Most people are casual Google users. They plug in a couple words and look for the right link. Usually, they don’t even finish phrases because Google suggests the right one for them. It's a good system – but we're not casual users. For marketers, SEO managers, and serious researches, there's another set of advanced Google searching tools called "Google search operators" or "advanced operators." These are ways of slipping a little bit of search engine code into your search phrases to make them far more accurate from a site operator perspective. Here are some of our favorites.
The humble quotation marks are one of the most commonly employed operators. The symbols inside the quotation marks are required – the search must return content that has those symbols, in that order. That makes it easy to search for a very specific phrase – if you look for something like "Greenwood station" then results will ignore links that just have "greenwood" and "station." It's useful when paring down descriptions to find a very specific place, product, time, and so on. The quotation marks are such a universal tool that they can be used almost any of the other search operators to help narrow down searches that are too broad or that Google is confusing with something else. Moz has a great guide on how to combine operators in this way to conduct complex searches.
Typically called the pipe, this vertical line (and the similar "OR" operator) will turn a search into an "or" filter instead of the default "and." Sorry to get so boolean, but have an "or" search can be very advantageous when combining different searches into the same results. For example, "windows" two pane|three pane will bring up results for either two pane windows or three pane windows, which is useful for comparison purposes. You can see how this search term operator can be helpful when exploring different product categories, competitor products vs. yours, and so on.
This brings only up webpages where your search term is in the title of the page. It's handy if you want to make sure your phrase appears in the title of an article, or as the subject of a landing page. It's a way to get more serious about a search – restricting results to only title-based links will give you the most important, information-driven content without getting sidetracked into other issues.
The two periods here are used to explore a range of numbers. For example, plated screws 1.5..3.25 inches will return results for screws in that range. This works for dates as well, allowing you to search for particular content or events occuring within a strict date limit. Again, this is useful for narrowing down results that are a little too broad.
Here, results are restricted to a single site. Using site:contractormag.com will return only results from that magazine, allowing you to review their articles for a particular subject. This operator is also useful when searching for specific types of content, support topics on a particular forum, and so on.
This is like the site-specific operator, but is a file-specific operator instead. It will only return specific files types like PDFs or Docs. It's useful when looking up whitepapers, reports, and downloadable content.
This limits the search to URL slug information. It's especially popular when searching for dates, as in inurl:2017 to make sure the article is recent. Of course not everyone includes dates in the URL, but pages that do are certain to be more current.
A final note: Operators are not set in stone. As Google tweaks the search engine, some operators may stop working or start working in new ways. Keep this in mind when trying out older or odder operators.