Use Google Search Operators to Pinpoint Your SEO Competition

October 1st, 2012          5 Comments

So what are Google search operators? let’s say you’ve been hard at work, baking up the end all be all keyword master list for a new SEO project. You’ve compiled all the data Google’s keyword tool can dish out. You’ve got data for phrase searches, exact searches, broad searches. You’ve uncovered loads of juicy looking keywords with tons of search volume you’re just dying to start rocking and rolling on optimizing. Now what? How do you decide which keywords to start with, and which ones are even worth your while?

Enter Google search operators. Google search commands are an amazing way SEO ninjas like you can compile data relative to keyword competition, right from within the Google search engine itself. I bet you never thought to look there for keyword research, did you? The best part about it is the cost…Free ninety-free. Nothing to download, nothing to install. Let’s dive in.

Google Search Operators for Keyword Competition

While there are a ton of very cool Google advanced search operators, for keyword research, we will focus primarily on just a few of them.

Title Competition

intitle search operator SEO
The intitle: operator serves to find any existing sites within the index containing a certain string of words within the page title. How you input that string behind the operator will display different search results. For instance, the search intitle:”guide to SEO” will result in a list of all webpages in the index that have the exact phrase “guide to seo” in the page title. A search for intitle:SEO SEM will result in any webpages in the index that have the word seo, sem or both within a page title.

Along with the intitle operator, you can use the allintitle: tag. This will allow you to find webpages containing all the words preceding the Google search command in the page title. For example, a search for allintitle:seo guide will return any webpages containing both the words seo and guide within the title tag, for instance pages titled “SEO Guide”, “Guide to SEO”, and “SEO the Ultimate Guide” will show as results.inurl search operator SEO
Similar to the intitle: operator, this tag allows you to find keywords within a particular URL. So, like with titles, we can find any site with the words “SEM” or “SEO” in the URL by entering the string inurl:SEM SEO.

URL Competition

We can also find URLs containing the string “guide to SEO” by entering inurl:”guide to SEO” and urls containing both “guide” and “seo” in the URL by entering allinurl:guide SEO.inanchor search operator SEO
Just as we found with both inurl: and intitle: we can use the inanchor: and allinanchor: search operators to find sites with particular keywords and phrases within anchor text.

Content Competition

Generally when a page is linking using keyword rich anchor text, chances are that page might be well optimized around those keywords.intext search operator SEO
While a little less clear in terms of competition signals, the intext: and allintext: operators can be used to find webpages containing certain keywords or keyphrases within the actual content of the page.

Typically you will find these numbers to be quite large and unclear as to the actual competitive nature of the keyword or string, due to a slew of pages that may have contain thousands of words but only producing your keyword 1/1000. However, finding a very low number returned in these results with this Google search trick can indicate an exceptionally juicy keyword that may have little to no competition.

Identifying the Actual Competition

When presented with results using one of our above Google search commands, just looking at the indicated “About X,XXX Results” at the top of the search page can be very misleading. Quite regularly you will find for many keywords, the results shown at the top of the first page may be in the thousands, yet the results may only be a few hundred.

first page search estimate SEO

A great way to find the exact number is to navigate to the last page of the results (once you’ve done your Google advanced search operator of course). Yes, I know this may seem like the most tedious task known to man. That’s why I have a Google search trick to save you the precious time that could be spent stalking your friends on Facebook. First, head to the 10th page in the search results. Then locate the search result URL in the browser navigation and find where it says “start=90”. Change this 90 to 990 and hit enter.

actual search results SEO

This should hopefully land you on the last page of the search results. If it doesn’t, this is probably a keyword left for later. You should now see a more accurate count of your keyword competitors.

Hopefully with this newfound knowledge of Google search operators, you’ll now have another weapon to add to your keyword research arsenal. Have fun and happy hunting ninjas.

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About Josh Patterson

Josh is a young entrepreneur & inbound marketer from Baltimore, has an unhealthy obsession with tacos, a love of craft beer and is known to occasionally grow a pretty mean mustache. Founder @Steamloft.   


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 5 Comments on Use Google Search Operators to Pinpoint Your SEO Competition

gudipudi says: November 13, 2012 at 11:54 am

with instant search on , i doubt if we can alter the start number in the address bar.

joshpatterson says: November 13, 2012 at 6:14 pm

The number of results seems to be pretty accurate on instant search for normal queries, however when using advanced search operators, the numbers are sometimes very inaccurate. Give it a shot and let me know what you find out.

chrisitian says: July 23, 2013 at 11:54 am

I got a little confused, I mean I got the thing that going to the 10th page works and the results changed with (allintitle: “vuelos a cancun”) from about 32,000 to “page 8 of 74 results” … what does 74 means?

Thank you

Josh Patterson says: July 24, 2013 at 4:08 pm

Hey Christian,

So going to page 10 is the first step. But then you have to alter the string in the URL bar. Find where it says “start=90″ and change it to 990. That should get you to the very final page, thus the last results, giving you the exact number.


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