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Using Google Search operators for SEO

Monday, January 14th, 2013 by Chris Pitt tagged

GoogleGoogle is, as we know, the most used search engine in the UK and almost all other developed countries. Users can (and do) use it to find out information on almost anything, but what is not commonly known is that Google search is not limited to purely entering a sentence or keyword in order to find what we are looking for. By using ‘search operators’ results can be tailored to meet informational requirements or needs. Specifically, search operators can provide an SEO practitioner with incredibly useful campaign data.

Most SEO practitioners already use a search operator when performing a quoted search, i.e. “Chris Pitt” as opposed to Chris Pitt. This search will return only those webpages that have the exact term “Chris Pitt” on the page and so can be useful to understand the competitive use of a potential keyword. Search operators can do so much more though.

The search operators commonly used for SEO are:

Search operator Use Example
allinanchor: returns pages that have links pointing to them that us the anchor text you define. For example, ‘allinanchor: Chris Pitt’ will return pages that are linked to from other pages using anchor text that includes the words ‘Chris’ and ‘Pitt’ allinanchor:Chris Pitt
allintext: returns pages that contain the all of the words within the keyword, but not necessarily in order or combination. The search allintext: Chris Pitt would return pages containing the sentence “I know Chris Pitt”, “I know Chris, he is a Pitt” and also “Brad Pitt reminds me of Chris?” allintext:Chris Pitt
allintitle: returns webpages that have the defined keyword in the browsertags. allintitle:Chris Pitt
allinurl: returns webpages that have the defined keywords in the url. allinurl: Chris Pitt would return only those webpages who have the words ‘Chris’ and ‘Pitt’ in the title. allinurl:Chris Pitt
cache: Combining the ‘cache:’ search operator with a URL will return Google’s cached version of a page. cache:bbc.co.uk
filetype: By utilising the ‘filetype:’ operator you are telling Google to only return results that include a specific file type filetype:pdf
inanchor: This search term is similar but not identical to allinanchor: allinanchor: returns all terms after the search operator, whereas inachor: will return only the first word after the search operator. inanchor:Chris
intext: is similar to allintext: but it only considers the first word immediately after the search operator. intext:Chris
intitle: is similar to allintitle: but it only considers the first word immediately after the search operator. intitle:Chris
inurl: is similar to allintitle: but it only considers the first word immediately after the search operator. inurl:chris
link: returns all webpages that have a link that contains that domain and is great for identifying competitor backlinks. A search for site:chrispitt.com would show every webpage that links to chrispitt.com link:bbc.co.uk
related: returns all sites that are related to or share common themes with the identifying site related:bbc.co.uk
site: returns all the pages that Google has indexed for that site and is useful for making sure that your pages are being indexed. site:bbc.co.uk

The great thing about search operators is that many of them can be used in combination with each other. Many of the popular SEO tools out there are using search operators as a base function of their software, such as tools offering backlink analysis.

With that in mind, my next blog post will be about how to use search operator combinations to find link opportunities.

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About the author

Chris Pitt

Chris Pitt

Chris joined Vertical Leap in April 2012 as a Campaign Delivery Manager. He previously worked as the marketing arm for a number of finance, tax and accounting companies. His background is almost entirely marketing based, although he did enjoy a few years touring the country as a semi professional musician and played in front of festival audiences in excess of 4,000. He recently became a first time father and can no longer remember what it is like to sleep past 5am. Follow me on Google