What magical things do search engine optimization guru's see that the rest of us don't when they look at the SERPs?
How can using the tools that Google and its buddies give us for free help increase our rankings?
This article will begin to answer some of these questions, and more.
There's a lot people don't know about the search engines that could better help them solve common tasks ...if only they knew how.
Questions regarding how to use search engines to research and rank better for keywords and key phrases get asked quite a bit.
Today's search engines are powerful beasts. There was a time that if you wanted to find something on the Internet, you'd have to write your own program to "spider" the various links and then search the results. It could take hours, days, or even weeks.
But today's search engines take all the work out of it, and what used to take weeks can now be done in milliseconds!
Most of us use a search engine by typing in some text, and hitting enter. Amazingly, Google and its buddies almost always get us to where we need to go pretty darn quickly.
However, in the context of power surfers and people trying to understand SEO, some of us need to know a bit more.
While Google is definitely still the big dog on the block, there are at least two, and I'd argue three, search engines that should be considered. The four top search engines are:
Search engines are just another type of software. Software is made up of commands, some internal that you can't access, and others that are exposed.
Today I wanted to discuss some of the commands that you may not have known even existed, and that you didn't know you needed to know!
While some of these commands are merely for the curious, others are just downright helpful.
We'll start with the better known, and move toward the more obscure.
How to Get a Glimpse Behind the Curtain
For many of you this is going to be a bit rudimentary, but if you didn't know this, then it can be a wee bit o'magic.
You see that little downward facing arrow next to the search result in Google? That's a little drop down menu that holds options that Google has blessed us mere mortals with.
By clicking the drop down, the menu opens up to reveal contextually sensitive information having to do with that particular result.
The "Cached" item allows you to see into Google's cache. Meaning, what the page looked like the last time Google crawled it.
By clicking the "Cached" menu item you'll be taken to the cached version of the page as Google saw it, like the one below.
The important thing to note is that there are multiple perspectives. You are looking at the perspective "Full Version" (arrow "A") which is the rendered version of what Google "saw" as of March 3, 2017 (arrow "D") in this particular case.
Many times what you see here will be what you would see if you went to the "current page" (which you can get to by clicking the link above labeled "Current Page"). But if there'd been any changes between when Google crawled the page and what is on the page now, you'll see the differences in what it used to be vs what it is.
If a page is leveraging "black hat" techniques, like showing Google different "things" and real people different "things", it will be pretty obvious here in many cases.
By clicking the text only link (arrow B), you'll see a text-only version of the page as shown below.
The text only page will show all the text that made up the page without any styling, formatting, graphics or other non-textual information.
Unlike the formatted version of the page that can put anything anywhere within the layout regardless of where they show up in the page's structure, the text-only version will show where the text is actually defined from top to bottom.
For example, often sites will create menu items that show up at the top but are defined under the content. There are some that think that things that show up on a page at a higher position have more "weight" when ranking.
Finally, arrow C, the "view source" link shows the actual source code of the page as it existed (in this case as of March 3rd, 2017).
This is what Google actually sees when it crawls the page. For those of you that get squeamish when you view the "guts" of things, you should probably look away now.
Of note, sometimes you will not see the "Cached" menu item. In fact, sometimes you will not see the drop down menu indicator at all.
This means that Google currently has nothing to show for that page with regard to these insights.
It's possible, as the owner of the website, to instruct Googlebot (Google's spider that crawls the pages on the Web) to NOT store a cached version of a page.
There are legitimate reasons to do this, but often that too is a black hat technique. Because, as I indicated above, if you are showing Google one thing, and humans another, the cache can be a dead give away. So black hat SEO's often disable the caching function so you can't see their tactics.
It is commonly believed that shutting off the cache can cause Google, and other search engines, to rank those "dark" pages lower in the results.
Similar is for Websites, as Synonyms is for Words
The other menu item that is depicted above is the "Similar" link in the drop down menu, currently appearing under the "Cached" menu item.
The "similar" menu, when it shows up, is a pretty powerful tool. As its name suggests, it will show what Google thinks are similar pages to the one that you clicked the "similar" menu item on.
Let me repeat the really important part; ...it will show what Google thinks is similar.
