Are you an expert researcher online? The average online user over time has become better and better at finding the things they need online. The use of advanced search operators is commonplace. While search engines work to combat spam everyday, there are still many sites you wish to avoid in your search. Advanced search commands can help you sift through billions of websites quickly and easily by narrowing down your search with operators or commands.

There are many options when it comes to advanced search commands. One of the more common commands is phrase search operator (“”). When you put quotes around a keyword or phrase, you’re telling the search engine to look for that exact match phrase online. They’ll serve up results with that exact phrase, or tell you that none exist. I use this one all the time when doing link building activities or trying to find out the name of the song stuck in my head at any given time. When you only know bits and pieces of the information you’re looking for use this operator to narrow down your search.

Don’t want to see a result in the SERPs? Use the exclude search operator (-). Exclude words from your search and websites too. Example: Command will take out all instances of .edu domains in your results. You’re also able to exclude specific domains simply by putting that web address after the operator.

Use what Google calls the fill in the blank search operator (*) if you’re really in need of finding a great site. This operator is a wildcard, or placeholder, for a term that you aren’t aware of. Additionally you can use this operator to find other websites on the same type of topic. Google gives this example query: Obama voted * on the * bill. The query will show results on different votes for different bills, with the unknown being a placeholder for what you want to include.

Trying to find a similar set of URLs but not on the same domain? Use (inurl) search operator and you’ll find similar keywords in a file path. Many webmasters name pages similarly – contact us, about us, blog, etc… Use command (inurl:resources) along with your query to find a list of resource pages. This is one I’ve used to find link opportunities or even content opportunities. Find a great resource list? What type of content is linked to? Create that type of content and ask the site to add you to their resources list.

Sometimes you might be looking for keywords that appear in the title of the page. Use (intitle) search operator. Using this type of search command is common in advanced SEO research. Looking for sites with specific keywords that appear in their backlinks is also a common advanced tactic. Use (inanchor) search operator.

Know the file type of the page you’re looking for? Use (filetype) search operator. For example, if you were looking for PDFs you’d want to use filetype:pdf as your search operator. What types of pdfs are on your competitors website? Find out and get ideas for your next whitepaper or free guide.

These are just a few of the many search operators currently in practice. Not only can many of them be used on search engines you’d usually think of like Google and Bing, they can also be used in Twitter search. See a tweet go by and then not know where it went? I do this all the time because of the Twitter fire hose effect. But with search commands I can find the tweet pretty easily using bits and pieces of information.

These are just a few of the search commands available for you to use. Many more resources exist that give examples and practical application for each of the commands listed above as well as new ones to try out. Please visit the below resources for additional information on search commands.

Additional Resources

Google Search Help

Guide to Bing Query Language

The Professionals Guide to Advanced Search Operators

Finding Link Building Opportunities With Advanced Search Queries

4 Advanced Search Commands for Smart Webmasters

Search Features Chart

Have additional resources we should add to the list? Let us know!