A couple years ago I wrote a post about 8 different lesser-known Google commands you can use while doing a search that help you control the types of results you get — over on my personal blog.
One in particular that I’ve had to use quite a few times recently struck me today as share-worthy in itself, so here it is.
Did you know you can include in your query a brief command that tells Google not to show you certain information?
Many people probably already know that you can enclose words in quotes within your query, which tells Google that you want to see results that feature those exact words. Or you can do things like enclosing the current year in quotes to increase the odds of getting more recently written material.
But placing a hyphen just before a word (or domain), with no spaces between it and the word, tells Google you don’t want to see results including that word/topic.
Two examples of where I used this recently to get better search results:
Filtering out dates. Suppose you do a search for something like how to do something on Linkedin, and for whatever reason all that comes up are a bunch of outdated results from 4 years ago. You know those answers aren’t relevant anymore since all social platforms have changed a lot over the years. In particular, what if almost all the results coming up are from 2014 or 2016?
[insert your search phrase] -2014 -2016
This would omit search results from those years, which greatly increases the odds of something recently. For good measure you could also add “2019” to the end to also tell Google you want results that specifically mention that year.
Note that this isn’t perfect when it comes to dates. If the publication date isn’t physically on that article, which is rare, this filter may not catch it. Still, this does considerably control what gets displayed.
Filtering out domains. This is another useful one if it seems like all the search results are pretty much coming from one website, and for whatever reason you don’t want content from that site.
For instance, one time I was curious how well regarded a product that I found on Amazon was, but I wanted non-Amazon reviews to help me decide that. When I searched for that product, the entire first page was full of Amazon results.
Adding -amazon.com to my search excluded anything tied to that domain from the results, which now gave me a very different SERPs page.
Note that when you’re searching topics covered by big companies, such as hot news topics, you may end up needing to repeat your search a couple times with new domains added to continue filtering.
You might be looking for bloggers or smaller publications talking about a social issue and want to exclude CNN and MSNBC, for example, and then notice yet another big dog in those search results that you also want to filter.
Using quick filters like these can save you time and prevent you from having to click to multiple pages of SERPs.
Popular wisdom in the SEO world is to tell people that nobody visits page 2, but anecdotally I’ve found that I need to do this more often recently than in years past because Google seems to be favoring certain content from big publishers.
That’s a post unto itself.