The point here is that you can sometimes begin to see patterns. This means that by ranking for other things that Google thinks is similar, you can actually rank for your target keywords ...indirectly!
Finding similar sites and working to earn a legitimate link from those sites will go a long way toward helping theme your site with regard to a certain topic in Google's eyes.
Ponder that for a bit, let it sink in. When what I just said suddenly clicks ...whether it's now, or a month from now ...think back on these words.
Another thing to consider is the fact that your site may not have a "similar" menu item. If ever you see that it does, then you'll know what Google "thinks" it knows what your site is about.
If you do this and the sites that come up are NOT similar in the way you were going for, then you probably have more work to do, but it's still a good thing to have happen. 😉
The "similar" menu item is actually a visual representation of a search facet command called "related".
Using the command
related: is a great way to determine if Google has been able to really figure out what your site is about. If you can type related:myDomainName.com and Google brings back sites, then like the "similar" menu indicator, Google really thinks it knows what your site is about.
If the results are empty, then Google isn't sure enough about your site to be able to pull back "similar results".
It's a pretty safe bet that if you ever see any results for the related search, or the "similar" item shows up, you are likely being considered a budding authority site!
Free Custom Search for Your Site
This is another one that most will already be aware of, but it bears mentioning for those that have not have seen it before.
Determining if your site is in the Google, Bing, Yahoo, or Yandex search engines is another thing that is good to know, and often people will search for their domain name, which is great if you just want to know if you're "in the index".
But sometimes, it helps to know just how many of your pages have made it in, that's where this little gem comes in: The Site Search
A site search is simply typing the word "site", followed by a colon, and then your domain name (all without spaces).
So: site:myDomainName.com (or site:www.myDomainName.com if you're using the "www" sub-domain version of your site).
This will typically list most every page on your site that is in the index. One caveat is that it is not guaranteed that every page will show up. Google never guarantees anything. 😉
But that's not all, you can also type site:myDomainName.com some keywords here and it will search only your site for the text "some keywords here".
Search and Intent
Google does a pretty good job at determining the intent of users, and it better, that's it's primary job. You might think it's trivial, and you'd be wrong, it's far from trivial. Determining the intent of a human from just a few words is incredibly difficult to get right.
For instance, if I search for the keyword "cow", am I searching for the animal that we get hamburgers from? A female elk? Or maybe I mean "to cow", as in to cower or to make afraid?
That's a very simple example, but the gist is pretty apparent, when you type in something like "make money", are you interested in earning money, actually causing money to come into existence by printing it, and if it's the former; do you want to make money online, find a job, or become a contractor?
So, where am I going with this?
It's important to understand what Google is trying to do, and to appreciate how hard search engines actually have it so that you can start thinking about search in the right perspective.
That way, when you are researching keywords, you will begin to grasp and actually start to understand, the role of certain facets regarding what Google, and other search engines, use to rank sites. This will eventually better help you, help Google, understand the relevance of your site.
Your First Search Facet Command - info:
Before we dig deeper and get a bit more complicated, let's tie off what we just discussed with your first search command facet
Info is a quick way to inspect the various aspects that I've already outlined.
By typing info:https://myDomainName.com (if you don't use https, change it to http) you should get the site you are looking for, it's title and meta description, those two options we went over above, as well as a couple more.
There isn't a lot of profound uses for this command, but it's nice to get a quick snapshot of your site, or some other site that you're interested in.
Word Stemming and Synonyms
This brings us to doing some fine tuned searching in those facets we just talked about.
Start by doing a search in Google for the term making money online.
Before we go any further, I want you to notice something. The arrows up there in that capture point to something very important.
Notice that I searched for "make money online". Google tends to bold the words that match what you search for in the descriptions that come back.
Notice that the top arrow is pointing at the word "make", which exactly matches one of the keywords that I searched for, no surprise there.
But the next arrow points to the word "making". You see "make" is the word stem, to which affixes can be ...affixed. That means that when you type in make, Google automatically searches for many of the possible variations of make, making in this example.
But the really interesting one is the last arrow, it's pointing at the bold "earn"! That word is not even close in appearance to the word "make", although it is a synonym ...but only in the context of "make money".
