Most SEOs and webmasters are rather adept at finding information they need on the leading search engines. While some of this is the result of years of trial and error in entering searches, as well as a deep understanding of how Google indexes and ranks information, there are shortcuts that any of us can use.
This post will review some of the basic search strings that you can submit to better hone in on the exact results you are seeking.
Broad Match Search String
If you have not yet read my previous blog post about Match Types for Google AdWords, take a quick moment to review that post before digging into this part.
The first and simplest search string to know is what most of us use all the time. In this type of search, you simply type in several words that are likely to pull up the information you choose. Google looks for information containing all of the words you type in, so feel free to remove any “slugs” or extraneous terms that might confuse the SERPs.
Search For This: Pizza Dallas
SERPs Will Include: Sites that rank for both “Pizza” and “Dallas”
Exact Match Search String
This is one where you need to be sure to keep the syntax for AdWords and SEO separate. Whereas you would use quotes for phrase match and brackets for exact match in AdWords, you simply use the quotes for exact match in Organic searches.
Search For This: “The Insidious Executive”
SERPs Will Include: Sites that rank for the precise, verbatim text “The Insidious Executive”
Negative Match Search String
I mentioned negative match types in the blog post referenced above. You can do a similar thing with organic searches.
In the case where you want to search for one keyword, but only find results that do not include another keyword, you use negative match. To do so, you add a minus sign in front of the word you want to filter out.
Search For This: Taps -Kitchen
SERPs Will Include: Sites that rank for “Taps” but do not rank for the word “Kitchen”
Either / Or Match Search String
Sometimes you are not really sure of what you need to find, but you do know that the answer is one of a limited number of options. For example, if you have an unknown medical condition that causes a specific symptom, you might look for that symptom OR a condition that you think it might be.
Or maybe you want to learn more about what is better between PCs and Macs. For that situation, the below is what you should expect to find using Either/Or Match.
Search For This: PC OR Mac
SERPs Will Include: Sites that rank for either “PC” or “Mac”, or both terms
Search String for Word Combination Variations
With all of the social media, user contributed content, and wide range of style guides in today’s digital world, we often find that combination words are spelled differently in every place we look. Sometimes they are one word, some times they are two words, and some-times they are hyphenated. Only one may be grammatically correct, but this is a search engine. If a page is good and relevant, it will rank regardless of small idiosyncrasies like this one.
To be sure you see all possibly relevant results, err on the side of the hyphen. Here is what I mean:
Search For This: sugar-free
SERPs Will Include: Sites that rank for either “sugar free”, “sugar-free”, or “sugarfree”
These are five of the simplest search strings you can learn, and each of them will serve up completely different SERPs. Take a few minutes to play around with any of these that are new to you, and start using them today. It will save you time, effort, and frustration as you familiarize yourself more with each of them.
This is only the smallest tip of the iceberg. There are literally hundreds of shortcuts at our disposal for different uses on Google. We are pulling together a cheat sheet for the most common ones and plan to make that available later this year. Check back, and enjoy the new tricks!