Using Regular Expressions (Operators)
Just like math has operators for plus, minus, and so on to facilitate operations when you combine numbers, Google has word and sign operators to facilitate combing keywords or phrases in their search box. We discussed the AND operator prior, but there are a great many more than can help you find what you are looking for in a laser-like fashion, helping to speed up the entire writing process.
Let’s go over a few symbolic operators for you to get to know and work with:
- The “+” sign — In Google, the plus sign tells the search engine that the word is necessary for the search. This is important because Google ignores certain words to speed up search results; words like a, the, an, at, for and more. So, if you are searching for a book title, for instance, and want to see articles about The Search For Truth, then you will either have to put a plus sign next to those stop words of the and for or you will have to put the entire phrase in quotes to signify that you want an exact match for the entire phrase. So, you could type into the search box: +The Search +For Truth or “The Search For Truth” and get what you want. However, if you just type in The Search For Truth, your results will ignore the word The and For in the majority of results.
- The “-” sign — This one works in the opposite way to the plus sign. Instead of forcibly including the word next to the sign, the minus sign forcibly excludes any articles with that word from showing up. It’s a great way to narrow down the topic search results so that it becomes very highly defined. It works for things where marketers also may be hogging the first few pages with extraneous results that are meaningless to your query. For instance, say you are looking for cell phones, but don’t want to include Nokia, your query would look like this: “cell phones” -Nokia.
- The “|” sign – This sign will include all the synonyms of the word that it is placed next to. For instance, if you wanted to find articles with different nuances for the word fast, you would add the tilde sign next to it and it would add in articles that might reference quick, rushed, speedy, and so on. In that case, your query for fast games would look like this: | fast games.
There are other types of operators, as we discussed earlier, that come in text format (instead of symbol format). These we’ll discuss here.
- Site: – This operator is used to tell Google that you are searching within a specific site only. So, if you want only articles about acne from a specific acne site, you can use the following query: acne site: www.youracnesite.com.
- Allintext: – Google will try to return results for a set of keywords, but if it finds some and not others it will still return the page if that’s the best it can do. In order to tell it that you want only those articles with all those keywords in it, then you use the allintext: operator. So, for example, say you want to include articles with TV’s that are cheap and only from Sony. Then your query would be allintext: “TV’s” | cheap Sony. It’s also good for keeping out search results that aren’t text-based articles.
So, now you are starting to get a view of how to combine the different operators to really get the exact search results you need. In the above example, you used three different ways of redefining the search query. You used the allintext: and the | and the quotes. If you hadn’t put cell phones within quotes, you might have gotten something to do with cell batteries or cell towers. If you didn’t add the | next to the word cheap, you wouldn’t necessarily pick up all the different synonyms of cheap and yet, you asked the query to return only those articles with these keywords. So, if the | sign weren’t there, and instead the article talked about inexpensive cell phones from Nokia, the query would have ignored it. With the | sign, it will pick it up as being allintext too.
- Allintitle: – This is similar to allintext, except the focus is on the title of the page, not the text of the page. So, if you want only web pages with some of your phrase or keyword within the title to be returned, you would use this operator. For instance, if you were looking for articles on exotic birds and want that as part of the title, your query would look like: allintitle:”exotic birds” or allintitle: exotic birds. The first would mean the words in the title would have to show up together and the next one means they can be anywhere in the title.
- Allinurl: – This is also similar to the last two, except the focus is to find every website URL with the specific search terms you specify. It would work exactly as the above example, except using allinurl: instead of allintitle:.
There are many more operators that one can learn and use when doing Google researching. These are just a few of them, and this series doesn’t have sufficient space to include them all. However, the intent is the same: To refine the search results so that you spend less time weeding through page after page of Google search results that aren’t relevant to your research. For that, we have one final word of advice to weed out the wheat from the chaff, and that’s the website called “Give Me Back My Google.” This type of service is necessary as the Internet grows and more and more marketers flood the library with what essentially comes out to be spam. Fortunately, if you go to http://www.givemebackmygoogle.com you can use that service to help eliminate many marketing sites that flood the search engine with results that are worthless to writing articles; sites like PriceRunner, NexTag or other price comparison sites.