How to Use Basic Google Search String Modifiers

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!

Tips and Tricks for Free Indie Game Marketing and Promotion

By Tim Youngblood

Every year, hundreds of games go unnoticed and developers abandon them because they either couldn’t make it profitable or nobody downloaded them. Whether you’re hoping to turn your game development into a full-time job or you’re just doing it for fun, inevitably, you will need to promote it.

I won’t be doing a traditional step by step guide, pretty much every “indie game marketing guide” ever will tell you that it’s a good idea to have a website, a trailer, and use social media. Instead, I’m focusing on some lesser known tricks as well as some things I learned not to do when promoting video games. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but hopefully, you can glean some information that marketing bloggers won’t tell you!

 

Make Sure Your Game Has a Playable Demo

A few years ago, I was helping my friends develop a game called Steve the Alright Knight. The game had an amazing trailer and generated a lot of buzz early on, but people ended up losing interest because we didn’t have a playable demo when we started promoting the game. At this point, game review sites lost interest because there was no game to play and pulled out of investing in the Kickstarter campaign without some tangible evidence that the game would ever be finished. I would say if there’s an order of operations for promoting video games, having a playable demo should come before any other marketing activity.

 

People loved the trailer and concept but got bored when there was no demo to go along with it.
 

Prepare a Media Kit

People are lazy by nature and gamers are probably even lazier. Some game review sites get hundreds of requests for games to be reviewed or covered every day. A great way for your game to stand out in the crowd is to do that staff writer’s job for them. In this case, I’m talking about having a media kit that has everything they need to write an article. This means having a synopsis of your game, media assets like screenshots and GIFs, as well as a cinematic or gameplay trailer. The best place to keep your media kit is on your website, that way you can just link to it instead of having to upload a bunch of files into every email you send to prospective coverage. Having a press kit page on your website will also make filling out contact and submission forms on websites go faster.

At this point, you have all of your media assets in one place and can proceed to send an ass-load of emails. This is all pretty straightforward and easy to do but there are few things you can do to make the game reviewer’s job even easier. Image size, file type, and file size are actually very important for online content. As someone who’s been an editor for a few websites, I can tell you that reformatting and resizing images are some of the most tedious tasks for people publishing articles online. Generally speaking, most websites prefer JPEGs over PNGs and try to keep their images under 200 kilobytes. Most featured images are 600 x 400 pixels (this is the image that shows up on a website’s blogroll, in Google search results, and on social media feeds when an article is shared). I also recommend uploading your trailer to YouTube because YouTube videos are the easiest to embed in an article. Reviewers won’t know how good a game is until they play it, and there’s a good chance that they’ll never play it if the pertinent information and media assets for your game are too difficult to find or format.

 

This is the daily life of an online editor. 

 

Should You Run a Kickstarter or Indiegogo?

If you think you can run a crowdfunding campaign to raise enough money to quit your job and go into full-time game development, you’re going to have a bad time. I tried that a few years ago and it did not go well. However, even though our game came nowhere near meeting its funding goal, I would still do it again (Although with a much lower funding goal). Kickstarter and Indiegogo are websites that get a ton of traffic. Even better, both websites have very little editorial oversight, meaning that it is easier to get your game shown on these websites than it is to get your game covered on a game review or news site.

 

We jumped the shark a little trying to upgrade our simple survival game (Defend Your Dojo) into an MMO.

 

That being said, the money certainly doesn’t hurt. I recommend setting a very low funding goal (like less than $2,000) to get something that will end up being crucial for the release. For example, if you’re making a multiplayer game, there’s a good chance that you will need server space. Even simple HTML games hosted on a website take additional server space beyond the bare minimum hosting package (We cheaped out on hosting for Defend your Dojo and that game crashes all the time). Maybe there’s a tool that will allow you to complete your game faster. You can even use this money to hire an agency to help with game promotion. If you are seeking money, it’s important to itemize where exactly this money is going. Don’t just say “we’re making a game please give us money.”

 

Make a Trailer but Don’t Overthink It

Earlier I said that people are naturally lazy. This also applies to people who are previewing games. Your game’s trailer is likely going to be the first thing that an internet user sees, and will likely be the determining factor and whether or not they want to learn more about your game. You may have the best game ever made and equally good documentation for it in written text, but the unfortunate reality of the situation is that video is currently the preferred form of content for internet users.

That being said, spending a ton of time making a trailer cuts into time spent developing your game. Most websites are more concerned with whether or not you have a trailer than the quality of trailer itself. What they’re really looking for is a Youtube video that they can lazily embed in an article. They aren’t expecting a blockbuster cinematic trailer while your game is still in development. They just want to get a feel for how the game plays. The gameplay trailer below was just some gameplay footage with various items shown that was screen captured through a mobile device to show how the touch controls work. It only took a few hours to put it all together.

 

This trailer was no Citizen Kane, but it did its job. (Look how easy it is to embed a Youtube video!)
 

Social Media Tricks

Even if you loathe social media, it’s pretty much impossible to market something on a low budget without it. Fortunately, the indie game community is probably one of the best and most supportive online communities in social media. On Twitter, you will be amazed at how much support you get when you use hashtags like IndieGame and IndieDev (#indiegame #indiedev). There are also several Facebook groups for indie game development and promotion!

There are a lot of nuances to social media, but one general rule is more posts will eventually net a bigger following. Fortunately, you can make an ass-load of posts without having to be glued to your computer or phone. I highly recommend using a tool like HootSuite, which allows you to schedule social media posts to go out at a later time over multiple social media platforms.

 

hashtags data by hashtagify.me

 

Prepare to Send Lots of Emails

Seriously, we are talking hundreds of emails. Sending the emails is the easy part, you can use a mail merge or a tool like MailChimp to make a nice template that can be distributed to hundreds of email addresses. The harder part is finding said hundreds of email addresses. There are marketing Services who already have collected hundreds of emails and can do a mail merge for you, but if you’re on a tight budget there’s a good chance you’ll have to find them yourself.

 

Search modifiers will become your new best friend

 

If you want to collect email addresses yourself, you’re going to need to learn how to use search modifiers in Google. Fortunately, we have a Google search modifiers tutorial. I’ll go into that deeper in the tutorial, but the basic concept is to use a Google sheet or Excel spreadsheet and copy/paste the email addresses you find on websites that review and cover games. One common search string/modifier is “video games inurl: submit”. This means that you’re looking for a website about video games and the specific page you’re looking for has the word submit in its URL. This will usually lead you to a contact form or an email address that lets you submit content (That press kit page on your website will help with those contact forms). There are a lot of different ways to modify your Google searches to find exactly what you’re looking for.

*This is by no means a comprehensive list so if you have any tips and tricks to help out the community please leave them in the comments!

*Featured image from Wikimedia Commons