Recently someone was asking me about Google’s advanced operators and ways they can be used (for fun and profit). Ok. Why not right?
First off let’s get past the terminology;
- Google Hack ““ this is using advanced queries to mine for deeper information out on the web.
- Google Dork ““ finding sensitive information that DORKs leave open to Google on the web.
And of course WHY do we care? Simple, it is something that any good search geek worth their salt should know, understand and utilize. The can be handy for more than a few aspects of this thing of ours and today we’ll look at some.
Being a Google Dork.
First off we’ll look at some of the more entertaining aspects of Google Dorking. It should be noted that these are for educational purposes and I will be leaving MANY of the more eggregious ones from the list. You see, there are some REAL scary ones that hackers and other nefarious types employ. I ain’t giving anyone more ideas than is required to get the jist of things here ok? Thanks… moving along.
To give you the idea of what kind of goodies fall into the DORK category, try some of these;
- "not for public release"
- "not for public release" inurl:edu
- "not for distribution" confidential filetype:pdf
- "not for distribution" confidential, travel, filetype:pdf
Getting the idea here? Most certainly some of these fine folks probably didn’t plan on having these documents indexed by Google. Ya know what I mean? How about unsecured analytics data? We could do things such as;
- florida intitle:"statistics of" "advanced web statistics"
- florida intitle:"statistics of" "advanced web statistics" inurl:.edu
- keyphrases intitle:"statistics of" "advanced web statistics" inurl:.edu
- intitle:"Usage Statistics for" "Generated by Webalizer"
- intitle:"Usage Statistics for" "Generated by Webalizer" inurl:florida
- florida intitle:"Usage Statistics for" "Generated by Webalizer"
You could even search images – inurl:/webalizer/ intitle:usage statistics + hosting
Great fun for the whole family right? He he. For more reading be sure to check out the; the Google Hacking DataBase – And remember, this information is out here so that people are aware of it. Yes, it CAN be used in some nefarious ways, but that’s not my intent with this adventure.
Anyway, let’s move along shall we?
Useful SEO operators
Now that we’ve looked at the more nasty elements, let’s get into some Google hacking for SEO geeks shall we?
This one is somewhat controversial, but worth looking at. Once upon a time we had what was known as the KEI scoring set. Essentially you took the total searches for a term (from Google PPC? Not sure) and divided it by the competition, which most folks used the total number of results returned. Total bollocks IMO. Anyway, while not perfect we can get a sense of the competitiveness of the space using this approach;
- Straight search; [SEO training] – 13 200 000 results
- Exact match; [“SEO training”] – 2 970 000 results
- Title element; [allintitle:SEO training] – 671 000 Results
- URL elements; [allinurl: SEO Training] – 493 000 Results
Of course to me, you still need to dig into the top 10-20, but that’s another story. I simply wanted to give a few examples of data sets you can dig up. If you perform this on a few terms you’re targeting, some patterns do emerge. The main problem of course is that Google doesn’t return hard numbers for the results and thus makes this kind of data wonky at best.
Once again, the goal here is to get you thinking.
Another obvious area for using Google hacking and advanced operators is for link building. I shall defer to Garrett French shortly here, because he has a TON of material on this, but to get you into the head-space, here’s a few ideas;
Let’s say we wanted to use it to find some directories (a fairly normal part of the game), we’d use something like this to get a list without the effort of tracking down various posts;
directory filetype:xls inurl:SEO OR report filetype:xls inurl:SEO
Maybe we’re looking for guest posting ops? Then we’d want to find sites that have things like;
For more, check out any of these most awesome posts from GF!
- B2B Link Building Queries for Industry Engagers and Content Marketers
- 25 Social Media Link Building Queries for Content Promotion
- 70 online pr queries press release link builders
- 124 ecommerce link building queries
You can even use them for local goodiness as noted in this post from Garrettt and of course the Local Citation Finder from Darren Shaw, which is based on these concepts;
And hey, those of you that dream about EDU links can always try things like this;
[add-links, last-updated 2010 inurl:.edu]
But that’s not really my style, so I won’t go down that road any further. It’s simply another example to get you thinking about it all. M’kay?
Of course another area of SEO that we can employ Google operators to is keyword-research. Let’s say I have identified a competitor site and want to see what related terms (to a core keyword) they are using a lot, we can do something like this;
[site:staging.searchnewscentral.com link *]
This uses the wild card operator and brings back terms (from the targeted site) with the core non-modified keyword in it. Maybe, during the KW research process, we are after content ideas. We might use something like this;
You can also use the synonym operator (~) in about the same way as the wildcard to get a sense of what related terms can be used in a given space. Or both together even such as;
Another handy, but not well known, operator is AROUND. Here’s a snippet from a recent post by Google’s Daniel Russel;
[ "Jerry Brown" AROUND(9) "tea party" ] will find you a bunch of hits illustrating the relationship between Jerry Brown (running for governor of California) and the Tea Party. (It’s strained, at best.)
The AROUND operator is a handy trick to use when you’re looking for a combination of search terms when one dominates the results, but you’re interested in the relationship between two query terms.
Essentially, if you’re searching on topic, but getting a limited set of results for part of the query, this will help you tighten that up. Compare the two;
"david harry" AROUND(3) "Google"
While there aren’t a ton of direct uses for KW research, it can be handy for researching subsequent content ideas. Play with it!
Tracking an industry with Google Alerts
Another interesting area that most folks don’t know, or many that I’ve talked to about it, is the fact you can put most of these into Google Alerts. Yup, tis true. Many times I will set them up with the AND / OR statements to bring back plenty of goodiness which can be used for blogger outreach or content generation ideas.
Here’s a few simple examples;
- ["SEO Dojo" OR SEOdojo OR "SEO Training Dojo" ]
- [vacation AND Toronto OR Ontario OR “Southern Ontario”]
You get the idea. For the most part any query string that you can come up with can be used in Google Alerts. Try it out, can be a very handy tool in the box.
That’s a wrap
And there you have it. If you haven’t been aware of or using advanced operators maybe it’s time you did. The main goal here today was really just to make peeps aware of some of the more interesting aspects of what can be done with operators. As with most things, only by digging in and playing around with them will you start to glean some nuggets of goodiness. I’ve never been one to give a person the fish, mm’kay?
If you have any of your own uses or ideas on how they can be used, be sure to drop them into the comments and I’ll add them into the post. Until then… Happy hacking!
- A guide to Twitter Dorking
- Keyword Research with Google Only: No Other Tools Needed
- Google Advanced Operators (Google Guide)
- Advanced Operators Reference (Google Guide)
- Goodies from Google
- Around has always been around
- More from Google
A Huge Thanks to Garrett French for helping out on this post – much luv bro!
Thanks for the kind shout out Dave!
I’ve written a bit recently on organizing your hacks more effectively:
I hope this helps folks make their queries more “portable” and useful across projects and campaigns.
Hah! I did enjoy reading this”¦ except #3″¦ just because I feel like you should be shaving by age 20″¦ unless you happen to be a special case, slow developer”¦ but even so.
Some great Google hacks here. Very informative post!
Straight search: [SEO training] – 13,200,000 results. Really?!?! According to whom? Google? I did some research and found out that Google is a big fat liar.
Very interesting, not sure I totally understand all of what you are saying to be honest but I think I will go and have a play, see what confidential material I can find.
This is a great list! I am rather new to SEO, and I can use all the tips I can get. Thanks for the list of Google hacks!!
I like that “not for distribution’ 🙂
Excellent list of advanced operators. You can use those in conjunction with the Page Rank sorter plugin for Firefox to make light work of sorting all sorts of information. 😛
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