Do you remember the days when searching online took longer, was cumbersome and you never quite found what you were looking for? Precious minutes would pass as you continued to comb the internet for what you needed.
Fast forward to today and virtually everything is at your fingertips, within a few short keystrokes. It’s amazing to think about the advancements giants like Google and Bing have made to improve the way we find things online. Coupled with our own search abilities getting better and better, searching online today is faster than ever.
There are tricks to the trade that can help you search even faster! And in today’s article we’re going to help you master a few of them.
What Are Search Commands?
Search commands are symbols or words used when you search via a search engine like Google or Bing to make your search more precise. These additional words or symbols are appended to your search. They give the search engine a better idea of what type of information should show in the search results.
Advanced Search Commands allow us to better instruct a search engine as to what we seek to find. There are a wide array of search commands, some of which are listed below. We’ll examine these search commands more in depth later in the article.
- “ “ Exact
- – Exclude
What is the difference between Search Commands and Advanced Search?
Two ways exist to search more precisely on most search engines. For the sake of this article we’re going to focus on Google. In Google, symbols can be used to search and advanced searching tools are available as well.
A search command is entered into the search box like the one listed below. The symbols or text are entered here, along with the keyword of what you’re looking for.
Advanced search most often refers to the use of advanced tools, an option located beneath the search bar. Illustrated below, search tools allow you to search in a more advanced format based on time or specifying the type of results you seek (verbatim or all).
Introduction to Search Commands
The text commands we’ll cover today apply specifically to search engines. Text commands are used in a variety of applications, and may differ depending on their use and specific application. Search commands can be used separately (on their own) or together in the same search. Please note that both Google and Bing provide a list of which text commands work on their respective sites. We’ll examine the most commonly used today, but encourage reviewing the additional operators available.
Exact Search: Using Quotes “ “
What: Instruct the search engine to find an exact word or phrase by placing quotes before and after the word or words you wish to search. Use it around multiple words or separated words depending on what you want to find.
Where: Place the quotes before the word (no space) and after the word (no space).
When: Use this search command when there are thousands of search results and you want to narrow them down, when you know exactly what you’re looking for and want to be more precise.
Why: It will restrict your search results to only show results which have that exact word or phrase on the page. Make sure to separate words, the search engine will look for exact verbatim use of the series of words.
Exclude Search: Using –
What: Instruct the search engine to exclude a word, words, or specific websites from the search results. Exclude something specifically you don’t want included.
Where: Use a dash – immediately before the word, words or website URL you wish to exclude. Do not include spaces.
When: Exclude websites or specific pages easily by excluding a word or words. Commonly associated words are great to exclude if you know it does not provide context.
Why: It will restrict your search to only show results that have the word, words or website excluded. If you wish to exclude multiple words make sure to place dashes – before each word, with spaces in between the end of a word and beginning of a new excluded term like below.
Site Search: Using Site:
What: Instruct the search engine to search a specific website. Find all the pages on a specific site or specific pages within one specific site.
Where: Insert the command site: paying careful attention to include the colon. Next insert the website you wish to search, without spaces between the colon and start of the website.
When: Search entire websites directly from Google and find only the pages that Google see’s. Find content on a website that doesn’t have a search bar or or search function.
Why: The site: search command will restrict your search to only show results of a specific website and the pages indexed in that search engine’s index.
Words in the URL Search: INURL:
What: Instruct the search engine to search for a specific page on the internet with specific words in the URL of the website.
Where: Insert the command inurl: paying careful attention to include the colon. Next insert the word or words you want to find within the URL. Add dashes to the URL for multiple words, and take out any spaces as shown in the example.
When: Search for specific and commonly named pages on a site such as Contact or About Us pages quickly and easily. Find a page that might not be available in the navigation of a site.
Why: The inurl: search command will restrict your search to only show pages that have a specific word or words in the URL that you specify.
Filetype Search Command: filetype:
What: Instruct the search engine to search for a specific file type, along with finding other information about what the file contains such as a pdf, images, word document, excel document or others.
Where: Insert the command filetype: paying careful attention to include the colon. Next insert the type of file you’re searching for such as pdf, jpg, png, doc, xlx, etc… Take out any spaces between the colon and the filetype.
When: Search for specific file types such as images or pdfs and specific words contained within those documents or file names.
Why: The filetype: search command will help you find very specific documents or files and only show pages that have those files along with any other keywords you include or exclude.
These search commands should get you started on your way to understanding a bit more about refining your searches. There are even more search commands than what we covered above, but it’s good start simple. Once you get the hang of it, try your hand at a number of these additional resources to improve your skills even more:
- How to Find Anything Online with Advanced Search Techniques from tutsplus.com
- Advanced Web Search with Google Operators from 1and1.com
- How to Use Google Search More Effectively (Infographic) from Mashable.com
Search Command Examples for Nonprofits
When you’re new to advanced search commands it can be hard to understand how to apply them. Examples are a great way to understand search commands and how they can be applied. That’s why we’ve created this helpful chart of specific search command examples and a description of what the results will be.
Simply insert your industries keywords, city names or state to customize the search for your needs. We’ve bolded words that you’ll need to swap out with what is applicable for your particular situation.
Finding what you want with a few strokes of the keys vs. hour spent frustrated is exciting! Or maybe that’s just me, but once you get the hang of using advanced features on sites like Google, it’s exciting to see what you can uncover. Or at the very least it’s a fun trick to pull out at parties.
|Search Command||Search Command Type||Description|
|“Cityname” charity donation request||Exact||Finds charity donation pages within a specific city.|
|“gift matching” filetype:pdf||Exact & filetype:pdf||Finds companies that match gifts and specifically their guidelines and policy pages or applications.|
|request donation from filetype:pdf||filetype:pdf||Finds donation request pages from a variety of the most popular corporate businesses.|
|“donation request” inurl:policy||Inurl: & exact||Finds donation request pages which list policies of requesting in-kind donations from corporations.|
|“Corporate donation request” filetype:pdf||Exact & filetype:pdf||Find corporate donation request forms, often includes policies and guidelines.|
|“foundation” “apply for grant” “nonprofit” cityname||Exact||Find foundations that accept grant requests.|
|inurl:request “donation”||Inurl: & exact||Find donation request pages.|
|“community” “donation” “request” cityname state||Exact||Find the community donations available in your local area.|
|“nonprofit” discount pricing||Exact||Find discounts on products and services for nonprofits with valid 501c3.|
Try your hand at a few of the search commands and operators we’ve shared and tell us your favorites! Which ones help you the most in your role? Leave a comment and share your experiences with the rest of our community, we’d love to hear!