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Alec Sharratt

How To Search – Using Search Operators

17th Apr 2012 SEO, SEO, SEO Resources 4 minutes to read

This may seem obvious, but I can’t stress enough how knowing the basics, which not many people know, can help hugely in refining your searches.

If you want to be an expert in Search, you have to know how to search!

The below “operators” will turn a simple and broad search into a much more sophisticated one and will help when looking for anything on the internet. For example; by putting a + or – before a word you can include or exclude web pages that contain those words.

Quotation Marks ” “

If you are promoting a site that sells cars; use a search term like ‘car blogs’ or ‘sport car blog’. You can customise searches to make them more advanced and targeted, for example; use quotation marks around a “word” or “words” and the results will only include websites that have that exact phrase in the web page title:

search operators

Using the technique you can type in a phrase like the following:

sports comment “car blog”

This will produce sites that have the exact phrase ‘car blog’ in the title and also have the words or similar words ‘sports’ and ‘comment’.

search operators

Stop Words

Short words such as ‘the’, ‘of’, ‘for’, ‘to’ in a search will generally be ignored by Google unless you use one of these techniques to ensure that they are not ignored. In general though, you need not use them.

Plus Sign +

By adding a plus sign (without a gap before the word) in front of a word in your search term; this indicates to Google that the results must include pages containing that exact word.

The following example would result in pages that have ‘car blog’ in the title and contain the word ‘comments’ on the page and be related to sport.

Sports +comments “car blog”

Minus Sign –

If you do not want Google to produce pages containing a specific word, then write the word with a minus sign in front of it.

In the following search term, Google will not list pages that contain the word ‘bmw’.

sports +comments -bmw “car blog”


By using the word OR (in capital letters) in your search term, Google will list the pages that contain one or both of the words (or phrases) that the OR separates.

Thus, the following search query will cause Google to list pages that contain either the word ‘sports’ or ‘luxury’ (or both), and that also contain the word ‘comments’, as well as the phrase ‘car blog’ or ‘cars blog’, but all the pages that contain the word ‘bmw’ will be filtered out of the results.

sports OR luxury +comments “car blog” OR “cars blog” -bmw


Star *

The star can be used as a wildcard, but it only stands for one whole word, rather than parts of a word such as pluralisation.

The search term below will make Google produce pages containing the phrase ‘something car blog’… For example; ‘ sports car blog’, ‘uk car blog’, ‘bad car blog’, ‘communist car blog’ anon.

“* car blog”


Using brackets: (search term) – will mean that Google processes the search within the brackets first before any other part of the search string. So if you searched for the following, Google would search for content that was about obesity or weight first and then stress afterwards.

Stress AND (obesity OR weight)

Other Operators

The following is a complete list of other search operators supported by Google. By using these in combination with the above operators you can further define what exactly it is you are looking for.

These are fairly verbose and understandable, for example you would use “inurl:” in the below format would deliver results the URL’s of which would have to contain the word “carblog”:


search operators

Web Search


Image Search








Product Search



Each of the above operators links through to Google’s support on how to use that operator.


As you can see using combinations of the above operators can construct intelligent and targeted searches, but when is this useful? Well, if you are searching for blogs, directories, or articles it doesn’t matter, you can use complex search strings to identify much more precisely what you want to see rather than just the best optimised websites.

As well as finding places to get links from, advanced search strings can be used for research purposes when sourcing information. Since learning how to use these properly I find that 80% of my searches now contain at least one operator. So give it a go, see what you can find and post any interesting search strings in the comments box below.

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