If you searched for "make bread" and the word earn came up in a description it would NOT be bold. Unless your intent was to use the 1970's vernacular of "bread" which meant money back then ...sorry, I went off on a tangent, but that is another good example of user intent.
So what has this taught us?
I don't know about you, but if I were making a page about making money, I'd probably make certain that the word "make" and its stems, as well as the term "earn" was in the text.
But it also is an amazing example of how Google associates stems, their suffixes (and prefixes), as well as their synonyms, while in the context of the greater theme.
Think about this when you are focusing on your own keywords. Ask yourself, "what words are similar to mine that I could use in my title, description, headers and text to better describe what my page is about?"
One last tidbit for thought, at the time of this search, if you were to change the text you searched for from "make money online" to "making money online", you would notice that the word "earn" is NOT bold. 😉
When you are targeting keywords, do some deep searches. Notice what comes up bold. These are terms that you may not think about, but if you did, would likely naturally come up in a conversation about your topic. Use these types of insights to your advantage!
These types of words (and phrases) are the "filler" that if used well, will not only potentially increase your relevancy, but may also help you to become a better writer.
One last thought, and I need to stress this, I'm telling you about this not so that you can rank higher, but to help you think about what you are doing so that you can take deliberate steps to become more relevant to your readers.
If you become more relevant to your readers, and naturally include site search facets, you will be more successful and valuable to your audience, Google and the world.
Search Engine Keyword Research Facets Using Search Engine Commands
Understanding certain search facets is important, search commands can often reveal certain search related insights that aren't readily obvious to the casual surfer.
Some patterns are going to be obvious, some are going to be shrouded and difficult to see.
But keep in mind, especially when focusing on low competition keywords, that what is missing may actually be the edge that you need to rank well, and rank faster than the relatively little competition there is.
What I mean is, by studying high competition phrases, you can see where and how, people have focused on specific SEO and SEM facets.
Then when you go back to low competition keywords and phrases, look for what people aren't doing.
Search Engine Command Facet: inurl
We're going to use the same example as we used in the standard search above, "making money online".
But this time we're going to use a search engine command:
Type inurl:make money online into Google.
On the surface it looks like the exact same search, but if you look closely you'll notice a few things.
First, the stemming and synonym functionality seems to have been shut off. While the main terms are still bold, the stems and synonyms are not.
Second, every single result contains at least two of the terms in the URL.
Third, you'll notice that there are missing results. The one from quora.com and the Google+ results are gone.
That's actually kind of interesting, can you see why that might be?
The Google+ listing isn't much of a surprise, none of the terms being searched for are in the URL.
But the result from quora.com, it did have all three search terms in the URL, and it's nowhere to be found. Why?
Well, we can hazard a guess. It's the only site in the results that uses underscores instead of dashes. Fascinating isn't it?
You'll also notice that the number of results are greatly reduced. The first search had 87,300,000 results, there are only 8,170,000
Finally, you'll notice that the top 4 results are the same in both. That's some pretty good SEO positioning they've got going.
Search Engine Command Facet: allinurl
The next item up for discussion is
inurl's even more specific cousin,
The search engine command "
allinurl" means just what it sounds like.
inurl basically tells the big G that you don't care if all the terms you search for are in the URL, but at least some must be.
The more specific
allinurl means that all your terms must exist within the URL.
So, by typing: allinurl:make money online
You are going to only get results where those three terms exist somewhere in the URL of the page. If you wanted it to be even MORE specific, you could type allinurl:"make money online" in quotes and all three words would have to exist in that sequence, next to each other ...still in the URL.
Notice the results below...
Now there are only 6,240,000 results, and they all have the three terms in question in the URL somewhere.
Uh oh, you'll notice that the one that has steadily been in the fourth position (thepennyhoarder.com), is now gone. Of course, we're doing a pretty specific search, and it doesn't really mean anything.
But, by doing this level of research you can get a great idea of:
- What others are doing
- How Google uses different site facets to determine relevance
- You can find other sites that are quite likely in your niche, that you normally wouldn't have found
- Find sites that are probably focusing on some level of SEO
- Compare patterns between high competition and low competition terms
Some conclusions that we can likely draw, especially for low competition phrases is to notice patterns that might be missing by examining high competition phrases, like "making money online" ...I'm helping you draw some conclusions here, but you gotta think a little for yourself. 🙂
Search Engine Command Facet: intitle
Another command that is kind of interesting to play with is
intitle. It's the same concept as
inurl above, but the search facet that it focuses on is, you guessed it ...the title.
