How to Use & Interpret Advanced Search Operators to Assess SERP Competitivity

Use Google’s Advanced Search Operators to Assess Your Target Searches

This is part of a training module from SEO Ibiza ‘s basic SEO Training course designed to explain how to use Google’s advanced Search Operators to fairly accurately assess the level of SERP competitivity of a particular phrase or keyword prior to attempting to target it with a website or hub.

But even if you are not a webmaster or SEO, using these techniques can potentially save you wasting your time chasing keywords that are too difficult, and hopefully identify areas where you could establish a presence fairly easily.

The hub is also a response to Peter Hoggan’s well written but ultimately flawed hub of a similar name to this one, which shows a perfectly valid (although quite unusual example for special “Ibiza” reasons we’ll explain later on) as to why reliance on just one of the metrics might not always give a totally accurate picture, especially in extremely low (zero) competition searches.

But as in all SEO, decisions can rarely be made from one metric alone so this hub will explain how using all three operators combined gives a more definitive picture, and finally we will put our money where the mouth is and demonstrate the principle in action.

What Are Advanced Search Operators?

Advanced search operators are special words used to query the search engine in specific ways.They are listed by Google here and there’s more info on here, (bottom / left of page)

The specific operators we are concerned with are:

  • Allintitle:
  • Allinanchor:
  • Allintext:

Allintitle: – restricts the returned results to those pages with all of the query keywords in the Page title.

For example, allintitle:keyword1 keyword2 will return only pages that have both keywords1 & 2 in the Page title.

Allinanchor: – restricts the returned results to those pages with all of the query keywords in anchor text pointed at the page, from other sites or from the same site.

For example, allinanchor:keyword1 keyword2 will return only pages that have both keywords1 & 2 links pointed at them.

Allintext: – restricts the returned pages to those pages which have both words on them somewhere, note they need not be together in the same phrase positioning as your phrase.

** Note Allintext:keyword1 keyword2 does require the combination to be exactly the same.

Returning to the example of allintitle:scooter hire Ibiza these searches show:

Scooter Hire Ibiza

3415574_f520 3415573_f520 3415572_f520

Interpreting the Results Correctly

So the results are:

  • Allintitle =30 results
  • Allinanchor = 20,800 results
  • Allintext = 25,400 results.

But what does this actually mean?

Basically it means that there are 25,400 sites / pages that have those keywords on them, not necessarily in that order, of which 20,800 have either used the keywords as full or partial anchor text to point to pages within them, or which have pages within them that someone else has linked to externally with those full or partial keyword anchors.

Allintitle: tells us though, only 30 sites are actively targeting the phrase with a special page title.

It is important to understand competitiveness is generally not defined by how big the search is, it is defined by how many people are motivated to try to rank, and as even SEO beginners know that Page Titles are important, sites that are targeting a phrase specifically will nearly 100% of the time, include it in their page titles.

The general rule of thumb that the allintitle: keyword difficulty levels are broken down roughly as below:

  1. Allintitle: < 1000 results = non-competitive search
  2. Allintitle: 1000 – 10,000 results = mildly competitive
  3. Allintitle: 10,000 – 100,000 results = semi-competitive
  4. Allintitle: 100,000 – 250,000 results = medium competitive
  5. Allintitle: > 250,000 results = highly competitive
  6. Allintitle: > 1000,000 results = seriously competitive

But what does that mean to me?

This is where it is not possible to answer this accurately without knowing the individual scenario, because everything depends on your starting point.

If you already have an established site with good domain authority, you are of course in a very different position to if you are just putting a brand new website live with no links, so these guidelines are are relative to your own circumstances, but no less applicable because of that.

So let’s run some live tests ..

SEO is about testing, testing and testing some more, you cannot believe the vast majority of what you are told, or read in forums and blogs, as so many tend to just regurgitate and repeat what they are told, so the only way to verify facts as correct, (or still correct) is to test for yourself.

Here we will test three different scenarios, laid out below:

Scenario 1 – Scooter Hire Ibiza Hub Page (this one)

For hubbers who want to write content and get it to show in search engines, the immediate caching and strong domain authority gives a good punch into the SERPs, you could usually expect an allintitle: search of 30 to be very quickly penetrated by a new HubPage.

