Google Dorking, or Google-Fu as I prefer to call it, is the art of using search modifiers and operators to refine your search and hone in on what you’re looking for.
Recently the popularity of this set of techniques has lead to warnings from the Feds as hackers can misuse them, but it’s perfectly legal to use these techniques for legitimate purposes.
Let’s take a look at some of the most popular ones and their uses. Remember, many of these can be chained together to give a very precise search, such as:
"brand guide" site:moz.com filetype:pdf
This specifies that the exact phrase “brand guide” should occur on the website Moz.com for the filetype of pdf. At the time of writing this returns exactly one result. I’m pretty sure it’s not a Googlewhack if you use a chain of search modifiers!
Advanced Search Modifiers:
Site search (supports folders, sub domains) – use site:example.com in conjunction with a query to return a set of results from only one site. Useful where: you know the content is on that site somewhere, but you just can’t seem to track it down!
Inurl/Intitle – this operator will return results based on your query phrase appearing in a page’s URL/title. Useful where: you want to find opportunities to write for people in your industry. You could use the search:
flower arranging intitle: write for us
The minus operator – this small unassuming operator is extremely useful. It will remove phrases (or combined with the site operator entire domains) from your search results. Useful where: you’re searching for something that relates to two distinct subject, and you only want them. For example, you want to know about John Smith the chemist, not the basketball player. You could refine your search as follows:
John Smith –basketball
Image search – yes it seems this one is quite obvious, doesn’t it? Of you can search for images, it’s right there on the homepage! Ah, steady on there, did you know you can also search by image? It’s currently a little hidden away, but it’s there, on the right of the search bar within image search.
Useful where: you want to find other occurrences of specific images of Gorlok (obviously). Perhaps you want to find out if someone is misusing your prized image of Webster University’s mascot?
OR – you can use this operator when two related phrases are of interest to you. NB: you must write it in capitals for it to work. Useful where: you could be searching for mentions of your brand and site owners might have written: “My Full Brand Name Incorporated” OR “My Full Brand Name Inc” OR “MFBN Inc” etc.
Wildcards – this is from the world of regular expressions (I’ll save you the headache and just say they’re for pattern matching text and can get insanely complicated). Useful where: a word of your query could be any of a number of variations and you want to see them all, you can simply put a * in the place of the variable word.
This is just the beginning! In part two we’ll continue your lesson in Google-Fu! Please share your favourite techniques in the comments – I’m also keen to hear what’s the most complex, convoluted combination of operators you’ve used or seen!