New Google Advanced SEO support page shows how to use search operators for identifying errors and making improvements.
Google published an Advanced SEO Help page about using Google search operators to debug a website.
Google search operator search results are not tied to Google’s regular ranking algorithm and the index used is limited and not up to date.
Yet even with those limitations the search operators provide useful information that can be used for search engine optimization related purposes
They aren’t useful for trying to learn about Google’s algorithm. But the search operators are very useful for learning more about a website.
The new documentation contains a statement about the limitations of the data:
Search operators can however be used to discover interesting information about a site.
The new documentation covers the following search operators:
Site: Search Operator:
The site search operator shows a sample of the pages in Google. It’s not all the pages, as Google’s caveat makes clear when it stated that the search operators “are bound by indexing and retrieval limits.”
Site Search does not use Google’s regular ranking algorithm and only shows a SAMPLE of pages that are indexed.
There’s always been a random quality to all search operators and that make them unreliable in terms of completeness and especially for trying to find out ranking or algorithm related factors.
This has been true for all of the search operators.
I use site: search as a quick and dirty way to find pages with specific keywords in them but I do that with the understanding that there are pages that might be missing.
For example, I had an issue with Users Generated Content where members on Apple devices were cutting and pasting non-UTF letter characters into the web page, resulting in symbols instead of letters.
Using a site: search operator I was able to find many of them and have the site software rewrite the symbols back into letters sitewide.
Cache: Search Operator:
The cache: search operator shows you Google’s cache of a web page, a copy of what the page looked like when Googlebot last crawled it.
The cache is a great way to figure out if a site is hacked and showing different content to Google (cloaking).
Related: Search Operator:
The related: search operator is a nice one. It tells you what other sites Google identifies as related to the site being searched.
The related: search operator can be useful for telling you if there’s something wrong with the content relevance if Google shows wildly unrelated sites as being related.
Src: The Hotlink Finder:
The src: search operator finds pages that hotlink to an image.
The imagesize: search operator finds images with a specific size and is typically used with a site: search operator.
The two image search operators also have limitations.
Use Google Search Operators.
Google’s search operators have many uses although not all of the uses might be apparent at first glance.
For example, I’ve never had a use for the imagesize: search operator but there may come a day when I need to know if Google has crawled or indexed an image with specific image dimensions.