There are ways to create a custom Google search to help improve the chances of returning the results you want. Google search operators allow you to look for specific phrases in specific places, without having to wade through a heap of non-relevant results. In our latest Google Search Tips, ClickThrough Marketing SEO account executive Lily Bowron explains how Google search operators will help improve your searches

We have all done it… You get to page eight of the Google search results, you know you’re in no man’s land, but you’re still looking for that one little thing which is surely on the Internet somewhere…

Despite losing all hope of finding what you wanted about five pages ago, you’re still sitting there, staring at page after page of results, wondering why on earth it has not worked.

Sometimes, Google seems to show us everything under the sun that we don’t want. Of course, it can’t read our minds – even though with personalised and predictive search, it’s giving it a damn good go.

Thankfully, Google search operators can help.

Operators allow you to specify the information you’d like Google to find. So instead of tapping in a search term and crossing your fingers whilst incessantly clicking ‘next’ to comb another fruitless page, why not try using operators to create a custom Google search?

There are a few different types of operator available, each offering a different way of displaying search results. Here, I’ll explore just a few of the operators you can use when navigating Google to help improve your search experience.

Google Search Operator: Exact Phrase

Punctuation Used: ” ”
Example sentence: “How important is Google+ to your future marketing”
Hints and tips: Using Exact Phrase helps you find sentences or phrases which exactly match what you are looking for, instead of getting results that have just a few words in common. This is great for finding the title of an Article or Press Release that you have submitted and want to track, as the example shows.

It is also a good way to find duplicate content, as you can search for an exact phrase sentence, and Google will return results with an exact match. This will show if your content has been stolen and used on another site.

If you search the same sentence without the speech marks (like any normal search), Google will return other results that are not strictly an exact match, but will have some of the same words, but most likely in a different order.

General Search:

Specific Search:

Google Search Operator: Exclude Words

Punctuation Used:
Example: dove -beauty
Hints and tips: Great to use if what you are looking for has two meanings, or is linked to a well-known brand. This operator will exclude search results containing the hyphenated phrase.

For example, if you are looking for information on doves, the birds, then you probably aren’t interesting in Dove the beauty brand. So, excluding the words ‘beauty’ or ‘soap’ will mean your results page isn’t skewed with soap and moisturiser.

General Search:
Specific Search:

Google Search Operator: Similar and Synonyms

Punctuation Used: ~
Example: ~solicitor
Hints and tips: Great for when you have an idea of what to search for, but don’t specifically know what you are looking for, or if there are interchangeable words in the search term. For example:

General Search:

After using the ~ operator, the results now show words that are synonyms of the original search for ‘solicitor’. As you can see, the results are now highlighting both lawyer and solicitor results.

Specific Search:

Google Search Operator: File Type

Punctuation Used: filetype:
Example: cookers and ovens filetype:pdf
Hints and tips: This is useful for when you know you are looking for a PDF or Word document. Or if you have previously found a document and you remember it was a PDF, it will help you narrow down your search results.

General Search:

Now including filetype:pdf shows only results that are saved as the PDF file type. This is great if you are looking for instruction manuals, or written documents.

Specific Search

Google Search Operator: One or Another

Punctuation Used: OR
Example: insulation knauf OR rockwool
Hints and tips: Useful if you know what you want, but there are variables of what brand or style you are interested in. This could also work for colour choices, or sizes. For example, red OR green tractor; tractor 2 OR 3 cylinder gas engine. This helps restrict your results to only a few variables.

General Search:

Specific Search:

Google Search Operator: Any of a Range of Numbers Between A and B

Punctuation Used: a…b
Example: motorbike ducati 1992…2000
Hints and tips: This works well when you want to search within a range, for example for a cost between £100 or £200, or a date, between years or models. This can also work well for sizes or anything with a numerical value. For example, if you are looking for an older motorbike and do not want to see anything manufactured since 2000, you could search for: motorbike ducati 1992…2000. This will only return results with a date between 1994 and 2000:

General Search:

Specific Search:

Google Search Operator: Define

Punctuation Used: Define:
Example: Define:amazon
Hints and tips: This helps you avoid sites that are trying to sell a product or advertise linked to a word that you really just want to understand and get a simple definition for. It works well as Google, most of the time, gives you a definition first, and it means brand names do not appear above useful, factual information.

General Search:

Specific Search:

Google Search Operator: Specific Word on a Specific Website

Punctuation Used: Word site:URL
Example: London Riot site:www.bbc.co.uk/news
Hints and tips: Great if you know what you are looking for on an exact website.

This can also be useful if you want to know if the website has content about a specific issue or item.

General Search:

Specific Search:

Google Search Operator: In Post Author

Punctuation Used: inpostauthor:
Example: inpostauthor:tom cars
Hints and tips: This will show you results from people with Tom in their post name, which mention cars. This is great if you want to track someone who has been posting on a site to see what else they have posted, and see if there is a pattern. You can find guest blogging opportunities using the inpostauthor search parameter too. You don’t have to search for a specific name, you could search for guests in general – ‘inpostauthor:guest’

General Search:

Specific Search:

So that’s it for my Google search tips this month.

There are so many more operators to experiment with… but hopefully this has been a list of some of the least-known, but most helpful parameters.

We will continue to collate all the Google search tricks we find which could reduce search frustrations – we’ll revisit this in a few months to discuss what we uncover.

In the meantime, I hope this has helped you, and happy searching.

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About the author:

Lily has a first class degree in Business Studies and has previously won both ‘Business Woman of the Year’ and ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’ Award through Barclays Bank. She has previously worked on SEO from both a client and agency perspective and currently works closely with Peugeot, Wolseley Group and Selco. Most recently she has become a Google Analytics Qualified Individual.