Google’s search engine has a nasty habit of transforming a one-word query into seemingly endless pages of search results.
This is where ‘search operators’ come in handy, because they allow you to give Google specific instructions
on what to search for, thereby sparing you from having to trawl through multiple pages
just to find one relevant search result. Adding search operators to a query instructs Google to focus on everything from a specific website to only webpages that were updated within the past week, depending on your needs. What makes search operators particularly useful is that you can string them together to construct very tightly focused queries; eg searching for pages that contain ‘Google search tips’ in the title and ‘search operators’ in the main text, and were created in 2013. Although this query returns fewer results, there’s a much higher chance of finding exactly what you’re looking for within the first few pages.
However, be aware that inserting a space between certain search operators and the first word of your query can prevent Google from recognising the search operator. To ensure that Google doesn’t mistake the operator for part of your search query, play it safe and never insert a space. Google supports a long list of search operators, but in this section we will take a look at some of the most useful ones (you can find more operators by visiting goo.gl/meH7Ef and the related pages).
Place allintitle: in front of your search term to restrict your results to only webpages that have this word or phrase in the title (ie at the top of the browser).
Restrict your search results to a single domain, or a certain subdomain or subdirectory, by using this search operator followed a URL.
If you’re having a mental block and can’t think of a complete search query, use a * to represent any unknowns, for example ‘writer and director *Gobert’.
Limit your results to pages that have the following word in their URL. If you’re looking for a URL that contains multiple words, put allinurl: before your terms.
Enter two numbers separated by full stops to view all results that contain numbers within that range; for example, ‘World Cup winners 1994..2010’.
Search for pages of a particular file type, such as a PDF. Use the filetype: operator alongside the OR command to search for multiple file types.
Use this operator followed by a URL to view similar websites. This can also help you spot any ‘bad’ websites that are aligning themselves with your own.
If you’re weighing up several possible options, search for them all simultaneously by separating your queries with the capitalised OR operator.
Use the - (minus) operator to exclude all webpages that feature the attached word, URL or number; for example, ‘laptop sale -macbook’.
Place this before a location and the first item on the results page will always be a Google Maps preview; click to launch the full-sized version.
Limit your results to pages that contain the following search terms in the main text. If you’re just looking for one word, use intext: instead.
Quotation marks tell Google to list results containing that exact phrase. This is useful when queries contain words that are normally discarded, such as ‘the’.
This operator tells Google to convert the query before the IN into the query that comes immediately afterwards; for example, ‘1 mile in kilometres’.
Use this operator to find pages containing hyperlinks to the specified URL. Use allinurl: to search for URLs containing multiple search terms.
Place this search operator before a query to get the definition for that word or phrase. This is particularly useful when dealing with acronyms.
Only show pages created on the date(s) specified. Dates must be entered in the tricky Julian format, but there are plenty of converters online (goo.gl/3NWyUZ).
Search for terms that occur in close proximity, eg ‘query1 AROUND(3) query2’ searches for two queries that occur within three spaces of one another.
Restrict your search to ‘anchor text.’ This effectively limits your results to the text that’s displayed within a webpage’s hyperlinks.