Advanced search commands are the cornerstone of “good, old-fashioned SEO.” By that, I mean the art of doing SEO stripped down, without tons of tools.
In a world that is saturated with SEO software solutions, advanced search commands are the man vs. wild of the search world. If you gain a better understanding of advanced search commands, you will definitely become a lot more resourceful when doing down-and-dirty site auditing, link prospecting, and competitor analysis.
Before we get into it, a short disclaimer: there are so many ways to use these advanced search commands that one could easily write a whole book on it – or at least a novella.
Also, if you're using these search commands in another awesome way that I fail to mention, please do leave a comment. I love discovering new ways to use advanced search commands, as do SEW's readers!
With all that said, let's explore the most awesome advanced search operators for Google and Bing and how to use them.
Cornerstone of Any Search Command SEO: Google Commands
Where Else You Can Use It: Google, Bing, Blekko [/site], Yandex, Baidu
*note:site:may behave slightly differently in those engines
Definition: Adding site: to your query will restrict the search results to the domain you've specified. [site:example.com]
How to Be Awesome With It: You can scan indexed URLs to get an idea of information architecture, potential duplicate content issues, and get an idea of overall number of pages indexed.
Pro Tip: Combine Site: with inurl: or allinurl: [may not work in all search engines] to analyze specific sections of a site. How big is the blog of a competitor site relative to the approximate total pages indexed? How many of those sort pages without are indexed? How many paginated pages are indexed? How many session ID pages are getting indexed? [site:example.com inurl:sort=price]. Are those pesky non-www. versions of pages getting indexed. Any time you want to analyze content within a site, the site: command is a very robust tool to have in your toolkit.
Where Else You Can Use It: Blekko [/similar]
Definition: When you use the related command, Google will return webpages that are similar to the webpage you've specified. [related:example.com]
How to Be Awesome With It: The related command has been used to find out the "neighborhood" of backlinks. However, keep in mind that there has been debate over the years on how accurate this command is for Google specifically.
Intitle: and Allintitle:
Where Else You Can Use Them: Bing, Yandex, Baidu, DuckDuckGo
Definition intitle: When you use the query in title:, Google restricts the documents it returns to those containing the term you included in the title. [intitle:keyword]
allintitle: When you use allintitle:, Google restricts results to those that contain the keyword that you specified in the title. So if you search [internet marketing] google will only fetch documents that contain the keywords ”internet” and “marketing” in the title. Notice the addition of the conjunction. [allintitle:keyword phrase]
How to Be Awesome With It: This command can be combined with a site: command to help identify templated, thin or duplicate pages by just identifying a part of the title that appears across the thin pages and searching for it. You will see about how many of those types of pages Google has indexed.
Definition: wildcard(*) to search for terms separated by 1-5 words
[internet * marketing] or [“internet * marketing”]
How to Be Awesome With It: The commands mentioned above are a great way to find articles about specific topics to build a potential list of prospects to market to. Keep in mind, though, that although these are powerful commands, they're only as good as the searcher who is performing them is clever.
Google Reverse Image Search
While this isn't an advanced search command, it is so cool! Just click the little camera in the Google image search bar and you can query an image link or a local file and it tells you all the places where your image has been found. If you're an image heavy site, you can easily reach out to websites that have snagged your images and ask them for a citation back to your site. It's also fun to see just how image content travels.
Again, this isn't a search command, but Google Verbatim allows you to search using the exact keyword you typed, so no spelling corrections, no replacing words with synonyms, and no words with the same stem, or personalization. Verbatim gives you search rankings without the preservatives. To get to verbatim from a Google SERP, click on Search tools, then you'll find it in the All Results sub-menu.
New And Shiny: Bing Search Commands
Definition: Returns the pages that are linked-to from a domain.
How To Be Awesome With It: This command can be used to explore check the link neighborhood for a site or for finding prospective sites to connect to for promotional purposes.
Definition: This command returns originating results from websites or subdomains for the provided IP address. Another thing to note about this command is that prefix-matching is also possible with it, so ip:89 returns the site IP:89.356.567.76 if it's in Bing's index.
How To Be Awesome With It: This command can be used when you’re trying to map out a possible link network that may live on the same IP for competitor research or backlink removal projects.
Definition: url: command tells you if a given URL is in Bing's index.
How To Be Awesome with It: This command is similar to the Google cache: command. The url: command is a useful one to run to identify if a particular page is indexed in bing or not. This is helpful for diagnosing if you’re having a crawling issue in Bing beyond just using Bing Webmaster Tools.
Definition: The Domain: command limits results to the domain that is specified. This command also returns any suffix matches. The big difference between the domain command and the site: command is that site: searches up to two levels only. Also, keep in mind that IP cannot be used with this command.
Tips For Bing Advanced Search Commands
Bing Meta Operators
Definition: A meta operator is an operator that is used with other operators. Takes a simple list as a parameter and returns results based on that. One example of this in Bing is keyword:(intitle inbody)software. The output of this command would translate roughly as intitle:software or inbody:software.
How To Be Awesome With It: When you’re trying to find a type of content with great precision, this is very helpful.
Other Fun Bing Commands for Geeks
Subtle Differences contains: and filetype: in Bing
The contains: operator returns pages that link to other documents and multimedia like music, video, PDF, and so on. Conversely, “filetype:” returns pages that created in the format that is specified, returning .pdf documents, if you specific filetype:pdf.
Understanding words surrounding a given keyword using near:
The near: operator searches for a specific keyword that is within range of another word. Bing documentation gives the example of foo near:10 bar explaining it as, “Ordering is considered in ranking. Thus, in this example, pages that contain bar ten words or less after foo would receive a greater boost in rank than pages in which foo appears ten words or less after bar. However, depending on the rest of the query, this does not necessarily mean that the former would be ranked higher than the latter.”
Blekko Fun SEO Slashtags
Although Blekko SEO data is no longer free to the masses, here are a couple cool slashtags that I have had fun playing with.
Definition: Lets you see the links to a site.
Definition: Lets you check the popularity of internal pages of a site.
Definitions: These commands displays URLs that have content that is the same as that of the website you are looking at. This lets you quickly check for content theft.
Other Great Resources To Check Out
- Google Documentation on Advanced Search Operators (I'm not sure if this is the official one but it's definitely complete)
- Official Bing Documentation on Advanced Search Operators
- Official Blekko Documentation on Advanced Search Operators
- Official DuckDuckGo Documentation on Advanced Search Operators
- Official Yandex Documentation on Advanced Search Operators
Some Interesting Articles
- Search Tools Summary comparision – nice grid comparision of Google, Bing and DuckDuckGo Advanced Operators
- A few useful advanced search operators from Bing – some cool bing tips.
- 4 Advanced Search Commands for Smart Webmasters – some tactics worth checking out
- SEO: Understanding Advanced Search Operators – a nice article on the basics of advanced search operators
Moment of Zen
- Global Search By Language - This is a globe showing search volumed data in 3D
Image Credit: 123RF Stock Photos