Advanced Operator Cheat Sheet
Who doesn’t love a good cheat sheet? And you won’t get sent to detention for using this one!
The Link Prospector responds to any available advanced operators that Google currently accepts. Whether or not you’re already familiar with Google’s advanced search operators, this guide demonstrates how to use the operators within the Citation Labs Link Prospector tool for the most accurate and thorough report possible.
Read this guide if you’re interested in:
A Link Prospector hack to only search for videos
How to exclude an entire TLD (top level domain, such as .gov or .org) from your report
How to only include 2 or 3 TLDs in your report
How to get fewer, more specific results in your search
How to get more, less specific results in your search
How to limit your search to pages that link out to a particular site or online resource
One more note before we begin – at Citation Labs Support, we get a lot of questions from new prospectors unsure about the research phrases they should be using. This is a completely normal side effect of being a new tool user. But it’s also a question that can only truly be answered via big picture thinking, on a campaign-by-campaign basis. The operators below can be very helpful if we know specifically how we want to structure our search. Getting too narrow can eliminate some great opportunities from the results.
So if you’re new, we’d recommend running a couple campaigns without any search operators to get a feel for the types of results you research phrases get on their own. Then, you can dig in and work with some operators to truly perfect your search and get the best results for your precious credits.
Okay… now, let’s dive in and look at some of these amazing search helpers!
For Refining Search – More Specific Results
Putting quotation marks around a search phrase in Google (and in the Link Prospector) results in a search for that exact phrase, in that exact order. Without quotes in your search query, if the terms in a search phrase all appear on the same page (even if they’re not next to each other) it’ll come up as a possible result.
In the example below, I ran two simple campaigns in the Link Prospector: one in which I searched for freelance writing courses and for freelance writing certification without quotes. In the second report, I searched for “freelance writing courses” and for “freelance writing certification.”
You can see just from the results that the no-quotes search turned out more options. However, that also means more potentially irrelevant results to sift through. If you’re incredibly confident in your research phrases, or if you’re finding that your research phrases result in too many irrelevant results to peruse, this is a great option for getting a more specific Link Prospector search.
For Prospecting Exclusively Within a Few Specific Domains or TLDs
In Google, you can search within a particular domain or TLD by entering site: before the domain or TLD, followed by a space and then the search term. This also works in the Link Prospector and may be great for reports in which you want to use only 2 or 3 TLDs, instead of all or just one selected from the advanced menu drop-down.
In the example below, you could search for “spanish language resources,” and your results would only be in .edu or .org
site:.edu spanish language resources
site:.org spanish language resources
Or Use site: To Search Exclusively for Videos
It’s difficult to imagine a scenario in which you’d only want to prospect one site (since the point of the Link Prospector is to find sites you didn’t realize existed!). I can think of one great exception – YouTube! If you’re looking for a results list of only videos, you can enter site:youtube.com before your research phrases in each line.
In the example below, a prospector is searching for coffee maker reviews and how-to’s, only on YouTube. Perhaps he has a kitchen appliance client, and he’s trying to find a good list of video reviewers to reach out to.
site:youtube.com coffee maker review
site:youtube.com coffee maker how-to
At the top of the report, it says “1 total” domain – because the only domain result is YouTube.
Link: & Intext:
Prospecting Sites That Point to a Particular 3rd Party
In a traditional Google search, you can find a sampling the of sites that link to a particular url by typing link: and entering a URL. Since Google only provides a selection of all pages that link to that URL, it’s not the most thorough search for a Link Prospector report.
If you’re determined to search only for sites that refer to a particular online resource or site, you may be better off running a report with the intext: search operator.
intext: will return only pages that have the key phrase you enter immediately following intext: in the page’s text. This will find you any sites using the name of the URL as or around the anchor text (the words used to link out to a URL – they’re usually in blue or otherwise highlighted). Obviously, this isn’t completely thorough either, as sites may use other anchor text (they may link to Citation Labs, but use “great seo tools” as the anchor, which this search type would not find.)
As an example, in two reports, I searched for
intext:choosemyplate.gov meal plan
intext:choosemyplate.gov nutrition guide
intext:choosemyplate.gov nutrition facts
Link:choosemyplate.gov/ meal plans
Link:choosemyplate.gov/ nutrition guide
Link:choosemyplate.gov/ nutrition facts
And intext: returned almost 50% more results in the Prospector.
