Your Guide to Google Search Operators and How to Use Them

Google stands as the undisputed gateway to information and resources. With billions of searches conducted each day, it’s important that we have ways to filter and control our results. Google search operators are a series of special commands that allow you to fine-tune your queries so you can find exactly what you’re looking for in a vast sea of results. 

In this guide, we’ll explain the techniques and strategies you can use to implement Google search operators whether you’re an SEO, writer, agency owner, or someone looking to enhance their research skills. 

What Are Google Search Operators?

Google search operators are special commands that tell Google to modify the search and provide specific information. These allow you to perform highly targeted searches for specific phrases, pages, files, and even definitions. 

The main thing that makes this different from a regular search is the fact that you’re controlling the results and filtering out web pages that don’t match the criteria. 

The Complete List of Google Search Operators

Here is a list of the most common Google search operators with an explanation for how they’re used and why: 

OperatorDescriptionExample
Quotation MarksSearch for an exact phrase“climate change effects”
Minus SignExclude a specific word or phrase from the search resultshealthy recipes -sugar
SiteSearch within a specific website or domainsite:wikipedia.org artificial intelligence
File TypeSearch for specific file types“history of ancient civilizations” filetype:pdf
Wildcard AsteriskUse as a placeholder for unknown words“all * is fair in love and war”
OR (or |)Search for pages containing either of the search termscoffee OR tea
IntitleSearch for words in the title of a webpageintitle:”best travel destinations”
InurlSearch for words in the URL of a webpageinurl:technology
RelatedFind websites similar to the specified domainrelated:example.com
DefineProvides definitions of the specified word or phrasedefine:serendipity

You can use all of these Google advanced search operators to narrow down your search and find exactly what you’re looking for in the search results. 

How to Use Google Search Operators

Now let’s talk about some of the ways you can put these operators to good use. There are many reasons why someone would want to use these and obviously Google has put them there for a reason. Let’s take a look. 

1. Spy on Your Competitors

The name of the game in SEO is content right? But sometimes you can run out of ideas for new articles to publish and you might need a little inspiration. 

A great way to get inspired is to figure out what your competition is doing, what’s ranking well for them, and how you can mimic their positive results. 

Many of the search operators will help you do this. 

Let’s say you have a travel blog and you want to write an article about the “best family-friendly amusement parks.” 

spying on your competitors in the serps with google search operators

Now we can narrow down the search even more. We see what websites are performing well for this title; let’s pull the first one out and take a look at it. 

https://mommypoppins.com/anywhere-kids/family-travel/40-top-amusement-parks-in-the-us-for-a-family-vacation  

Using a little bit of knowledge and experience tells us that this website has a category page for “anywhere kids” and “family travel.” If we want to produce articles on family-friendly travel and other related pages, we can check these articles out to learn more. 

Now we can use the “inurl” Google search operator to find all the family-friendly related content on the website. 

inurl search

Here’s a handful of ideas for family-friendly travel articles. If you really want to dive deep, you can use a tool like Ahrefs. 

Put the URL you want to learn more about into the Site Explorer and go to the “keywords” section. 

spying on competitors to find keywords using google search operators

Here you can see all the keywords that this article ranks for and how much traffic each one brings in. This will help you determine what keywords you should include in your article. 

You can rinse and repeat this process over and over again to come up with new topics and ideas so you never run out! 

2. Find Indexing Issues

Indexing can be a complicated subject but Google search operators can help you identify issues with the indexing of your website. 

using search operators to find indexing issues

Using the “filetype” search operator, you can find pdf files that are currently being indexed by Google. You generally don’t want files indexed because they can bog down the crawling process and take attention away from the pages you actually want to perform. 

Not to mention the fact that this page is super outdated since it’s from 2011. 

If you have one or two like the example above it isn’t the end of the world but if you have two full pages of files being indexed, you’ll want to tag them as “noindex” so Google understands that you don’t want those pages to display in the search results. 

