I’m sure you know how to use a search engine. You go to the site type in some words, click the submit button, and view the results. Pretty simple right. Do you make use of advanced search operators though? You might even use some without even knowing it. Maybe you put quotes around your search term so the results will always use your keywords in the same order or you use the + operator to ensure the results contain all of your words. Google among other search engines provides many more advanced operators you can put to use, particularly if you own a website and would like to learn more about getting it the top of the results pages.
You can find a complete list of Google Advanced Operators at the GoogleGuide site. Many of the operators will simply help in refining your searches for better results. Some can be used to learn more about your website and the websites of your competition. You’ll use most of the operators in the same way by typing operator:keyword. The operator will filter results based on the keyword immediately following it.
The site: operator can be used to find out how many of your pages have been indexed. Typing site:www.domain.com into Google will show you all the pages of your site are currently in the Google index. It can be helpful when putting up a new site or new pages to an existing site. If someone asks me why they’re not getting traffic to their site the first thing I do is run a site: search to see if the site has been indexed yet. A site that hasn’t been indexed won’t show up in any search results. The same will be true for individual pages you add to your site. Before analyzing why your new page isn’t showing up in searches check to see if it’s been indexed. You can also use site: to determine the size of competitor’s sites. Larger sites tend to do better in Google search results so knowing the size of your competitor’s sites can give you a good idea of how many pages your site might need to compete.
Acquiring backlinks to your site is very important in optimizing a site for search engines. Naturally you’ll want to know how many sites are linking to yours and to your competition. Just as with the site: operator to use the link” operator you would type link:www.domain.com. Google shows only a subset of your backlinks so don’t be alarmed if sites you know contain a link to yours aren’t showing up in the results. Other search engines will usually show a larger set of sites linking to your site. I like to use the link: operator more to know how many links my competition has to know more about what I need to do to compete with them. It can also be a good way to find links to your site. If your competitor has a link on a certain site it might also be a good place to get a link for your site.
I’ve mentioned your competitors a few times. How do you know who your competitors really are. Naturally you’ll just type your keywords into a search engine and the sites that show up are your competitors. However many of the sites that will show up aren’t really competitors. They just happened to use your keywords on a page of their site, but the optimization may just be coincidental. Maybe not very likely for a competitive keyword, but very likely for a non-competitive keyword. Since most webmasters, at least those that know how to optimize a page, will use keywords in the title of the page you can use the intitle: operator to find your real competition.
The intitle: operator is a little different from the first two in the sense that you will probably want more than one keyword. Typing intitle:keyword1 keyword2 keyword3 will only use keyword1 with the operator. You can place quotes around all of the keywords (intitle:”keyword1 keyword2 keyword3″) or use intitle: before each keyword (intitle:keyword1 intitle:keyword2 intitle:keyword3). The results will give you a better idea of who you really are competing with and how many sites have optimized their pages for your keywords.
Given the above about intitle you can probably guess what inurl: will do. Yep, it returns sites that use your keywords in their url. You use it in the same way as intitle: either with the quotes or multiple uses of the operator. I don’t use this a lot, but it can help when choosing a domain name to see if there will be any major impact in using a keyword rich domain. I think there are other more important factors in choosing a name, but there are those who will insist you need to use keywords in your domain if you want to compete. Using inurl: a few times will most likely convince you that you don’t need to have a keyword rich domain.
The inanchor: operator will only find pages that have links containing your keywords in the anchor text for the link and it’s use is the same as for intitle: and inurl: (quotes or multiple operator use). Since anchor text can have a major impact on ranking you might want to see how many occurrences there are in anchor text for your keyword. You may also want to click some of those links to see which sites they go to.
The intext: operator will show results where your keyword resides in the text. It’s a good way to see what pages rank highest solely for their use of your keywords in the text of their pages. You might be able to use the intext: operator to see how your competition optimized their pages or just to learn what makes for good on page optimization.
You can use related: to discover what sites Google considers relevant to your keywords. You do know how important relevant links are? If not then you skipped my recent posts From Page Rank To Relevance and More About Relevance In Link Building. Since you want to get links from relevant site you might want to know what sites Google considers relevant for your keywords.
Each of the operators above beginning with in has a corresponding operator beginning allin (allintitle: allinurl: allinanchor: allintext). They’re supposed to work the same as if you used the quotes or the multiple operators, however there seems to be some indication this isn’t always the case. You can use them all to see which pages rank highest for each factor and to get a feel for the weight Google places on titles, urls, anchor text, and content for your keywords.
Other than the allin: operators you can combine operators and get more creative in your searches. Experiment with each of the terms and combinations to see what they do. Combining intitle: and inanchor: with the same keywords will show you which of your competitors are doing the best for inbound links with your keywords in the anchor text.
Other Search Engines
Other search engines also have advanced search operators and in some cases they are the exact same as the ones described here. Sometimes they may have a different usage such as the necessity of using http:// in your domain when using link: at Yahoo. In other cases the operators themselves may be different. SEOToolSet has a list of operators for Google with corresponding operators when there are any for some of the other search engines.
Getting comfortable with advanced search operators will not only make you a better searcher and help you narrow results to find the sites you want, they can also be used to learn more about your site and the sites of your competition. Learn to use them effectively for better results and better ranking.