Or, you could just search for the name of the site in every research phrase box, without using any special search operators. This will provide even more results, with less specificity.
In a third report, I searched for:
choosemyplate.gov meal plan
choosemyplate.gov nutrition guide
choosemyplate.gov nutrition facts
and it resulted in twice as many prospects as intext:. It really just depends on how narrowed down you want to get. Some people like fewer, high quality results, some people like to sift through medium or low quality results to look for the diamonds. It’s just a matter of how your team works best.
For an Extra Thorough Search: Finding The Sites We DIDN’T Find The First Time Around
inanchor: & allinanchor: search for the terms used in anchor (outlinking) text on each page. (It should be noted that inanchor: & allinanchor: can also be used as a broader complement to link: just as intext: can)
Let me explain with an example:
We recently had a support request from a customer searching specifically for sites that catered to businesses in Colorado. An inanchor: search would be a perfect complement to a more “traditional” search for “Colorado Entrepreneurs” and “Colorado startups.” There are possibly many dozens or hundreds of businesses located in Colorado that don’t refer to themselves as “a Colorado business.” But another site, a review or an attribution to them, very well may, and the inanchor: search is a roundabout way to find them.
An inanchor: search can make any campaign that much extra thorough. A horror film blogger may not call herself a horror film blogger, but another site may link out to her with those terms.
The “Fill in the Blank” Operator for Large-Scale Link Prospector Exclusions
The asterisk (*) is a handy tool for allowing Google to know what you don’t yet know. (Which is the whole point of Google anyways, right?) In traditional searches, the asterisk is helpful for brain farts (What’s the song lyric again? “I heard it through the *”). In the Link Prospector, asterisks work most appropriately for entries in the Exclusions list.
Even before you begin a report, if you’d like to exclude an entire TLD, place an asterisk before the TLD in the Exclusions list (found in the Exclusions tab on the top right of your dashboard).
For example if you don’t want any .gov results in your report, enter *.gov into your Exclusions list.
Get More Specific with Brand Name, Product or Key Term Searches
Use inurl: if you only want results in which a key term or short phrase is within the page’s URL. This is another a great way to narrow down a Link Prospector search for more specific results.
This type of search can be helpful in finding posts specifically about your product, or about a competitors, and eliminating results that simply mention the product offhandedly.
In the example below, I created ran a report for reviews that mentioned specific cities and included yellowcab in the url and a separate report for reviews that mentioned yellowcab, without the inurl: signifier.
yellowcab new york city
inurl:yellowcab new york city
(Allinurl just means that all terms you enter after the colon must be in the URL, whereas inurl only requires the term directly after the colon to be in the URL).
IMPORTANT NOTE: If you’re running any report other than a custom report, we’re already passing through some “inurl” searches in order to narrow down your search to just guest posts, or just link pages, etc. Keep this in mind as you search – going too overboard with these very specific searches will result in fewer prospects.
Get Rid of Unwanted Segments of a Broad Search
The minus sign can be used on its own, in any search, to eliminate a search term from your results. OR, it can be used with any of the hacks above to create an even more refined search.
The minus sign tells Google to remove any pages containing the word that follows. If you’re going broader with your research phrases, but want to avoid results that name a competitor or a certain segment of the market, the minus sign is a perfect tool. For example, Breakfast Cereals -cheerios, Farm animals -horse.
In my test, I created 2 Links Pages reports:
yoga poses -bikram
hot yoga -bikram
yoga resources -bikram
(Bikram, for the non-yogis out there, is a type of hot yoga.)
Not only did my non-bikram report eliminate all of the bikram-related links from my original report, but it also had just as many Links Pages (just over 3,000 results in both cases). This result will probably vary based on the size and scope of your topic area, but it’s good to remember that getting more specific doesn’t always mean fewer results.
ANOTHER NOTE: The Link Prospector uses each Research Phrase entry as a separate search, so if you don’t want a term in any of your results, you’ll need to add -TERM to every line.
This is a pretty good start to advanced operators. Did I miss anything? Forget any situations? Email me us at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet me @citationlabs!