By Tim Youngblood
Search string modifiers are useful for finding things on Google and other search engines, especially if you need to do some online promotion!
In this tutorial, we’ll go over some of the basic search modifiers you can use in order to find more beneficial web pages while eliminating unwanted results. I will be using game review sites as an example, but search modifiers are helpful for just about everyone. Seriously, it’s 2018, why don’t we teach this in schools?! Anyway, let’s dive into these search modifiers and put them to use in an exercise!
Google Search String Modifier: Quotations
Normally, when performing Google searches, people will type in a phrase and call it good. Let’s say that I put the following sentence into the Google search bar: submit an indie game for review.
If you look at the screenshot above, you should notice two things. Number one, there are almost 4 million results. Number two, while the top search result has the words submit, indie game, and review, you will not see that as an entire sentence. This top result is Google’s best guess at what you’re looking for and is pretty helpful. It even has some extra suggestions for other posts that might be helpful. This is a great place to start, but this brought up almost 4 million results and less than half of the results on page 1 are web pages that you can actually submit games for review on. I don’t want to surf through 4 million pages, so let’s see if we can narrow our search by trying “submit an indie game for review” in quotations.
If you look at the screenshot above, you should notice the obvious. My search string was too specific and I ended up with only one result. There aren’t many situations where you will search for something in all quotes. This exercise was done to illustrate the two extremes of using Google search. What we’re looking for is somewhere in between, more search results with a higher success rate. In this case, our success rate is defined as a web page where you can submit your game for review.
Google Search String Modifiers: AND, OR, and NOT
On the surface, these both look pretty self-explanatory, but these words are in all caps for a reason! Typing the “and” in regular lower-case letters makes it populate the search bar like any other word. The same goes for “or” and “not” in lower-case letters.
By putting these words in all capital letters, they take on the same properties as Boolean logic, more commonly known as logic gates, which is essentially computing in its most basic form. Don’t worry, you don’t need to know the inner workings of computers to become a proficient Googler. Instead, we’ll use some simple Venn diagrams! To keep things simple, and because I was too lazy to make my own diagrams, we’ll use peanut butter and jelly as an example.
This diagram was made by Slippery Rock University on LibGuides
Fortunately, the diagram above does a better job of explaining the concept than I can. The one thing it leaves out for Google search is that you can use a minus symbol (-) instead of NOT. Saving two keystrokes may not sound very significant, but the NOT function is the most commonly used Boolean search function. Trust me on this one, it adds up.
Google Search String Modifiers: inurl, intext, intitle
Google crawls a lot of different page elements, but the most common are the URL, text, and, page title. The in is the command to make sure your results have a certain word in that page element. So if I want a web page with the word review in the title, I can add intitle: review to my search string. The same pattern applies to inurl and intext. Now let’s put what we’ve learned into an exercise!
Using Google Search String Modifiers to Find Game Review Sites
Let’s say that I developed a game for PC that I want to be reviewed. I try searching for “pc game” AND review. I view my results and notice that most of them are popular sites like PC Gamer and IGN who receive hundreds of requests for game reviews a day (Maybe thousands?). I try adding “indie game” to my search to focus more on indie games so the review websites are more likely to try my game out.
I still want sites that emphasize PC games, so I change my search string to “PC game” OR “indie game” AND review. I find a lot of good websites, but now I want to avoid having to scroll through the entire site to get to the page where I submit reviews. I notice that a lot of these review submission pages have the word submit in their URLs. I can focus on web pages that have the word submit in their URLs by changing my search to “PC game” OR “indie game” AND review inurl:submit.
This search string gives me some good results, but a lot of my search results are for console and mobile game reviews and I don’t need those sites. I can further narrow my search results using the NOT modifier. I can remove unwanted keywords like android, mobile, and iOS by putting the minus symbol in front of each unwanted keyword and adding them to the end of my search query. So my search string is going to end up looking something like this:
“PC game” OR “indie game” AND review inurl:submit -android -mobile -ios
Now that you know the basics, you can play around with search modifiers to find whatever you’re looking for. If you’re trying to find something and having trouble, let me know in the comments and I’ll help you make a search string!