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The Secrets of Google Advanced Search

google advanced search

Two Tips to Start

We all know Google Search is powerful, but stop and realize: we think the basic search is powerful.

That’s what “Googling” means 99.999% of the time: using the basic search and then… trusting its magical ability to read minds, or something like that.

As Arthur C. Clarke once said, any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Sure enough, most people don’t even know that Google has any kind of Advanced Search.

And here we are.

Google Advanced Search is indeed a thing—and its operators (read: special tools) allow you to pull some pretty cool marketing tricks out of your sleeve. That’s what we’ll be covering in this series.


Starting with the two essential tips to get you oriented:

1️⃣ Advanced Search has its own search page, which you can use if you prefer. The “operators” we’ll be referring to are the specific search fields on that page—but if you know the syntax (read: the right way of typing it), you can type Advanced queries straight into the standard Google search box. Look to the right on the Advanced Search page and you’ll see the explanations.

2️⃣ Arguably the most useful search operator is the site: operator.

It looks like this:

(You don’t include any spaces, and there’s no need for http or https.)

The site: operator queries Google for results specifically from the domain which follows it. In other words, no matter where else on the Internet certain bits of text might match up with your query, you’ll only see ANY results from that specific domain.

Here’s what happens when we Google theCLIKK’s domain accordingly:

google advanced search

Last thing for now: if you want to search for a particular keyword or phrase while using the site: operator, just add a space and then type the keyword.

Like this:

advanced search features

More on the Site: Operator

Now let’s cover a couple of cases where site: is useful!

1️⃣ Do a Quick SEO Audit. The site: operator gives you the ability to quickly evaluate the SEO of a website. In particular, you’ll want to examine…

The number of results. When performing the site operator on your website, notice if the number of results seems very high or very low. If it’s very high, it’s an indication that Google has found a lot of (your) pages that you may not know existed. If the number of results is very low, it might mean that you’re accidentally restricting Google from entering some or all of your website.

An odd page in the results. Our Testimonials page shouldn’t be appearing in Google’s index. We don’t want Google to access this page because it has no SEO value and no value to actual humans. So, to improve our SEO a bit, we’ll add a noindex tag to this page.

If you’ve been hacked. If you see pages in the Google index advertising knock-off designer purses or a certain special pill, you might have been hacked. (ActiveCampaign’s spam check was like “whoa, don’t say its name.”)

Duplicate title tags (or none). The big title on top of each result is the title tag on that page. If you see duplicate title tags or title tags that don’t contain keywords, fix ’em.

No results. Ruh roh. If there are no results for your site operator, you’ve likely restricted access to your entire website. You’ll wanna fix that ASAP.

Scroll through the results of your site: operator and pay close attention. You can never be sure what you’ll find lurking in the Google index!

2️⃣ Find Good Internal Linking Opportunities. We know that linking between related pages on our website is good for SEO, but how do you find the right pages to cross-link?

Same answer we’ve been discussing: use the site: operator, specify your domain, and then hit [Space] and type your keyword or search phrase.

3️⃣ See What Google’s Indexed Lately. Perhaps you’re wondering how many pages your competitor has published over a certain time period.

Or maybe you’re wondering if Google has indexed new pages you’ve published on your site.

For this trick, use the site: operator plus the date filters in Google search.

As you can see below, Google has indexed one new page from socialmediaexaminer.com in the past 24 hours:

socialmediaexaminer advanced search

Four More Operators

1️⃣ The Exact-Match Operator. As you might expect, this operator returns only the results that exactly match the search phrase. Nothing close or approximate—we’re talking 100% perfect matches only.

Unlike the site: operator, this operator isn’t cued by a specific word. Instead, it’s cued by double quote marks; just put those quote marks around your exact-search parameters.

This is useful if you know exactly what you’re seeking anywhere on the web—but it can also prove handy for finding duplicate content on your own site.

Visit one of your pages and copy a long string of text, like a sentence or two. Then go to Google, type the site: operator with your domain included, then hit [Space] and paste the long string of text.

Here’s the key detail: put quotation marks around your search string. That’s how you use the exact-search operator; those quote marks tell Google “I only want to see results which contain perfect verbatim matches of this string.”

Like this:

advanced search image

As you can see, Google has only found one page on theCLIKK.com which contains that exact text, exactly as written. If we found two or more pages with identical text, we might have a duplicate-content problem on our hands.

You can also query the entire web using the exact-match operator. Just remove the site: operator from the example above to see if Google has found that exact string of text anywhere else on the web.

2️⃣ The Cache Operator. This search operator will display Google’s most recent cached version of a domain. You’ll see a snapshot of the site and the date that the cached version was created. This is useful if, for example, you need to see what your site or someone else’s site looked like yesterday. Here’s the syntax:


3️⃣ The Filetype Operator. Add this to a site: operator query to find specific file types on a domain. This would be useful for finding, say, PDF documents which contain great content but need to be converted into a more SEO-friendly format on a web page.

site:cnn.com filetype:pdf

4️⃣ The Allintitle Operator. This operator will return pages which include your keywords specifically in the title tag. Because the title tag is the most important on-page SEO element, you can use the number of results as a gauge of how competitive a keyword is.

allintitle:growing bigger tomatoes

google search advanced image 2

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