Google Site Search: How to Do It Effectively [+ Examples]

Sean Collins

Jan 17, 20249 min read
google site search


A Google site search involves using Google to search through one specific domain. 

When you perform a site search, you’re telling Google to return results from only that specific site—not the entire internet.

To perform a site search, add “site:” in front of the domain URL you want to search:

“” entered into Google search bar

What Is Google's Site Search Operator?

Google's site search operator is the “site:” part of the Google site search:

"site" highlighted in the “” site search

The operator tells Google to restrict the search only to the website specified after it. Anything you type after “” will be searched for within Google’s records from that site.

Reasons to Search a Site on Google

You can use search operators to: 

  • Perform competitor research: Use site searches to navigate your competitor’s URLs easily. Filter for specific keywords in the webpage content or title. Review your competitor’s blog for topics, new product releases, and other helpful information.
  • Find related content: Site searches can identify existing content to reference in blog posts or web content. Combine site searches with query searches to find pages on an authoritative website referencing your blog topic. 
  • Find content on your site: You can run a site search on your domain to find older related content you can reference or refresh. If your website or blog is extensive, a Google site search is perfect for filtering through older content quickly. It can also help you find unsecure content on your site.

How to Use Google to Search a Site 

To search a site with Google, go to and type “site:” followed by the URL you want to search.

For example, if we wanted to search within the site, we would type "" into Google’s search bar and hit the search button.

This would show search results only from the domain. Rather than the entire internet:

Google's SERP for "" site search

However, it’s worth noting that there is a subtle difference between using "" vs. "" in Google site searches.

When doing a site search, check whether the site's homepage URL includes "www."

  • If the URL contains www, use "" to exclude subdomains
  • If “www” is not present, searching the root domain like "" will include subdomains
A results from "" highlighted in Google's SERP for "" site search

How to Refine Your Search Using Operators

The "site:" operator performs a basic site search. But you can refine your search using additional Google search operators.

Google search operators are special keywords you can add to the Google “site:” search to give you more control over what pages and content are shown in Google Search results.

Here are some helpful operators to use with site searching.

A query search lets you find pages on a specific website containing an exact search phrase or term.

To do this, enclose the phrase you want to search for in quotation marks: "your query"

For example, using " "SEO"” would return results requiring the search query "SEO" to appear on the page.

Google's SERP for " "SEO"” site search

Using query searches with the "site:" operator can help find internal link opportunities.

Internal links help search engines understand your site’s structure. Which can help improve your SEO ranking on a particular page.

For example, the query search for "SEO" finds pages that already mention SEO. 

This would be perfect for adding an internal link point to the Semrush guide "What Is SEO? Meaning, Examples & How to Optimize Your Site."

This relevant internal link is good for both users and search engines to help navigate the site and discover new pages.

A negative query search excludes certain pages or terms from your site search. 

To do this, you put a minus sign "-" before the word or phrase you want to leave out of the results. -"your query"

Google will filter out any search result that contains your negative query. 

For example, you could use a negative query search ( -“SEO"):

Google's SERP for " -“SEO"” search query

This search tells Google to return pages from the Semrush site that do not contain the exact phrase "SEO” on the page.

This could be useful for finding Semrush content around other topics like:

  • Paid search
  • Ecommerce
  • Content creation
  • Competitor research
  • Social media marketing

So, this can help you filter out irrelevant content on broader sites. 

Adding “AND” between two queries will narrow your search results to pages where both queries appear.

It looks like this: "query" AND "query two"

For example, you could use: "keyword research" AND "competitor analysis"
Google's SERP for " "keyword research" AND "competitor analysis"” site search

So, result pages must contain both the terms "keyword research" and "competitor analysis" to surface.

Why is this useful?

Using AND searches would be very effective if you have a group of content that covers a broad topic but approaches it from different angles.

For example, digital marketing is a broad topic with subtopics like SEO, pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, content strategy, etc.

So, using the “AND” search operator on Semrush’s site, we can find pages that discuss:

  • Keyword research AND PPC
  • Competitor analysis AND content audits
  • Rank tracking AND email marketing

This allows you to drill down to content covering multiple facets of digital marketing. We could then add internal links between those articles to connect them and help improve their SEO ranking.

Adding “OR” between two queries will expand your search results to include results where either of your queries appears. 

It looks like this: "query" OR "query two"

For example: "search engine optimization" OR "SEO” would return pages that mention either term. 

Google's SERP for " "search engine optimization" OR "SEO”” site search

"Search engine optimization" and "SEO" mean the same thing in this case. So an “OR” search with those phrases would expand the results to pages containing either one. 

An “OR” search allows you to include synonyms and alternate phrasing. Which is useful when a website may refer to the same thing differently.

For example: "face mask" OR "facial covering"

Or retrieving pages on variations or versions of something. Such as searching for multiple product iterations or versions: "iPhone 12" OR "iPhone 13"

Or targeting multiple spellings or misspellings: "yogurt" OR "yoghurt" 

You can also filter your site search results to only pages where your search term appears in the URL by using the “inurl:” operator. 

It looks like this: inurl:/blog/ 

URL search is useful for finding:

  • Specific categories or subsections of a site: Use topic words that commonly appear in those URLs
  • Particular file or page types: Search extensions like .pdf, .html, .pnf, etc.
  • Primary home/landing pages on a topic: Companies often use descriptive URLs to identify a subset of pages easily

You can also use the operator to size up your competition.

For example, the site search “ inurl:blog” returns over 3,000 results:

Google's SERP for “ inurl:blog” search query

Over 3,000 blog articles signal that invests heavily in content marketing and owned media.

