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WTH is Google Advanced Search? (And why do I care?)

google advanced search

Let’s start at… well, the beginning. Introductions are a struggle today.

We all know Google Search is powerful, but stop and consider: we think the basic search is powerful. That’s what “Googling” means 99.999% of the time: using the basic search and trusting its magical ability to read minds. Most people don’t even know that Google has any kind of Advanced Search.

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

Clarification: Advanced Search has its own search page (see link), and you can use that if you prefer. The “operators” are the specific search fields on that page—but if you know the syntax, 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 their explanation.

The Site Operator

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 theclikk


A Quick SEO Audit

The site: operator gives you the ability to quickly evaluate the SEO of a website. In addition to highlighting the actual site operator in the search bar above, we’ve also highlighted two other areas:

  1. The number of results. Google has indicated that it has found 231 pages in its index for theclikk.com domain. 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’s an indication that you might be accidentally restricting Google from entering some or all of your website.
  2. 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.

Here are a few other important things you might notice when you use the site: operator on a domain:

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. (Our pre-send spam filter 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 (hey, it’s your site!). You can never be sure what you’ll find lurking in the Google index.

Advanced Uses of the Site Operator

Let’s add a couple of useful dimensions to the site: operator, yeah?

How to 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?

Let’s say you’re writing an article about ‘new features in Apple’s iOS 14’ for the domain cnet.com. You’ll certainly want to cross-link with any other articles on that topic—but how do you quickly identify those pages on your domain?

Simply use the site: operator, specify the domain, and then hit [Space] and type your keyword or search phrase. Like this:

how to crosslink example

How to 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 picture

How to Check for Duplicate Site Content

We know that duplicate content can be a problem for SEO, but how exactly do you find those doppelgängers?

Easy: employ the exact-match operator in Google.

The Exact-Match Operator

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:

how to use exact match google advanced search the clikk

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.

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:


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

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

allintitle google seo element


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