Search Smarter: Link Building with Google Operators

Link Building January 10th, 2017

As the old adage goes, “work smarter, not harder.” Luckily, Google allows the use of Boolean search operators to accomplish just that. These search operators help your outreach team work better and earn more link juice for your website. Being a SEOer that primarily deals with link building, I’d like to use this opportunity to explore some of the Google search operators that I use on a daily basis to help streamline and refine my prospecting and outreach efforts:


Although a rather basic operator, when used properly, negative key terms can save you loads of time. For example, let’s say your client sells motorcycle helmets. A possible query could be: street bike helmet –bicycle –kids –children

This operator is great for when starting an outreach campaign. To quickly see who is talking about your industry, use a few broad keywords and an inurl: operator. For example, let’s say your client is a local brew pub:

Athens Georgia Craft beer + inurl:blog

Bonus: Add on – to return only highly authoritative, root domain prospects.



This operator is effective when dealing with a niche product and a limited target set. The related operator will find other websites similar to whatever URL you enter into the search bar.

Additionally, when coupled with a service such as Open Site Explorer by Moz, which gives you the ability to inspect your competitors’ backlink profiles, this operator is extremely helpful in discovering potential link opportunities.

Similarly, you can place a tilde prior to a text query to search for a broader set of results that the search engine considers relevant:

~big ~cats

big cats

(Editor’s note: the tilde operator was discontinued by Google around June 15, 2013. Read more.)



This operator takes the power of Google and focuses it on a singular domain. The site: operator is great for quickly crawling a large website for your keyword or search term.

For instance, many college and university websites have alumni listings or listings specifically for alumni business owners that contain outbound do-follow links. If your client’s owner has a college degree, a quick-win link (double points for the .edu TLD) could be from their alumni business listing: + Alumni Business Listing



Easily applicable in a variety of situations, the filetype: operator is especially helpful when needing to find an instruction manual for an electronic device.

For work or research purposes, I find this operator particularly helpful whenever I’m in need of an academic source. For this instance, I would use:

Effects of caffeine filetype:pdf

Notice how the SERP is full of reputable, authoritative websites.



Finally, the allinanchor: operator is best used when you are looking for a specific results page. For example, let’s say your client is in the Collegiate Greek Life industry. Two possible queries could be:

allinanchor:sorority supplies

allinanchor:fraternity gifts

The pages returned have all been linked to using the anchor text within your query.

Bonus: Take the SERP listings and use these URLs in conjunction with a link: operator to show what pages are linking to your allinanchor: results, similar to an Open Site Explorer backlink profile. By using the allinanchor: operator we are able to target specific results, and link: will show their sources, and, ultimately the sites you wish to target for outreach.



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Author Bio: Originally from New Jersey, Brett Bastello relocated to San Diego after graduating from the University of Pittsburgh. Currently working in SEO, Brett’s primary duty is white-hat link building. His likes include Dunkin’ Donuts coffee, the Pittsburgh Penguins, and hip-hop music. He dislikes ketchup with a seething passion.

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