Advanced search operators are the bread and butter of building quality backlinks by hand. If you’re knowledgable of how to use them and have a creative mind you can cut hours of work from your linkbuilding. It’s hard to just list all the benefits because using what we call footprints and using them with advanced search operators IS effective linkbuilding.

My most commonly used advanced search operators for S.E.O.

For each of these advanced search operators I’m listing below I will be giving an example using my site or the keyword “content marketing”.

1. site:

ex. site: “content marketing”

This will be more used for grabbing more loosely related to your search query, ‘site:’ will grab any instance on the site where your keyword is mentioned. This is a more general advanced search operator that I used in combination with other ones.

2. inurl:

ex. inurl:content marketing

The phrase ‘inurl:’ in search engines will return results with websites with the keyword in the URL string. You can use this operator to search for very specific thing like inside one website (like the example above) or you can get really broad/loose searches and search for a single .TLD (ex. inurl:edu/).

3. “your targeted phrase”

ex. “content marketing”

Quotation marks around a word or phrase into search engines will give you exact match search results. This is probably the most commonly known advanced search operator and one I use the most too. I usually use it for finding good places to internally link on my site, finding a relevant place for me to post (obtain backlinks), or using it with other advanced search operators to get even more exact matches. It is especially useful if your brand is more than one word, or if you’re targeting the first and last name for an individual (most common) as Google will not search for the exact phrase.

4. whois:


Hopefully not too many people are going to be needing this advanced search operator too often, but if someone is making a site that is attacking you or your brand you will need to find out more about the domain like who owns it. Whois can be summed up as a data referring to where someone registers a domain and the detail behind who owns it (name, address.. ect.). A lot of sites will not leave their contact information on the site, so if they are harboring an article on their site that is offensive to you or your brand and you do not know how to contact them to take it down, ‘whois’ will be able to help you.

5. allintitle:

ex. allintitle:content marketing

The phrase ‘allintitle’ will show you sites that have your search term in the title tag on the results page. Hopefully you or your brand does not bad press from title tags as that can be more difficult to remove from search engines with linkbuilding, but on the other hand if you’re looking for good press in titles ‘allintitle:’ will be the most helpful.

6. intext:

ex. intext:content marketing

The ‘intext:keyword’ phrase means that search engines will only show you the query that’s present in the sites body text. For online reputation management purposes the ‘intext:’ advanced search operator if you were looking for negative press about you or your brand on news or blogging sites.

7. -keyword

ex. content marketing

The minus sign in front of a query or query phrase is telling search engines to not include it in the search engine results. You should not only use this advanced search operator for eliminating keywords but to eliminate undesirable sites that you do not want to show on the results page. What I usually end up needing to do is the example above, I will eliminate my site from the search engine results unless I am trying to find things on my site, of course.

Get creative with your advanced search operators

When you think outside the box with advanced search operators you can eliminate hours of research by getting very exact results. Do not just use them for Google’s intended use, that’s very limiting, instead use them for finding good footprints, tracing spam, and grabbing an insane amount of data, which can be useful for future projects. The biggest fault of a lot of beginner linkbuilders is not being creative with these or finding good backlink sources from footprints.

Advanced search operators and footprints

I’m usually looking up footprints for 90% of my time linkbuilding. Usually the more prepping and screening you do for with your prospect list for building backlinks the easier time you will have executing them. For online reputation management using footprints can help you find the useful data you need, and especially help you trace reviews about your business or bad press about an individual.

Advanced search operators for finding useful data

I use footprints with advanced search operators to aid almost everything from my beginning steps in research, my on-page S.E.O. on what content is most imporant to a user, and of course the linkbuilding part. For my research I will search my target keyword (brand or individual names) in quotations and see which sites pop up first in Google and research those sites. On-page S.E.O. is also very dependent on how well you do your research, for example if you’re doing online reputation management for a company you will want to see what people are searching for in that company (ex. “company reviews”), if people are searching for it you will want to include it in the content to rank higher for it.

ex. “incoming search terms:” “content marketing”

About the Author

Hey, I'm Julian. I've been in web marketing for over 4 years now. I originally started with SEO, but had to play a lot of roles in social media, paid advertising, design, development, and content marketing.