Every Google Search Operator You’ll Ever Need

shutterstock_132552677I consider myself a bit of a Boolean geek. I fell in love with Boolean search in college, but it wasn’t until I got hold of Lexis-Nexis after college that I realized the power of search. When Google came around many moons later, I was disappointed that I couldn’t use the same Boolean operators that I could elsewhere — Google wants the experience to be as simple as possible, and, let’s face it, Boolean search strings can be pretty overwhelming. But then again, so can long Google search strings.

As it turns out, Google uses many of the same search operators that other Boolean systems do; it just changes the terms around in places. It also has a few search operators that are very poorly documented (and possibly on their way out the Google door, like the + and ~ operators).

So, to help us all out, I’ve compiled as thorough as possible comparison of Google and “traditional” Boolean notation, as represented by the Cision search tool we use here at HB. If you have any questions, comments or additions, please share them below!






A search string is a word or phrase. Phrases are included in quotes. “Stop words” are short words that are either ignored by Google (e.g., and, or, the, etc.) or ones that can be mistaken for operators. You can force the search engine to find them by enclosing them in quotes. Searches are generally not case sensitive, though Cision and Lexis-Nexis support case-sensitive searches (see below).



“HB Agency”



“HB Agency”


(or space)

Search results must include all terms connected by the AND operator. In Google Search, the AND is implied by a space (unless the space is inside quotes).

“Kevin Hart” “HB Agency”

PR “HB Agency”

“Kevin Hart” AND “HB Agency”

PR AND “HB Agency”


(or |)

Search results can include any terms connected by the OR operator. Google recognizes either OR or the | pipe symbol.

“Kevin Hard” OR “Nicolas Boillot”

Hart-Boillot | HB

“Kevin Hard” OR “Nicolas Boillot”

Hart-Boillot OR HB


(or )

(or AND NOT)

Search results must not include any of the terms that follow the NOT operator. In Google Search, precede any term you want to exclude with a minus sign (-). Use “AND NOT” in Cision to be safe.

“alternative energy” -nuclear

publicity -“public relations”

“alternative energy” AND NOT nuclear

publicity AND NOT “public relations”

( )

order of execution and grouping

Parentheses should be used to group or nest search terms together and ensure the proper order of execution (just like in math).

(Monday | Tuesday | Wednesday | Thursday | Friday | Saturday | Sunday | (day date)) -prnewswire

(Monday OR Tuesday OR Wednesday OR Thursday OR Friday OR Saturday OR Sunday OR (day AND date)) AND NOT prnewswire


(or NEAR)

(or W/#)

(or AROUND(#))

Proximity operators search for words or phrases that occur near one another. They operate very differently depending on the system. NEAR doesn’t typically take a parameter, but W/# is followed by a number (#) indicating how many characters can separate the two terms. Google’s completely unknown and unsupported AROUND(#) takes a number indicating how many words can separate the terms.

“HB Agency” AROUND(5) “public relations”

Cision does not currently support proximity searches in the Advanced search, but I believe Lexis-Nexis takes the w/# notation. It also accepts w/s (within the sentence) and w/p (within the paragraph).


(or *)

(or .)

(or ?)

The asterisk (*) is used in most engines to represent zero or more characters, and can appear by itself or at the end of an initial string. In Google, the * represents one word. The period (.) or the question mark (?) is used in many engines to indicate only 1 character. Both Google Search and Cision support the *, though in Google Search the * represents 1 word.

The quick * fox ran over the *

Four score ** ago

test | text

test | testing | tester

The quick * fox ran over the *

Four score * * ago




(or site:)

In Google, you can focus your search on a single site or domain.

site:www.hbagency.com “Mark O’Toole”

site:.gov insurance



(or link:)

In Google, you can find pages that link to a certain page.




(or related:)

In Google, you can find which other pages Google thinks are related to a particular URL.




(or title:)

In Cision, by default you are searching both titles and the full text. You can search only in titles using the title: modifier.


title:”HB Agency”


(or fulltext:)

In Cision, by default you are searching both titles and the full text. You can search only in full text using the fulltext: modifier.


fulltext:”HB Agency”


(or title_cs:)

(or fulltext_cs:)

In Cision, you can perform case sensitive searches by adding _cs to either the title: or fulltext: search modifier.


fulltext_cs:”HB Agency”

title_cs:”HB Agency”


(or ..)

In Google, two dots can be used between two numbers to indicate a range.

camera $50..$100


Google Moves the Earth

The earth moved under the feet of the PR industry earlier this month when Google did something simple: it distributed its own earnings announcement. It didn’t rely on one of the paid channels such as Businesswire, PR Newswire or Marketwire (among others).

To the untrained eye this seems rather simple. Companies put out content all the time, why is this any different?

I’m not going to try to rehash the idea that the press release is dead. It’s not. PRWeb pointed out at the MarketingProfs event this week that they will distribute 90,000 press releases this year alone. That’s just one service.

