Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the lights on at MakeUseOf. Read more.
Some of you might not have the slightest clue what an operator is, in terms of using a search engine. Luckily enough, both Google and MakeUseOf offer some pretty good examples of how to use them with the world’s most popular search engine. In plain English, an operator is a tag that you can include within your Google search to make it more precise and specific.
With operators, you’re able to display results that pertain only to certain websites, search through a range of numbers, or even completely exclude a word from your results. When you master the use of Google’s search engine, finding the answer to nearly anything you can think of is a power that you have right at your fingertips. In this article, let’s make that happen.
Reviewing the Operators
The first step to mastering these operators is learning them. It’s a lot easier than it may seem. Here are a few of the ones that I find most useful:
- site:query – Restricts Google searches to list results only from this particular domain (site:makeuseof.com)
- inurl:query – Allows you to search through results based on text found in the domain’s URL (inurl:makeuseof)
- related:query – Allows you to use Google to find alternatives and similar websites compared to any domain (related:makeuseof.com)
- -query – Excludes something from your search (MakeUseOf -Linux)
There are more, but these five are great to start with. One thing to keep in mind is that these can be used in conjunction with one another.
The screenshot above shows perfect usage in that way. In this search, I restrict my results to MakeUseOf’s domain, I search specifically for the phrase “how to”, and I exclude Twitter. As you can see, how-to guides and related content from MakeUseOf, without any Twitter, appear in the results.
In that example, you can see I’ve delimited each keyword just by using a space between them. This is a basic practice, although you can use a comma if you choose.
What can you do?
Just for demonstrating proper usage of the operators, I’ve provided one example. There are endless possibilities though. I’ll pitch in a few more ideas.
The Internet is interesting because of what an open book it is. Using operators, you can do a little bit of reputation management and spying to see what others have been saying about you. Do you often use Craigslist? You can search your name using a string of operators as shown above.
Another old trick is to take advantage of username methodology. If you’re like me, there are a few websites that you might use the same username for. Searching for that username alone ought to get you a good number of results, but by using the operator above, you can essentially limit results to profile pages on social websites. We all know how sites like Twitter, MySpace, and Facebook list our personal pages on the web by including our username in the URL, and this is a way to curve your searches in that way.
Above, you can see a clever way of combining the operator for exclusion with a domain-based operator. Here, we’re searching for the term “grilling” and ensuring that none of the results shown are from a Wikipedia page. We know what grilling is, anyway.
It’s not hard!
Don’t be intimidated by operators. You won’t break Google if you use them incorrectly or experiment. After some practice, you’ll begin to see the power in making use of these and they’ll eventually find their way into your everyday search routine. It happened with me, so it can happen with anyone.
One thing I will mention is that, should you use search operators constantly and in a bit of a repetitive way, Google may temporarily restrict your searching or hit you with a quick CAPTCHA. This is just to keep result-scraping bots off their search engine. If you correctly enter the CAPTCHA code, you’ll be able to continue searching as normal. It’s really nothing that you need to worry about if you’re using their search engine in good faith.
Know any other cool tricks with search operators? Have any of these tips helped you? Drop me a line in the comments section below!