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Using Advanced Search Engine Commands

Understanding Search Engine Commands

Search engines commands when used in combination are powerful and sometimes prove essential for diagnosing SEO problems. The commands are useful for filtering search results to show only pages that contain certain attributes. E.g. if you have a webpage that has an issue such as a misspelling in a title tag, you can use the search engine queries to find all of the occurrences of this on your website and use this information to fix the problem. You can also use the commands to search for duplicate content or to get a general idea for how well indexed a website is. Note that the search engine commands in Google must be started with a lowercase letter or they won’t work properly.

Country Specific Searches

When you enter “Google.com” in the address bar, you’re automatically directed to the site most appropriate for the country from which you are visiting Google. If you are doing market research for a global company, you’ll probably want to see the results you get when researching the market in other countries you may be targeting.

For example, if you are in the UK and are targeting businesses in the US and want to see results that appear when a user performs a search for your product or service in the US, you can do this by configuring Google Search before performing the search. You would type: www.google.com/ncr (where ncr means no country redirect). Conversely, if you’re in the States, and are researching businesses based in the UK, you’d actually type in www.google.co.uk/ncr.

If you’d rather visit Google.com — without being directed to a country site — type the URL “http://www.google.com/ncr” and bookmark the resulting page. Then, no matter where you are in the world, visit this bookmarked page to see the Google.com page. That way, you would get the same results you’d get as someone performing the same type of search in the US. You’d get the same type of search because if you are logged into Google, the results you’ll get when performing a search is completely different from what you’d get if you weren’t logged in. In short, your results will not be skewed by your own personal history.

To get “independent” results, you’ll need to de-personalize your browser so that the when the search results appear, they aren’t skewed by your own personal history, and you see what a “typical” searcher would see. Follow the process below to de-personalize your search:


From the Bookmarks | Organize Bookmarks… menu, select any bookmarks folder in the left pane. (Do not simply select the All Bookmarks folder. That will not work.)

  1. Right-click the folder and select New Bookmark
  2. Add the following values to the fields:
  3. Name: Google de-personalized search
  4. Location: http://www.google.com/search?&q=%s&pws=0
  5. Tags: (Optional. Add any tags you want.)
  6. Keyword: g
  7. Description: (Optional. Use this to describe the search.)
  8. Click Add.

That’s all you need to do to carry out depersonalized searches using Firefox. To test this out, go to the Address field in Firefox (where you see a URL at the top of the browser) and type something like this:

g used computer

This tells Google (g) to search for “used computers”. More importantly, because your location field included &pws=0, that URL parameter will carry over to your search result. From now on, if you want to perform a de-personalized Google search, simply type “g” (no quotes) and the query term from your URL field.

You can use this process for creating as many custom searches as you like, keeping these important factors in mind:

The Location field must contain the exact URL of the search result, with the exception of the %s variable, which will be replaced with your query term automatically.

The Keyword field is where you’ll type before your search query to tell Firefox which custom query you’ll be running. Be brief and accurate. You can use terms like “b” for Bing, “tc” for text cache, and so on.

To configure de-personalized search for Chrome, go to:

Advanced Search Techniques
The search engines provide a rich array of commands that can be used to perform advanced research, diagnosis, and competitive analysis. Some of the more basic operators are:


The minus sign is a tremendous aid to filtering queries, and it can be used with specific query terms (e.g. searching for cubs -chicago -baseball will show you results for “cubs” that do not contain Chicago or baseball) or in conjunction with specific operators discussed in this section. Searching for “barak obama” – site:foxnews.com will return results about Barak Obama that appear anywhere except for foxnews.com. This operator works similarly to filter out URL contents. site:socialseocollege.com –inurl:pagemode=print shows all indexed pages from socialseocollege.com that are not “print-friendly” versions.

[loans -student] shows results for all types of loans except student loans.


Allows for forcing the inclusion of a keyword. The plus sign, when placed directly before a term, tells Google to search for exactly that term, not synonyms. For example, a search for mj will return results that assume you mean “Michael Jackson”. A search for +mj, however, will return results that assume you want specific references to “MJ” in the results.

This is particularly useful for including stopwords (keywords that are normally stripped from a search query because they usually do not add value, such as the word the) in a query, or if your keyword is getting converted into multiple keywords through automatic stemming.

For example, if you mean to search for the TV show The Office, you would want the word “The” to be part of the query. As another example, if you are looking for Lewis Hamilton the Formula 1 star, you would search for lewis +hamilton F1 to avoid irrelevant results for Lewis Hamilton.

“key phrase”

This command shows search results for the exact phrase—for example, [dating “guest post”] and [dating “write for us”]will only return blogs that accept guest bloggers and dating Websites that are currently looking for writers or bloggers. Note that the brackets are not part of the search and are only used for illustration here. They should be removed before starting your search.

[keyword1 OR keyword2]

This command shows results for at least one of the keywords—for example, [google OR Yahoo!]. Note that again, the brackets are not part of the query.


Cache is a copy of the file Googlebot downloads when it visits a website. As an SEO, this information is extremely important because it shows you exactly what Google sees. This is especially useful for determining crawl rate and diagnosing potential geolocation issues because it will show you what version of the website Google is showing to users.


The site command is to diagnose indexing problems, and is used to limit a search query to a specific site. You can also use this command to find out if a particular domain has been deindexed by Google. If you type site:domainname.com and get no results, the domain has been manually penalized.  To use the command, start by using the site command alone (site:techmeme.com).

