Search engines are very powerful tools. They can bring traffic to your well-designed, optimized site – and they can tell you a lot of information about your site. When starting an SEO campaign for any website, the search engines are one of the first places to go for information.

All of the major search engines have a wide variety of advanced search features which can provide you with great information about your site. This post will focus on Google’s operators, although I won’t fail to mention a few other interesting options in the other major search engines.

The first step I frequently take in search engine investigations is to use the site: operator. Using this operator followed by a URL (Uniform Resource Locator), you can retrieve all of the pages the search engine has indexed for the site. This is a great tool to find out whether there may be a problem crawling your site – if the number is significantly lower than what you expect, you may have a problem.

The second great option is the link: operator. This is truly great – using this operator, again followed by a URL, you will retrieve all inbound links to that site which the search engine has identified. All major search engines support this tool, although Yahoo! has supplied an additional operator linkdomain: which retrieves all inbound links to the domain, rather than to a specific URL.

Additional useful code includes allintitle:, allinurl:, allinanchor: and allintext:. These are all keyword analysis tools. You can use this to find competitors who are using your keywords – in their page titles, URLs, anchor text, or in the body of the page. The tags all except multiple keywords, to pin down your selected keywords more precisely.

Examples of use: (Yahoo only)

allintitle: keyword1 keyword2

All of the allin format keyword searches work identically – just change the operator!