There’s a (relatively) old joke that best place to hide a dead body is on page two of Google Search results. Like most jokes, it’s funny because it’s true: the Google search algorithm has been showing users the top ten most relevant search results on the first page since the late 90s, and it’s only been getting faster, better, and more relevant.
The importance that’s been placed on the first page has echoed through our culture and fundamentally changed how businesses market themselves. Agencies now market their ability to “get your business to the top of Google!” and an entirely new form of display marketing has erupted in the shape of pay-per-click advertising, where companies can bid to show their listing as number one in Google’s search results. The people have spoken: the top of Google searches is the place to be!
It’s possible that more words have been written on the subject of getting to the top of Google than any other topic ever. A search of “how to get to the top of Google” yields nearly 500 million results. However, this doesn’t speak to the other side of the equation.
Is There a Google Cheat Sheet?
To say that comparatively little has been written about getting better Google search results than getting to the top of Google is possibly the largest understatement that this digital marketing specialist will ever write. Google is the number one search engine for all of the obvious reasons – it is fundamentally fantastic at providing you with the search results that you want.
That being said, we’ve all experienced the exception to the rule – those rare times where the searches really aren’t showing us what we’re looking for at all. Depending on your age and your familiarity with Google searching, sometimes there’s a way of re-wording your search to get or find what you’re looking for, but for many people, the experience of “No Results” or unrelated results leaves them bewildered and out of options.
Luckily, there are easy steps you can take to modify how you search Google to make sure that you’re seeing the search results that you want – you just have to know how to use them. Let’s take a look at Google search operators.
George Boole: Smooth Operator
But first, a history lesson: have you ever heard of George Boole? He may be the most obscure figure in tech history. George Boole was a 19th century, self-taught child prodigy in mathematics and logic. His work in algebra and logic, also known as Boolean algebra or Boolean logic, is a method of ascribing binary values to variables that reduce them to true or false.
George Boole’s algebra and logic systems have been largely credited as the foundation of the information age as they have advanced the development of many things, including computer science, modern mathematics, and microelectronic engineering.
Boolean logic is what forms the basis of search operators, which are tags and modifiers you can add to your search query in order to modify and improve your search results.
Beginner Level Search Operators
The following operators are simple and can quickly and easily be integrated into your Google search skill repertoire.
- “improve google results”
Suppose you’ve searched for a term, but the results are showing something tangentially related to what you’re looking for. This is due to how Google searches for your terms. For the above search term, Google puts an AND between each word in the search, which means they will list sites that have all of those words in it, but not necessarily in that order.
improve Google results could mean improve my website’s Google search results, meaning that site talks about getting to the top of Google. Quotation marks — “improve google results” — indicate to Google that they should search for that exact phrase with the words in that order – not to add in other search terms.
- Google results OR search result
Suppose you’re searching for two different keywords and want to combine that search into one – a logical OR query will help with that. Placing an all caps OR between your two search terms will return results that include either keyword or both keywords. This means that the logical OR can be really useful when searching for two terms that aren’t normally paired together. You can also use the pipe | to indicate the OR operator.
- improve Google results -my -website
Perhaps you’ve had the experience of your query being modified with words you don’t want. You can enter your search term and then add the words you don’t want to appear after the search with a minus in front of the term, with no spaces. This will indicate to Google to search for your query, and then filter those results again to remove the pages with the terms you don’t want.
- (improve Google results -my -website) boolean
If you remember your middle school algebra, you also remember that any variables that are within parentheses are solved together and first. The same is true with search operators. What you place in the parentheses is the first term that Google uses to compile results, and then from those results, the variable outside the parentheses is applied as a filter.
- improve Google results 2000..2011
You may already have an idea of what information is available for your search term in the last few years or you may know what was available some years ago, but how do you discover information within a particular time frame? Using two dots – JUST TWO DOTS, NOT THREE – between two years can broaden or limit your search to results that posted or written within the time period that you have specified. So if you’re looking for particular results between 2003 and 2013, place .. between those two years in your search query.
- improve * search results
Sometimes what you’re really looking for is something that you don’t know yet – perhaps you’re performing research and fact-finding or maybe you’re just interested in what other information could be out there. Adding the wildcard operator – an asterisk – to your search term will result in a wide variety of different pages and titles that are related to your original term, modified by the different variables that have been paired with that search term.
These search operators are more advanced and are best attempted by users with whom the Google-fu is strong.
- improve google results site:youtube.com
With as much personalization that Google and other search engines have started to place on searches, sometimes it can be hard to search for something that sounds similar to something you searched for earlier but isn’t actually related. You may have had the experience of trying to find Thing A on Amazon or YouTube, but because you searched for Thing B yesterday, the site keeps trying to send you to Thing B. Google can crawl a site for the specific keywords that you type in when you add site: plus the domain name.
They say that variety is the spice of life and fortunately, that’s reflected in search operators. If you have a website that you enjoy or find resourceful but you want similar websites, the related search is your best friend. Type related: and the domain and the results will be a list of similar or related sites to the one that you searched.
- intitle:improve Google results / improve Google results inurl:2015
Sometimes you’re looking for a page or article that you had previously found, but for some strange reason, you can’t seem to get Google search to bring up that specific article again. If you remember the phrasing of the title, the year it was written or uploaded, or any other specific details about it, you can use the search title or search URL operator.
The search title operator searches page titles, perhaps better known as the link you click on in the search results. You can use this operator to find titles of blogs or articles that use those queries. To use this search operator, include intitle: before your search term.
The search URL operator searches entire URLs for the specific keyword that you entered after the operator. Suppose you remember that the article you’re looking for was published in 2015. Often, online blogs and articles will include the year that they are published in their specific URL. Searching for your keyword term and using inurl: and a specific URL term will help narrow your search greatly.
What are the Results?
Being able to narrow and pinpoint your Google searches can dramatically enhance the results you can find with Google. Armed with Google’s revolutionary algorithm and search operator skills, you’ll be certain to be considered a master when it comes to finding what you’re looking for on the internet.