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The Link Prospector's Guide to the Tilde

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tilde-horseHave you ever used the tilde operator in your link prospecting? 

For beginning link prospectors, the tilde (~) is the "synonym" operator. Google unleashed it in 2003 and sort of left to fend for itself. Bill Slawski even speculates that the tilde could go the way of the + search operator. Us link prospectors are fortunate they didn't call it Google~.

This article comprises some early findings on experimenting with the tilde operator in guest post prospecting for the health space.

1. Tilde Enables Synonym Discovery for Big Head Terms

Kind of a no-brainer, so shame on me for not testing these sooner. For example search [~health "guest post"] and you'll see medicine, nutrition, and fitness opportunities. If you're new to the health space you may not have thought of trying to guest post in these verticals. This saves the prospector a great deal of time.

Note that ideally you're only using big head terms here that broadly define a category. Your results will vary wildly if you're looking for two-word big head phrases so tread cautiously. It's easy to slip into irrelevance with the tilde.

2. Tildes Work in Conjunction With Intitle and Inurl Operators

Sweet! For example: search [intitle:~health] vs. [intitle:health] and you'll see far more results returned. This fact in particular excited me as it enables a higher level of specificity for where the keyword appears - this means link prospectors can be precise and fuzzy at the same time. Think of it as a sniper shotgun.

Note the tilde did not appear to have impact within quotes to my disappointment eg: "health food" vs. "~health food" returned exactly the same results.

3. Combine Tilde with Negative Operator for Interesting Lateral Leaps

Run these two searches [~health] and [~health -health]. That second query tells Google to return results that are similar to health but don't contain the word health.

In conjunction with link building footprints these really force some leaps. The relevance certainly drops off, but they are worth including solely for the unexpected results they return.

4. Tilde Impact on Domain Diversity Within Guest Posting Prospect Queries

So I struggled some with how to explain or quantify the impact of using tildes in link prospecting. I went with an analysis of domain diversity.

For this comparison I took the following three research phrases: [Health], [~Health] and [~Health -Health] and combined them with 24 guest posting prospect "footprints." I then ran the queries at a depth of 20 results (2 pages deep) to see what kind of impact the tilde had on domain diversity. I used this tool for comparing domains and it does not take into account www. vs. nonwww.

[Health] vs. [~Health]

  • [Health]: 353 Unique Domains - 479 Unique URLs
  • [~Health]: 369 Unique Domains - 477 Unique URLs
  • Total Unique Domains: 480
  • Intersecting Domains: 242

[~Health] vs. [-Health ~Health]

  • [~Health -Health]: 356 Unique Domains - 476 Unique URLs
  • [~Health]: 369 Unique Domains - 477 Unique URLs
  • Total Unique Domains: 721
  • Intersecting Domains: 4

[Health] vs. [~Health -Health]

  • [Health]: 353 Unique Domains - 479 Unique URLs
  • [~Health -Health]: 356 Unique Domains - 476 Unique URLs
  • Total Unique Domains: 695
  • Intersecting Domains: 14

If you construct your queries to include all variations (which I would advise at least testing) and aggregate your SERP results, you clearly get a far greater diversity of domains. This obviously doesn't mean that the results are more qualified, just that there's more diversity with less thinking on your part about what prospecting phrases to use.

You can try them by hand if you like by combining any of the three research phrases - [Health], [~Health] and [~Health -Health] - with intitle:"guest post". Don't use the brackets though... those are there to show where to stop and start your copying/pasting.

I encourage you to run your own experiments in markets you know to see what you find! This is all new to me so if you're an old hand with tildes I'd love some schooling.

Image Credit: goossens/Flickr


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