Using the site: Operator on Google

If you spend enough time using Google to search for things, you learn a thing or two.

One trick I want to share with you is using the site: operator to quickly find keywords on a particular web site.

This can be particularly useful when performing search engine optimization work on a website and checking to see if the site contains a certain keyword or key phrase, among other things (you’re only limited by your imagination!)

You might even start feeling a bit like an SEO ninja after you get the hang of using it! Let’s get started.

How to use the site: Operator

Google offers an array of operators that assist searchers better filter the results that are returned to them from a search query.

One such operator is the site: operator.

By beginning your search query with site: followed directly by the address for a website domain, Google will return to you only pages from that domain.

Using the site: operator in a Google search query
Using the site: operator in a Google search query

Note: It is important that there are not spaces after the colon!

Now, the results page will only show pages that belong to the website domain tedforddoors.com.

Results returned from a search query using the site: operator
Results returned from a search query using the site: operator

Using the site: operator to find keywords

To take it a step further, let’s use the site: operator to look for keywords on our target site.

In order to identify if a website contains a certain keyword we simply add that keyword onto our existing search query while wrapping it in quotations.

A search query using the site: operator plus a quoted search term
Quotations indicate an exact match keyword, so only that phrase, as written in quotes, will return a positive match.

By using quotation marks around the keyword phrase garage door opener repair, I am telling Google to look for only exact matches of that keyword phrase within the site specified.

If Google can’t find an exact match, it will do it’s best to return you the next best results. In my case, because tedforddoors.com does not contain the exact search phrase garage door opener repair, Google will return this:

Google returns approximate matches with a caveat:

Google will display related query matches when an exact match cannot be found
When Google can’t find an exact match, it will perform the search query as if quotations were not used.

The returned results will contain fragments of my quoted phrase as found throughout the site’s pages.

Using the site: operator to find Exact Matches

So what happens if the site does contain the keyword? Isn’t that the whole point, to see if a website is targeting a particular keyword?

Let’s see if a competitor – grdoors.ca, in this example – is indexed for that same exact search query.

I will simply swap on the domain name tedforddoors.com with grdoors.ca

A competitor with the exact keyword phrase match

Bingo! Now you see one direct result from the domain grdoors.ca as well as that exact search phrase bolded in the results description.

Conclusion

Using the site: operator, we can limit our searches to a particular domain. Combined with a keyword or key phrase, we can quickly discover if a particular keyword or phrase exists on a website.

How do you plan on using the site: operator in your own day to day SEO?

Leave a comment below!

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