I started using Google Advanced Search Operators during my time as a financial crimes analyst. My job was to analyze the financial records of high-risk clients for a large financial institution. Those clients consisted of both individuals and businesses. I had access to systems in both the financial industry and law enforcement agencies, but sometimes I had to resort to the open Internet — something we called OSINT, or Open Source Intelligence Gathering.
OSINT refers to any information that can legally be gathered from free, public sources about an individual or organization. Common public sources include:
- The internet (blogs, social media, press releases, and Youtube)
- Traditional mass media (television, radio, newspapers, magazines)
- Specialized journals and conferences
- Photos/Geospatial information (imagery analysis via Google Maps)
Once I sourced all the information I needed for my investigation, I wrote up a narrative based on my analysis of all the gathered information and submitted it to the financial institution.
By utilizing a few Google Advanced Search Operators with specific words, I was able to get my hands on information not easily found via a normal Google search. These are also some of the same tools that CIA analysts use to source information and analyze that information in the name of National Security.
For writers, these advanced search operators can come in handy when researching for an article, book, or any other type of content you’re creating. It can cut down the time spent on research and also make you feel like a spy at the same time. I’ve got a few favorites that I use quite often, so let’s go over how to use them for topic research.
This is the most common advanced search operator that I use, especially if I’m searching for an image on a specific site. Although this limits you to a single site, the information you can find is well worth using it.
Let’s use the Central Intelligence Agencies website as an example.
As you can see in the above screenshot, I have done a Google search against the CIA.gov website. All the results displayed are from that website only. Now that you’ve completed the site search, you can click on the Images tab for all the images available on cia.gov or you can click on the news tab for all news articles published on cia.gov. This is a useful advanced search operator if you need to cite specific news sources in the content you’re writing.
The intitle: command tells Google that you want results where the text appears in the meta title of a page. This search operator helps you to understand how many pages target a specific keyword or keyphrase.
The results of the search query can identify the type of competition you’re dealing with on a specific keyword or keyphrase OR you can use it as part of your backlink outreach strategy.
The inurl: search operator will return results where the keyword/keyphrase is included in the URL of all the results. This again can help you identify any direct competitors and can be used in your backlink outreach strategy.
When doing your topic research for an article or new piece of content, the related: command will provide you with results related to the domain you included in the query. Let’s use the CIA as an example again.
As you can see in the screenshot, we wanted to see all related sites to cia.gov. As a result, we can see the other federal agencies listed in our search. This is helpful for finding news articles and other sources that you want to cite in your content or just use for research and analysis.
Filetype: tells Google to only give you results of a specific file type. If you’re looking for press releases or other documentation in a PDF format, then this will allow you to locate those resources.
Google advanced search operators such as this one have the potential of finding some interesting information. Take a look at these results from the CIA’s website.
This screenshot is only a small view of the results here. For this specific search, there was some intriguing information freely available to read. I think I just found my rabbit hole for the day.
Information does not have to be secret to be valuable. Whether in the blogs we browse, the broadcasts we watch, or the specialized journals we read, there is an endless supply of information that contributes to understanding our client’s industries and their competitors. The Google advanced search operators allow us as writers and content creators to find information that strengthens our content. Good luck and I hope these tips help!
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