So, if you're a competitor to Monday, this provides a benchmark for comparing your company's blog content scope and volume. If you have 50 posts vs. their 3,000, it's clear a content gap exists.

Another way to refine a site search is to use the “intitle:” operator. This returns only pages where your search terms appear in the title tag of the page.

It looks like this: intitle: "query"

Reasons to use “intitle:” search:

  • Filter out unrelated peripheral content
  • Focus on pages mainly about your query
  • Find key overview pages on a certain topic

For example, “ intitle: ”project management”” returns pages containing only “project management” in the title tag:

Google's SERP for “ intitle:”project management”” search query

You could use the title search operator to find outdated tags or content.

For example, “ intitle:2020” returns the following pages:

Google's SERP for “ intitle:2020” search query

You can also mix and match operators like “inurl:” and “intitle:” to target very narrow categories of pages:

What this does:

  • inurl:blog” returns only pages with "/blog/" in the URL so that it will be blog articles
  • intitle:2020” filters those blog pages further to those with "2020" in the title tag

For example, “ inurl:blog intitle:2020” returns blog URLs that contain 2020 in the title tag:

Google's SERP for " inurl:blog intitle:2020” search query

Chaining together “inurl:” and “intitle:” builds customized site searches by combining criteria—in this case, isolating outdated blog content.

Another use case for the “intitle:” search operator is revealing how competitors write their title tags and opportunities to re-write yours for higher click-through rates (CTRs).

For example, may be curious to know how its competitor ClickUp writes its title tags for content focusing on project management.

The search operator would look like this: intitle: "project management"

Revealing the following search results:

Google's SERP for " intitle:"project management"" search query

This searches for pages on ClickUp's site where "project management" appears in the title tag. could analyze these results to see what wording ClickUp uses around project management in titles. And assess differences that may present optimization opportunities in their title tags.

Adding “filetype:” in front of your query will search Google for a specific file type.

For instance, a Google site search for a PDF file would look like this: filetype:PDF

Common file types include:

  • PDF: filetype:pdf
  • Word: filetype:doc or filetype:docx
  • Excel: filetype:xls or filetype:xlsx
  • PowerPoint: filetype:ppt or filetype:pptx
  • JPG: filetype:jpg
  • GIF: filetype:gif
  • PNG: filetype:png

This is useful for narrowing results to specific types of files.

For example, say you want to know if you have any outdated PDF files from your site that someone can find in search results.

This would retrieve all PDFs indexed from your domain. You could then scan through these results, checking for outdated PDFs that need to be refreshed or removed. 

If we use this search operator on Monday’s domain, we can see they have a future of marketing style report in search results:

" filetype:PDF" search query shows Monday's future of marketing PDF report

After clicking on that specific search result, we can see the report is from 2021:

Monday's "The Future of Marketing" report from 2021

By running this file type search, you can audit outdated PDFs. This helps you focus on PDF content instead of manually combing through every page on your domain.

Unsecure Content

You can use a search operator to identify unsecure, non-HTTPS pages on a website. 

It looks like this: -inurl:https

The "-inurl:https" filter will show pages on the domain that do not use "HTTPS" in the URL. This reveals any unsecure HTTP pages that could impact site security.

Further readingHTTP vs. HTTPS: Differences, Benefits, and Migration Tips

For example, using this search operator on the domain revealed the following results:

Google's SERP for " -inurl:https" search query

The pages are showing as secure when you click through to them from the search results:

"" page shows the secure connection sign in browser

However, internal links may point to the website's unsecure URL version (HTTP). And that may be the reason they are showing up in search results.


This is likely because the site has 301 redirects from the old HTTP URLs to the secure HTTPS versions. 

But it’s often best to use a tool like Semrush’s Site Audit to confirm this. This tool will crawl the flagged pages to identify mixed content or unsecure internal linking.

Analyze Your Website Using Semrush Site Audit Tool

A Google site search is a great first step to analyzing your website’s content. You can filter through your website’s URLs for a specific keyword or use site searches to filter through subdomains, like a blog.

The Site Audit tool helps you review your site’s content in more detail. You can check for duplicate title tags and meta descriptions, 301 redirects, unsecure content, and more. 

To get started with the Site Audit tool, create a project or click on an existing one.

Get started with Site Audit tool

When the audit finishes, click on the “Issues” tab and enter “security” into the search bar to find issues relating to unsecure content:

"security" entered in the search bar under "Issues" tab in Site Audit tool

You may see a list of errors that look similar to this. Click “# links on HTTPS pages lead to HTTP page.”

"114 links on HTTPS pages lead to HTTP page" result highlighted under "Warnings" section in Site Audit

This will show you a report of what pages contain links to unsecure internal links.

Site Audit report showing pages that contain links to unsecure internal links.

Hover over “Why and how to fix it” to learn more about the specific issue and how to fix it.

An explanation of the found HTTPS issue and how to fix it

Running regular site audits with Semrush’s Site Audit tool can automatically detect issues with content on your website.

Find Content Issues on Autopilot

Manually using site search to check for content issues can be tedious. You can automate ongoing content checks using Semrush’s Site Audit tool.

When starting a Site Audit scan, simply click “Schedule” in the settings.

"Schedule" tab highlighted in the "Site Audit Settings" window

Then, select how often you want your site crawled to check for new content issues. 

Automating this process saves time over manual checks and ensures a seamless experience for your visitors.

Author Photo
Sean is the SEO Content Manager at Scoro, a work management platform that helps agencies streamline projects, finances, and resources. Previously, he served as Content Marketing Manager at Toggl and worked at a digital marketing agency providing SEO services for local, national, and international clients. Sean also works as a freelance SEO consultant, helping B2B SaaS companies increase their revenue by turning clicks into cash.
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