It’s easy to hop onto Google, type in a question and get some decent results. Google Search owns 91.54% of the internet search market share for good reason. But did you know you can add “search operators” — specific words or characters written within a search — to narrow the focus of your search to improve the quality of your results?
The purpose of “search operators”
Type the term “Taylor” into a Google search window and you’ll likely get a host of results, from Taylor Swift to Taylor Guitars to Taylor Heating & Air, etc. Typing in “Taylor Guitar” may not be much better, because you’ll still get Taylor Swift results.
But what if you wanted to look up Duran Duran’s lead guitarist Andy Taylor? Or Rolling Stones former guitarist Mick Taylor? Or you simply don’t want to include Taylor Swift in any of your results?
How do you wade through the noise? This is where operators come in, because they allow the searcher both to INCLUDE ONLY or OMIT types of search terms.
Three types of operators
Three search operators that can greatly improve your search results include quotation marks, minus symbols and using the “site:” functionality. There are many more, but we believe these are three great tools to get you started and comfortable with using operators.
Exact Match with Quotation Marks
Sticking with our Taylor example, you could avoid Taylor Swift references by using quotations to mark in “Andy Taylor” as your phrase. This always ensures these two terms are side by side on a result. While there might be an Andy Taylor associated directly with Taylor Swift, such as a brother or father who might appear on the same page — who may or may not be the Andy Taylor you’re looking for — it omits any pages that don’t have Andy Taylor, which greatly improves the quality of results.
One drawback is that Exact Match also might include two words that are separated by a period, such as “Hank handed the beer to Andy. Taylor said he’d pass and left for the evening.” The two terms are together, but the period is ignored by the search operator.
Exclude Terms with the Minus Symbol/Hyphen
Perhaps you want to search “Taylor Guitar” but don’t want any Taylor Swift results. You can add the term -Swift and any page that references the term “Swift” will be omitted from the results. Omitting terms helps you by telling Google Search what your query is NOT about.
Taylor Swift, however, is often referred to only as “Taylor” by her fans, which includes countless photos and videos, all of which could still appear in your search. If you know of other terms unique to Taylor Swift, you could add those in sequence to omit several terms, such as -Swift -Alison (her middle name) -folklore (her recent album) etc.
Search Specific Site with “site:”
Not all search engines are created equally, and sometimes you know a website has a piece of desired content but the onsite search engine brings up results that don’t satisfy the query. This is where “site:” comes in.
Perhaps I want to search the Taylor Guitars website for a particular model or piece of information. I can add site:taylorguitars.com to my search and it will ONLY search TaylorGuitars.com for my answer.
Acoustic? Stratocaster? Electric? I can add my general search terms in the search window and then add site:taylorguitars.com and I never need worry about getting results from other major guitar brands.
It also includes subsites in results, such as when major stores add blogs as an attached subsite such as http://blog.taylorguitars.com. This blog is a subdomain and might produce results to your query about how to string an acoustic steel guitar, as opposed to only sell those strings.
One of the benefits of search operators is combining them. I’m not limited to using them by adding one after the other, but can add several if necessary. If I want to omit an entire phrase, I can combine the Exact Match and Exclude Terms to really drive down to my goal. Factor in a site-specific search, and you’re becoming dangerous.
“taylor guitar” “steel string” acoustic -“taylor swift” -“plastic string” site:billboard.com
While you may not need every one of those search operators to get the quality search result you’re looking for, it’s important to know that you can.
To learn more about operators, visit the links below.