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!

OPERATOR or TERM

DESCRIPTION

GOOGLE SEARCH EXAMPLES

BOOLEAN (CISION) SEARCH EXAMPLES

string

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).

Hart-Boillot

HB

“HB Agency”

Hart-Boillot

HB

“HB Agency”

AND

(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

(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

NOT

(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

PROXIMITY

(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).

WILDCARD

(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

te?t

test*

SEARCH SPECIFIC SITE

(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

n/a

FIND PAGES THAT LINK TO A URL

(or link:)

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

link:www.hbagency.com

n/a

FIND RELATED PAGES

(or related:)

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

related:www.hbagency.com

n/a

SEARCH TITLES ONLY 

(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.

n/a

title:”HB Agency”

SEARCH FULL TEXT ONLY

(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.

n/a

fulltext:”HB Agency”

CASE SENSITIVE SEARCH

(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.

n/a

fulltext_cs:”HB Agency”

title_cs:”HB Agency”

SEARCH A NUMERIC RANGE

(or ..)

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

camera $50..$100

 n/a

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?