A lot of people saw Google’s move as an opportunity to talk about the Social Media Release, but that’s just another way to put content out through the same channel, it’s not a real change.

No, the trick here is understanding the different channels and how channels differ from form. Wire services offer a different distribution channel and for public companies it’s an important channel.  On a very basic level wire services smooth out a lot of the bumps in putting out an earnings announcement. Let’s face it, the Securities and Exchange Commission doesn’t make things easy, so if you want to make sure you satisfy all the fine print within their fair-disclosure rules you may as well just hand your announcements over to them and be done. Paying $5000 or so per release certainly beats the legal fees you could add up by messing things up on your own.

That said, wire services aren’t the ONLY way to get news out. For some companies, like Google, their blog or online newsroom speaks directly to investors.  Why not engage them there? Also, just because you have a channel doesn’t mean you’re restricted to form. You can have a blog full of “press releases” and a press release that looks like a blog post. You can write an interesting news-based story and put it out on a wire service. If you’re Conan O’Brien you can even write a letter.

Howard Berkenblit, a partner in the Corporate Department at Sullivan and Worcester, who spoke with the Fresh Ground Podcast a while back, told me recently that the SEC ruling regarding putting out material news on blogs boils down to making sure you have an established news channel before using it. Google has certainly done that.

But what does this mean for the wire services? Phyllis Dantuono, executive vice president and chief operating officer for BusinessWire says it doesn’t mean much.  “Bottom line is that we do not anticipate any major changes in how companies will communicate with the marketplace in the future,” she said in a written statement.  “Most companies clearly recognize the risks and limitations of the SEC’s interpretive Guidance Release, and have wisely decided to stick with a disclosure system that works.”

BusinessWire also sent along a MotleyFool.com article that went so far as to call Google’s decision “evil.” Rich Smith laments that Google has created a fragmented system in which “investors could soon be forced to scan the websites of every company they own, daily, continually, to be certain of not missing out on important news.”

I think this misses the mark entirely. I’m sure Smith doesn’t have only one source for news today. In fact, he probably has some sort of new aggregator that helps him find the news he wants, probably some sort of RSS reader. He probably also has Google News alerts that tell him when something goes live. Then there’s the fact that companies come out with earnings announcements on a pretty strict schedule, so it’s not like these are surprises. No, Google hasn’t made the news more difficult to find, they’ve just slightly changed how you access it.

In fact, they made it a little easier. Former Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz had argued for years that the SEC’s disclosure rules unfairly favored the few. Subscribers to the wire services received the news, while those who didn’t were left waiting. Putting important news out on a blog, the argument goes, fixes that. Well, that is, unless we run into a situation in which companies like Comcast control whose content gets green lighted.

Still, there’s an action here for small, private companies to consider: where do you put your news? Our suggestion here at Fresh Ground is to establish your own news channel through an online newsroom. Not just a stagnant place where you repost your press release, but an interactive social media newsroom that lets you post different types of content and lets your audience interact with and share that content. Todd has been working hard with the IABC on establishing this sort of thing.

But the most important reason for establishing your own news channel is that despite Dantuono’s assertion that many companies will continue to use wire services, I believe that many won’t. When the earnings announcements disappear, so will much of the available revenue for wire services.

I’m not saying the wire service channel will die out entirely, but you will certainly see a thinning over the next couple of years. I can’t guarantee that the big players will continue to thrive, since some of the smaller players (like PitchEngine) do similar work for less money and a lower overhead.

So your best move may be to create your own and as you engage with your customers, partners, investors and other influencers, let them know where your news will end up first.

Social and Search

Photo by Gerlos

Last week I was invited back to a panel at the ninth “Marketing to the High-End Bride” event, held at the newly-opened W Hotel in Boston — you can hear the audio and see some photos on the WeddingProf site. At the event, I finally got to meet Scott Smigler of Exclusive Concepts. I really enjoyed our conversation — both on the stage (where we disagreed about ghost writing but agreed on most everything else) and after the event. Scott’s organizing an upcoming event for SEMPO Boston, and asked what I thought about the intersection between search and social these days. Here’s my response — I hope to be able to share my perspective at the event — I’ll let you know as soon as it’s organized.

In Fresh Ground’s opinion, there are two approaches to social media: proactive and reactive. Proactive social media is content-driven, reactive social media is conversation-driven.

Either way, search is often a second thought — most practitioners take a “if you build it they will find it” attitude when it comes to social media and search. They figure that either way — by virtue of good content, frequent updates and a large community — search will just happen. This is partly true, but there’s still a disconnect between these two fields that can only be bridged through analytics and metrics: understanding the direct relationship between social, search and web traffic.

I think most social media people don’t think about the other way around — that search can drive social. This negative bias was reinforced recently when Facebook overtook Google in terms of site traffic sources. We perhaps need to be reminded that it’s still a two-way street, and that a stronger emphasis on search can still be very rewarding.

What do you think about this intersection?