Have you ever been frustrated when you are trying to search for something specific on Google? For example, every time you search for what you want, 8 million results come back but none of the results seem to match exactly what you’re actually looking for? If this is all too common for you, don’t worry. We’re going to show how you can utilize Google’s built-in search operators to get exactly what you are looking for the first time around!

Google Search Operators

Google has a whole host of special characters and commands called “search operators” built in that can help tailor and narrow your Google search results. Google is more than just a search engine – it can perform calculations, convert measurement units, and foreign currency. Plus, with the rise of devices like smart speakers, you can now use voice search to find what you need. All you have to do is ask.

That said, we’re going to take a deep dive into the many things that Google is capable of with a five-part series. To kick-off this series, we’ll explore Google’s Search Operators and their amazing usefulness in refining web searches,  but be sure to follow us for more details on part’s 2-5 that will cover the following:

  • Part 2: Calculators & Converters
  • Part 3: Tools & Search Shortcuts
  • Part 4: Image Search
  • Part 5: Voice Search

A Few Disclaimers: Please keep in mind this is by no means an exhaustive list, and according to Google, “not all search operators return exhaustive results.” Google does remove and deprecate search operators from time to time so results may vary.

What Are Search Operators?

Google Search Operators consist of special command words and predefined characters to construct your search query in order to narrow down your search results. We have broken down Search Operators into three types: Basic, Boolean, and Advanced. When you combine these powerful options, you are truly taking advantage of Google’s advanced search capabilities but only if you know how to use them!

Google’s Basic Search Operators

A basic Google search assumes the word “and” in between each word that you type in the Google search bar. Basic searches like this in Google will return very broad search results. For example, if you search for “website design companies”. Google will return results based on all three of these words on an individual basis. Meaning, any websites, articles, news content, etc. that contain information that relates to, “website,” “design,” or “companies,” will be served-up as options for you to select from via the Google search results page (or Google SERPS). 

If you want to narrow down your search, using specific characters can help tell Google exactly what you are looking for vs. what you would like to exclude. An example of this would be using quotations around a specific word or phrase to let Google know you want search results to match that exact word or phrase. Similarly, using a minus or hyphen sign in your search, will let Google know that you’d like to exclude or omit specific search terms. Here are some examples of this:


Basic Search Operators


Definition and Example

-


The minus or hyphen sign is to exclude something from search results

Example
Kentucky bourbon flavors -maple

“ “


Use quotation marks for exact matches to your search query

Example
"grilled peanut butter and jelly sandwich"

*


Asterisk means wildcard so it’s sort of like an anything goes or fill in the blank. A query like saffron *Florida would return all content containing saffron with Florida.

Example
saffron *Florida

..


Placing to periods side by side tells Google you are searching for a range between two numbers. You can use it for a range of years or using the $ symbol (see below) you can indicate a price range as well

Example
running shoes $75...100

#


Search by hashtags, just include make sure you include the # symbol first

Example
#GoJags


Google’s Boolean Search Operators

Technically these types of searches are considered part of basic search operators, but we want to make the distinction that true Boolean searches do behave a little differently. When you apply these concepts to a search query it could mean either, or, or both, almost like a variable which is where the term Boolean originates from. Meaning, a binary variable, having two possible values or outcomes. For example true or false.  I am afraid of spiders → True/False or my favorite color is pink → True/False.

Here are a few examples:


Boolean Search Operators


Definition and Example

AND


Google will search for all the terms joined with AND. Generally speaking, Google will assume “and” is included in your query when you enter multiple words.

Example
UFO AND Roswell

OR


This works best between two items. Google will not necessarily select one over the other, it could interchange them. It can work really well for comparisons.

Example
Coke OR Pepsi

|


The pipe operator serves the same function as OR, just with fewer characters.

Example
sang | sung?

+


The plus sign is identical to the AND function. Again, in most cases when you enter multiple keywords into your query, Google will assume they are all connected together.

Example
quantum + computer + price


Google’s Advanced Search Operators

Google Advanced Search is defined as a more detailed method of finding information on Google as it uses a variety of search operators and consists of both special characters and commands combined to go beyond a “normal” google search. Here are some real-world examples below to illustrate:


Advanced Search Operators


Definition and Example

allintitle: and intitle:


Looks for your query words to appear in the meta title of a web page. Allintitle means all your words much be included vs intitle which could return pages with only some of the words in their page title.

Example
allintitle: the evolution of technology

allintext: and intext:


Intext tells Google to search for content on a web page that contains some of your words whereas allintext requires all the words to be included.

Example
allintext: gotta lotta gelato

allinurl: and inurl:


Similar to the text and title operators, Google will look for where your search terms match up in page URLs.

Example
allinurl: coronavirus mutation

around(x)


Narrows your search terms to be in proximity with each other to within (X) words. Note: super handy for song lyrics, song names and who sang them.

Example
somebody once told me AROUND (15) hey now

ext.: or filetype:


Looking for a specific filetype at a domain like .doc, .pdf or or even html vs. htm? It’s easy to include in your query. Both commands work identically. There are also two different ways to search. If you include the domain name it will narrow results considerably.

Example 1
Samsung ext.: ppt

Example 2
site: samsung.com filetype: ppt

related:


As this command implies, it looks for domains similar to the one you enter. This can be useful for researching competitors. You can also narrow this down to only use a domain’s subfolders. Please note, if Google cannot categorize your website easily, you may see minimal results.

Example
related: google.com

site:


Narrows search results to only the domain name you are specifying. You can use www or not or http:// vs https:// to see how results vary.

Example
site: linkmypet.com

source:


This operator will return results by topic, brand, etc. according to the media source you choose. Usually, this features results found in Google News when they apply.

Example
Tesla source: Wall Street Journal


Search Tips to Use Google More Efficiently:

In summary, if you want to use Google more efficiently to get the search results you are looking for, here are the key takeaways:

  1. Use the Tabs to refine your search, Web, Image, News, Videos, etc.
  2. Use Quotes – Take out the “guesswork” when searching something specific!
  3. Use a Hyphen to exclude words or phrases. This will tell Google to ignore specific content even when it’s somewhat related to your search.
  4. Use a Colon to search specific sites. This is a great shortcut to find specific content on a particular site.
  5. Use the Asterisk as a wild card – this allows you to search for something even when you might not know all of the words you’re looking for. An Asterisk works as a placeholder for Google to fill in the search.

If your interested in learning more about how to get your business ranked in Google search results we can help! Contact us to speak with a Marketing Specialist and let us help you get the most out of your online experience!

 

Published on: July 15, 2021 by Sheena Salmon, Senior Digital Marketing Strategist