3. Look For Guest Posting Opportunities

Using Google Search Operators can be a powerful way to find guest posting opportunities on various websites and blogs. Guest posting allows you to contribute content to other websites in your niche, helping you expand your reach, build backlinks, and establish your authority.

It’s important that you do this with a little bit of caution because you’re likely contributing to a website that accepts guest posts from anyone so these are generally low quality. 

You can start by using the “intitle” operator.

finding guest posting opportunities using google search operators

If you do this, you’ll get the most broad results for all websites accepting guest posts without specific niches.

You can narrow it down by adding quotation marks around write for us, a niche at the beginning, and adding an “inurl” operator to the phrase as well. 

narrowing down your guest posting opportunities using google search operators

Now you’re getting mostly food blogs that are accepting guest posts. This is a better option because it requires a more advanced search so less people are finding and pitching these blogs regularly. 

4. Find Competitor Mentions 

In addition to spying on what your competitor does on their own site, you can also see what websites mention them in the event that maybe they’d mention you too. 

Take Link Whisper for example. 

If we wanted to find websites that are reviewing our competitors but not us, we would want to use the following search operator. 

Allintitle:review (all in one SEO

Here’s the results. 

finding brand mentions using google search operators

If this was a number one competitor, we could see if these websites would be willing to review our tool as well. 

Hunter.io is a great way to find contact information. 

using hunter.io to find contact information

Just take the primary URL and put it into Hunter. You’ll receive a list of emails you can use to contact people from the website to pitch them on your review. 

5. Identify Internal Linking Opportunities

One of my favorite ways to use Google search operators is to find internal linking opportunities. Let’s say we wrote an article about redirects and you’re looking for good internal links. 

You can search – site:linkwhisper.com redirect 

using search operators to find internal linking opportunities

Boom, here’s all the articles on the website that have to do with redirects. 

If you really want to make your internal linking easier, I suggest looking at Link Whisper. This tool uses AI to automatically suggest internal links as you’re writing so you don’t even need this step. By the time you’re done writing the article, you’ll already have a bunch of internal links. It even suggests relevant anchor text so you don’t have to go back and optimize it. 

Regardless of the method you choose, internal linking is important and using Google advanced search operators makes the process much faster and easier. 

6. Find Brand Mentions (or lack of) 

Many of us know about Google Alerts and how it helps us find situations where our brand was mentioned on the internet. 

But what about situations where someone talks about you or your business model and doesn’t mention you? 

Think about it. 

Sometimes it’s simpler to get featured in a listicle that already ranks than to try and write your own listicle and rank it. 

Let’s use Link Whisper for example. We’ll want to look for articles about the “best SEO tools” that do not mention Link Whisper. 

finding unlinked mentions using google search operators

The rest of the results are beyond the fold but they are all lists of the best SEO tools and none of them mention Link Whisper. These sites are always looking to add new tools to their list to increase the total number but also find new keywords to rank for. 

You can then use Hunter.io to find contact information for these websites, reach out to them, and see if they would want to add your tool. You can even offer to write to review for them. 

Keep in mind that this doesn’t only apply if you have some type of software. This can work for service-based businesses and brick-and-mortar too.

7. See When Competitors Are Publishing New Content

The last tip I’ll provide you is an interesting but less reliable one. If you’re trying to grow a website, it’s important that you’re publishing content on a regular basis. We’re all trying to “keep up with the Joneses” so it’s not necessarily a bad idea to see how often your competitor publishes on their blog. 

To do this you’ll search – site:searchenginejournal.com after:2023-7-01 before: 2023-7-26

using google search operators to see when competitors publish new content

This search brought 483 search results. Do you really think they published 483 posts in 26 days? 

Of course not. 

A lot of websites like the one above use tools to automatically update the dates on their posts to make them seem more recent so you’ll want to be careful using this Google search operator and don’t always take what you see at face value. 

Final Thoughts

Google search operators are incredibly useful if you know how to use them correctly. Site:, intitle:, and inurl: are the most useful ones that you’ll end up using most often. 

I find myself using these to do competitor research and to look for internal linking opportunities. Go ahead and give some of them a try and see what you find! 

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