Distance Search: The AROUND(#) Search Operator – The Most Underrated Google Search Function

The AROUND(#) search operator is one of my favorite, and frankly underrated, search functions. It is a distance operator between two words; in other words, it searches for web pages that have two words together, with no more than # of words separating them.

Here’s a simple example. Suppose I tried searching for bacon AROUND(3) cheeseburger.

bacon AROUND(3) cheeseburger

Google returns the expected bacon cheeseburger results, but there are also some interesting, unexpected results. The second result is for a bacon avocado cheeseburger (1 word – avocado – separating our search terms of bacon and cheeseburger). The third result is for a bacon ultimate cheeseburger (again, 1 word separating bacon and cheeseburger). The fourth result is for cheeseburgers with bourbon bacon (2 words – with bourbon – separating our search terms).

Use the operator whenever you need to find two words closely associated with each other, but possibly modified by other words. Try not to use a high # with AROUND(#) – I would suggest no more than 5 unless there’s a really good reason for a greater distance.

Searching The Content Of A Web Page: The intext: and allintext: Search Operators

Among the less useful of operators are the intext: and allintext: search operators. As the title says, these operators require that the given word(s) show up in the content of a web page. For example, if you searched for intext:stock (no space between intext: and the searched keyword), the returned web pages would have the word stock as part of the web page:

intext:stock

Similarly, if you searched for allintext:stock dis, you would get web pages with the words stock and dis within their text content:

allintext:stock dis

While these operators are important to remember, they’re not as useful as their intitle/allintitle/inurl/allinurl counterparts. In the vast majority of cases, skipping the intext: search function and searching on the same key words would result in the same, or largely the same, search results as using the operators.

Searching URLs: The inurl: and allinurl: operators

An URL is an Uniform Resource Locator – it is the https://… gobbledegook on the top of your web browser. It’s also frequently called the web address, or just address. I will be using the words URL and address interchangeably, and you can as well.

The inurl: and allinurl: search operators search for specific words in web page URLs. These operators work best when you’re searching for product pages, or blog entries.

A good example would be to look at an Amazon product page; here’s the URL to order an Amazon gift card:

https://www.amazon.com/Amazon-Amazon-com-eGift-Cards/dp/B004LLIKVU

As you can see, Amazon describes the product – an Amazon gift card – in the URL itself: Amazon-Amazon-com-eGift-Cards. You’ll see this design frequently in online stores, blogs, and so forth: it helps optimize the site for search engines such as Google.

Suppose you wanted to search for gifts on Google. You might start out by searching for the following:

inurl:gift

That works – as you can see, all the URLs (green text) have the word gift in them. But the links aren’t useful: I wanted gift card information, not just general information about the word gift.

In this case, I can turn to the allinurl: operator, which will require that all the words I list should be in the URL. Let’s try:

allinurl:gift card amazon

Now that search was useful – all of these URLs (green text) contain the words amazon, gift and card.

In general, while the inurl: and allinurl: operators are incredibly useful, I would recommend trying the intitle and allintitle: operators first. Web page titles tend to be more detailed and have more space than URL addresses. inurl and allinurl are more useful for the times where you’ve forgotten a certain web page URL – the address is just on the tip of your tongue, but you can remember fragments of it – inurl and allinurl can help you reconstruct it.

Searching Web Page Titles: intitle: and allintitle:

Each web page has a title – depending on your web browser, the title of a web page is shown as part of the tab or in the browser’s title bar. For example, in the picture below, the title of CNN.com is CNN – Breaking News, Latest News and Videos.

To search web pages with specific words in their titles, use the intitle: and allintitle: operator. For example, to search all web pages containing the word rome in their titles, you can search for:

intitle:rome

Suppose I was only interested in traveling to Rome – that entry to Wikipedia doesn’t help me figure out how to travel there. I might try the allintitle: operator, which searches for web pages containing all the words given in the title. For example:

allintitle:rome travel

The allintitle: operator works best with a few key words – remember, you’re searching web page titles which are usually short and to the point.

Finding Related Websites – The Related: Operator

As Google indexes the Internet, it can make connections between related websites and content. Take advantage of these connections by using the related: operator.

The related: operator shows related web sites. For example, if I search for related:chase.com, I’ll get a list of banks:

related:chase.com

This tool is useful when you’re trying to find competitor services. For example, if I was looking for a job, I would be looking for job sites to search postings and add my resume. I know that indeed.com is one job board. I can find other job sites by using the related: operator:

related:indeed.com

Finding Interesting Files – The Filetype: Operator

Sometimes, a researcher needs to find something else other than a web page. News releases and raw data are often published for release as PDF files. Microsoft Powerpoint files (.PPTX) are often used to outline new company initiatives. Microsoft Word files (.DOCX) are shared while text is being edited/approved/discussed.

To find these files, the filetype: operator (or its alias, the ext: operator) can be used. For example, if I need to find official releases of employment data, a possible search would be one of the below:

employment data filetype:pdf
employment data ext:pdf
Searching for employment data.

As you can note from the red boxes above, all the results are of .PDF files – as the search query asked for.

The define: operator – A Replacement For The Dictionary

Google search is not just a great search engine, but also a great library of utility functions. An example of this is the define: operator.

The define: operator acts as a dictionary: it lets you ask for the definition of a word. For example, searching for the below text gives me the definition of this strange word:

define:defenestration

If you have a phrase you need to look up, feel free to throw it in as well. I wonder what this phrase means…

define:trip the light fantastic

I often use this function to look up domain-specific words, such as words used only in the legal or technology fields, and I’ve always found useful, intelligent definitions.

Limiting Your Search To A Single Site: The site: operator – Otherwise Known As My Favorite Operator

Perhaps the most known and used operator is the site: operator, which limits a search to a single site. For example, if I wanted to find all Disney related pages on Twitter, I might search for (remember, no spaces between site: and the site you’re searching):

disney site:twitter.com

As you can see, all the results are on twitter.com.

This operator is really useful on large sites that have poor search functionality – for example, searching Javadocs or social media sites such as Reddit.

Finding Old/Historical/Archived Content – The Cache Operator & Archive Services

Is your bookmark leading to an empty webpage? Did that link you found on a forum post dated 5 years ago no longer work? Perhaps you need some information from a site and it’s currently down for maintenance?

Fortunately, Google has you covered. The cache: operator shows you the given web page as Google saw it before. Using it is easy: type in cache: and then the URL you need to see. Make sure there is no space between cache: and the address.

As an example, see below:

cache:reddit.com

After you hit the search button, you’ll get something similar to this:

On some occasions, Google won’t be able to find a cached page, and you’ll see an image similar to the below:

In these cases, it’s time to pop over to archive.org and use the Wayback Machine: put the URL you want into the Wayback Machine prompt:

You’ll see options to select a year and a specific date: Click the blue circled dates to see the web page as it was on that date.

The Wayback Machine is useful for seeing historical snapshots of web pages as well, and seeing how web pages change through time.