andy content in the text only
 cache:url   returns results for the last indexing Google did for the specified url location  This is handy when you made changes to a particular page and need to find out whether it has been indexed by Google bots

With these operators, you can restrict results to a domain, a particular website, or a specific part of a web page. You can also combine operators for more advanced searches and specificity. You can also use these operators with Google’s other nifty tools such as Google alerts and the advanced search tool.

Wrapping up

We’ve just scratched the surface here. There are more ways to use special operators and the advanced search feature to get more refined results. Some are too advanced for this post.

In addition to publicly available info, Google makes it possible to access hidden information by manipulating the way you use these operators. In fact you can find a whole load of information that shouldn’t have been revealed under normal circumstances. Keep around this blog I may share those hacks too some day. In the meantime, bookmark this page for reference next time you’re prowling for prey on the Internet.