This simple query can tell you two important things:

  1. it gives you an idea of the major sections of a website.
  2. it gives you an idea of how many pages are indexed in Google. For example, if you know that a given site has only 100 pages, and a query returns 10,000 results, you know for sure you have a duplicate content issue.

You can also use this command to determine how many pages have been indexed by the search engines. You can generate a rough estimate by using the search site:example.com and using the number of results. It is important to bear in mind however, that the amount of pages indexed from one site can vary depending on which data center is being accessed at that time.

If you want to search for sites in the UK that contain the keywords java beans but do not contain coffee, you would type the following command:

“java beans” site:.co.uk -coffee


This search query will limit search results to only those where the specific query appears in the URL. For example if we are only looking for Austrlian dating blogs. The command would be [dating blog inurl:.au.com]. This operator is most useful when combined with the site command (site:www.socialseocollege.com inurl:”google analytics”). This will search our Website for Web pages related to lessons on Google Analytics “that have been indexed by Google”. This means that only lessons that have been indexed by Google will be returned in the search results.

This technique is most useful for identifying URL parameter–induced duplicate content (site:www.mysite.com inurl:”sessionid”). So, if you have an ecommerce website and have isolated the problem to a problematic parameter, you can use this to identify all of your session ids. You can also check if a page is indexed using this command. All you have to do is search for the URL preceded with the inurl command. For example, the query inurl:”twitter.com/users/drdre” checks to see if the Twitter profile for Dr Dre is indexed.


the allintitle command limits results to only those where the query is in the title tag. This can be helpful for many things including piracy (intitle:”index of mp3″), vanity searches (intitle:”serena williams”), and SEO-related things like duplicate title tag detection (intitle:”my company: Best product ever page”).

Pipe (|):

The pipe symbol symbolizes an “OR” search and can be used with regular query terms or with the commands listed in this section, primarily when you’re looking for multiple items within a given dataset. For example, site:example.com inurl:sessionid|jsessionid will find URLs that contain either “sessionid” or “jsessionid” in indexed URLs from example.com. Similarly, site:bbc.co.uk hamilton|button will only return pages from bbc.co.uk that contain either “hamilton” or “button” in the copy. (Pages that include both “hamilton” and “button” will also be included with this operator, so it’s a true “and/or” operator, not an “exclusive or” operator).


Wildcard search Means “insert any word here”. Search for a phrase “partial match”. seo * directory returns “seo free directory”, “seo friendly directory”, etc.


Similar URLs search. It shows related pages by finding pages linking to this page. This is useful when you are evaluating how relevant the site’s “neighbors” are to the site and looking at what else they tend to link to (i.e., “cocitation”); usually 25 to 31 results are shown. Compare: related:www.serenawilliams.com and related:www.venuswilliams.com


Information about a URL search. Gives information about the given page. Learn whether the page has been indexed by Google; provides links for further URL information; this search can also alert you to possible site issues (duplicate content or possible DNS problems) info:serenawilliams.com will show you the page title and description, and invite you to view its related pages, incoming links, and page cached version.


You can use the inpostauthor search operator to search for posts by certain authors on specific websites. For example, if you wanted to search for posts by Danny Sullivan on searchengineland.com, you would use the following command:

site:www.searchengineland.com inpostauthor:”danny sullivan”


This shows keywords Google thinks are related to the keyword, and can be very useful in uncovering related words that you should include on your page about the keyword. E.g. ~dog training will show keywords Google thinks are related to the keyword. ~zoo ~trip will show you keywords related to zoo and trip.


You can use the filetype operator to search for specific filetypes on websites. For example, if you want to search for pdf files on microsoft.com, you’d use the following operator:

inurl:pdf filetype:pdf site:www.microsoft.com

Combined Google Queries

To get more information from Google advanced search, it helps to learn how to effectively combine search operators.

For Competitive Analysis

Search who mentions your competitor; use the date range operator within Google advanced search to find the most recent brand mentions; the following brand-specific search terms can be used:

[domain name],
[site owner
name], etc.

[domainname.com –
site:domainname.com] (+ add &as_qdr=d [past
one day] to the query
string); use d3 for three
days, m3 for three
months, etc.

moz -site:moz.org during past 24 hours

Keyword Research

Evaluate the given keyword competition (sites that apply proper SEO to target the term).


Example: inanchor:seo training intitle:seo training

SEO site auditing: Learn whether the site has canonicalization problems

[site:domain.com -inurl:www]

site:bbc.co.uk -inurl:www

Find the site’s most powerful pages

[www site:domain.com] www site:foxnews.com
[tld site:domain.tld] org site:bbc.co.uk
[inurl:domain site:domain.com] inurl:stonetemple site:stonetemple.com
[domain site:domain.com] bbc site:bbc.co.uk

Find the site’s most powerful page related to the keyword
[site:domain.com keyword] site:foxnews.com barak obama
[site:domain.com intitle:keyword] site:foxnews.com intitle:barak obama
[site:domain inanchor:keyword] site:dailymail.com inanchor:princess diana

Link Building

Find authority sites offering a backlink opportunity: site:org donors
[site:org bookmarks/links/”favoritesites”/] [site:gov bookmarks/links/”favoritesites”/] [site:edu bookmarks/links/”favoritesites”/] Search for relevant forums and discussion boards to participate in discussions and probably link back to your site.

[inurl:forum OR inurl:forums keyword] inurl:forum OR inurl:forums seo

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