Google has become a part of our daily lives—our “go to” for information on anything and everything. Our culture now uses the word “google” so often, it was added as a verb in the dictionary a few years back. By far, it’s the most widely used search engine in the US, holding a massive 67% market share worldwide.
Yet despite its widespread usage, many folks don’t realize they’re only scratching the surface when it comes to the search engine’s powerful features.
In fact, you can find a treasure trove of information about any company simply by using a few simple commands, called Search Operators.
What are search operators?
When you do a simple Google search, you trust their algorithms to find and deliver quality results. Although this method works most of the time, when you need something specific, there are special commands you can give to the search engine to hone in on specific information. These commands are known as “Search Operators.”
The search operator you’re most likely familiar with is the double quotation. If you do a Google search with your keywords in quotations (like “this”), results have to show those exact words in the exact order you typed. But the fun doesn’t stop there. Below are a few of the most popular search operators you can use when trying to dig up more dirt on your competition:
Using Google Search Operators in Your Research
The following are my favorite ways to use the above operators when starting research for a client or competitor.
Site: Find Any Page Quickly
The site: operator is particularly useful when you want to find specific information on a company website. By typing site:companywebsite.com (no spaces!), Google will return a list of all indexed pages for that site only.
For example—let’s say you want to find the career page for a competitor to see if they are hiring. To do this, type in the following command:
site:redbamboomarketing.com Stephen Murphy OR Alberto Garcia
This achieves two things:
- It limits search results to the single domain you specify
- It finds all pages with the names Stephen Murphy or Alberto Garcia in them
You can do this to find contact information for key personnel on a website, locate hidden pages and avoid wasting time while wading through complex navigation trees.
Related: Find Similar Companies & Competitors
The related: operator does exactly what you would expect—it finds other websites with similar content throughout the web. This is particularly useful for activities such as competitive benchmarking, keyword research and sales prospecting.
Try the following command:
As you can see, the results are filled with marketing agencies that have a strong focus on digital and brand (though I think we give them a run for their money!)
Avoid False Positives with -Minus
Have you ever done a search for one topic and received completely different results? This is often the case when dealing with homonyms and brand names. For example, the word spring can refer to a season, a metal coil or a natural water sources.
Using the minus symbol before a search term will eliminate it from results, helping you refine your research by removing irrelevant results. For example, try the following command:
Now try this:
Notice how we were able to remove results from the restaurant named Red Bamboo so that we could focus in on yours truly? And you don’t have to stop at one minus symbol—you can type in a string to remove multiple results. Try the following search:
“marketing manager” NJ -careerbuilder.com -linkedin.com -indeed.com -glassdoor.com -monster.com -salary.com
This search will help you remove job boards from your search for New Jersey Marketing Manager jobs, helping you instead hone in on company websites with job listings.
Search Smarter with Operators
I’ll be the first to admit that there’s a learning curve involved when starting out with search operators. This is especially true when mixing and matching multiple operators to find customized results. It takes some logic, a little practice, lots of patience and sometimes a little luck to get it just right.
Once you master search operators however, they’ll become a powerful tool in your marketing and sales research kit.