So let's take a look...
The first thing you may notice is what by now you likely expected, the moneypantry site is gone because it contains the word "earn" in the title. We've already established that the synonym logic is not at work while invoking commands, so it's just gone.
Now, isn't that interesting. Our friends from thebalance.com that have been in the number 3 spot, are suddenly gone, or rather, they're in position six. What's even stranger is that all three keywords are in the title!
Notice also that the globaltestmarket.com site appeared and it seems to have pushed thebalance.com down.
Even more odd is that thepennyhoarder.com is in position 3, and it doesn't have the keyword "online" anywhere in its title.
Upon careful observation one might infer that the sites that have floated up have simple titles with only a dash, where the others have an em-dash (a longer dash) "–" and a pipe character "|", while thepennyhoarder has parenthesis in the title.
It's almost as if Google wants to keep things simple by preferring dashes over things like pipes, and those over things like parenthesis. But you have to be really careful when drawing conclusions like that.
I'll leave it to you now to draw your own conclusions.
The top 2 results remain unchanged throughout all these examples thus far.
The number of results reported are quite a bit lower too at 1,040,000 results.
Search Engine Command Facet: allintitle
allintitle is to
allinurl is to
inurl. If you guessed that Google will give preference to those sites with ALL the keywords in the phrase being searched for being in the title, then you're catching on!
Oops, as you'd expect the two sites (pennyhoarder and savethestudent) that were doing pretty well, disappear and all the sites remaining have all the search terms in the title.
There might be one or two other interesting observations, but I'll leave you to spot those (if any).
Search Engine Command Facet: allintext
Finally, we have the
allintext command that by now, even if you didn't previously know it existed, you'll guess is telling Google that you want to see sites that contain all three words in the text of the page itself.
Yes, it's possible to rank for a keyword without having the word anywhere in the title, URL, description, or even the text of the page ...believe it or not. We aren't going to get into that here, because it's mostly outside of your control anyway.
Of the site facets discussed, this may be the least helpful to find patterns. But everything that can lend some insight is something worth knowing.
One thing you should notice is that the results are perhaps not surprisingly, almost identical to just searching for the keyword phrase "make money online".
In fact they are identical except that one site is missing, the quora.com site is gone and in its place is globaltestmarket.com.
I'm going to let you draw your own conclusions about that.
Some Final Thoughts
If you didn't know about search engine commands and search/site facets before, then likely this post has taught you a little bit about some of the mechanics that you didn't even know you wanted to know.
On the other hand, if you already knew all the mechanics, then the hope is that my high level, and somewhat simplified, analysis got your creative juices flowing.
One important thing to mention, is that whenever you are analyzing a keyword term or phrase, always try to start and finish your analysis during the same time-frame.
The reason for this is because Google and the other search engines are constantly in a state of flux.
You see, whenever you do any kind of search, Google is taking into consideration countless variables including where you are coming from, and which servers closest to you are going to be able to fill your request faster.
That means that it's possible that if you do a search, then come back a couple hours later, and do the same search you might be on a different server, or maybe something unbeknownst to all but the big G has changed.
As a result, so has your baseline and any other information you might have gathered. So try not to get interrupted when analyzing results.
One last warning. When you are using these commands, Google may throw up a "captcha type" page asking you to identify things. It's not a big deal, they're constantly battling bots and other automatons and they are insuring that you are not one. However, do take their captcha's seriously and work to get them right.
I've tried to keep this post somewhat simple, while giving you enough information to prompt new search optimization adventures.
To give you a brief review of what we just went over, here's the short list:
- Cached pages
- Similar (also known as the command
- Site search (also known as the command
- Search facet command
- Stemming and synonyms
- Search facet command
- Search facet command
- Search facet command
- Search facet command
- Search facet command
Comments and Questions about Search Engine Tips
Do you have any comments, questions, want to say hi or share your own thoughts about your own analyses? Take a beat or two and comment using the form below. I always reply!