Google is generally very good at delivering search results that are relevant to your query. But did you know there are ways to provide more specific instructions on what you want? Some of these work on Bing and Yahoo too, though I have to confess I’ve not tried all of them out on those search engines…

Advanced queries for mining deep information on the web are known as ‘google hacks’. And since I’ve been using them more and more recently I thought it would be helpful to share some of my favourites.

Starting with the basics:

1. Exact match searching on google

Placing double inverted commas “like this” around your search string returns an exact match search result.

So whereas searching for red shoes with laces will return you any page that’s broadly relevant to those four words, placing double inverted commas around the search term delivers a very different result: google shows you web pages that contain those four words, in exactly that order. Like this.

2. Looking for specific content on a particular website?

The site: operator allows you to search a specific website for a specific piece of content. I’ve found this very helpful for link building when I want to check whether a link has been uploaded to a website or not.

For example, you can see that Cicada is mentioned a couple of times on our client First Line IT’s website by typing the following into google: cicada 

Or, why not combine it with an exact match search? Wondering what coverage President Obama’s dog has been given on the BBC website? Just type this into google: “obama’s dog”

3. Want to exclude or include specific content?

These are powerful when combined with other search operators: just put minus or plus signs in front of the word you want to exclude or include. Wondering if there’s anything on the BBC site about Obama’s dog, that also has content on his wife Michelle? “obama’s dog” +michelle

4. Anchor text and page titles

OK, these are a bit more SEO specific. If you’re optimising a site for a particular keyword, you may wish to research other websites that have the same or related keywords in particular aspects of their pages. To check out web-pages that have a specific keyword in their anchor text (the words in the links on the pages), type allinanchor:”keyword string”. Wondering who’s linking to pages about leather jackets?

allinanchor:”leather jackets”

And remember, you don’t have to specify an exact match – leave out the “double inverted commas” if you like. Page titles, sometimes called window titles because they are words that you’ll see at the very top of a browser window, are a basic search engine ranking factor, and appear as the underlined bit in search engine results. Want to see pages that have an exact keyword string in their page titles?

allintitle:”christmas present suggestions”

OK, so I know I’ve used some trivial examples here, and with christmas present suggestions and leather jackets you might get equally relevant results by using a simple search. I’ve used these rather silly ones because I’ve been doing advanced searches a good deal recently on client competitor research, and any real examples of that are by their nature, confidential.

5. Competitor research find related websites

Want to know which websites google considers to be related to yours? Just use the related: operator. For example:

6. Final top-tip: logged in as google?

If you have a google account, for example you’re a gmail user, it’s likely that google is ‘personalising’ the results it gives you. This means that searches you do tomorrow will be influenced by the searches you’re doing, and the results you click on, today.

To see a completely un-personalised, un-influenced search result, just add &psw=0 to the end of the URL you get after you’ve searched

For further information on advanced search, read the official google help pages on advanced searching here.

Blog post update: here’s a great report on Mashable, with loads more cool google hacks.