This would also apply to your own site if you have one with sufficient domain authority and RSS presence, just including the keywords in the Page Title should usually be enough to be visible fairly fast.

This page has the keywords in the title, on the page, in anchor text to another page, and as alt text to some of the images and in the (on) page titles, so it can be reasonably thought of as fairly well optimized for the term.

The hub will get non-kw anchored externally to ensure it stays indexed, and other than that no further links beyond integration into Hubpages groups etc.

Scenario 2 – PR2 established “Ibiza” site

Of course not everybody has an authority site of their own, and not everybody wants to use hub pages, so for the purpose of these tests we have also inserted a “scooter hire Ibiza” page into a friends Ibiza themed project site, which is established but far from an “authority” site, and linked to the page from this paragraph.

This will be the only external link to it for a while, to see how it reacts. If it needs more it will get only “publicly available” resources, no sneaky superlinks from monster sites or paid link or syndication networks.

Scenario 3 – Brand new site – keyword domain

To accurately reflect the difficulty of setting up a new brand website in direct response to information from the advanced search operators, what better way than to actually set up a brand new website 🙂

The website is extremely basic at this point, just a few words and a picture, “coming soon” so nobody can accuse it’s content of being king. It does however have the much praised KID (keywords in domain) attribute, which does have an effect, but mostly not for the reasons most people think.

The site will be launched with one link from this hub as it goes live and one other reasonably decent link and then wait 2 weeks to observe. It will then get one link added every 1 week until it is on the first page. (When it’s on the first page we already have a local scooter hire company lined up to buy it, +50% price for a top 5, +100% if it’s #1 🙂

Ok so we have 3 test examples, what does this prove?

Nothing yet, but lets explain the overall scenario as shown by the advanced search operators, and why Peter’s example is both valid, but quite unusual, and why using all three operators shows us a more complete picture. Remember the line from above

Only 30 of those are actively targeting the phrase”  ?

That’s still where we are, But what about the allinanchor: search of 20,800 sites with links using the phrase? Surely thats a lot of people link-building to rank for it?

Nope, dig a bit deeper again..

..not a single one..


No pages at all on the internet linked to using “Scooter Hire Ibiza”

(Until today, obviously 😉

So let’s recap, we have a total of 30 sites on the whole internet using the term in their titles, or again, do we?


No, actually we have a total of six using the exact phrase order, and of those Peter’s hub is in 3rd place already, due to it’s domain authority.

“Well why isn’t it ranking higher in normal Google search then?” you might ask? – remember those special “Ibiza factors” mentioned at the beginning?

Ibiza is a special place, unlike any other and usually requires specialist local knowledge to be successful more than fleetingly, local knowledge like this:

Ibiza factor 1. Hardly anybody in Ibiza really rents scooters via the internet here. Unlike car hire companies where competition is fierce, and driven by their international parent companies website systems and travel affiliates, local companies are able to rent out cars well in advance of the customer actually turning up for it via the internet.

Scooter companies however are generally much smaller, locally owned and reliant on being next to hotels, or in the high street, and are not nearly so internet-wise as their Car Hire cousins, most have virtually no internet presence, and those that do, do not usually book online, they receive emails and phone calls.

And even then you more or less always still have to go into the shop before they can definitively tell you that you have one.

Hence there are no online affiliates competing in the space, and very few Adsense sites too, as although in summer there are a fair few searches, remember there are no internet savvy advertisers (Adsense) hence no earnings available and no affiliates chasing them.

Ibiza factor 2 – this is the crux of the reason that Peter’s hub is only at #20ish (last check for the term) because the search is not full of tightly targeted well optimized sites on the subject, Google reverts to domain authority primarily to select and order less “relevant” results.

And there are some “Ibiza” websites with hefty age and domain authority behind them, that are of course all about Ibiza, and so only need the words “scooter hire” somewhere within them and will rank higher than a single hub on the subject within a generalist site.

In fact 4 of the top 5 results (2 sites with indents) for scooter hire Ibiza – are also on the first page for just Ibiza which at an allintitle: search of 2,490,000 (2.5 million) pages is seriously competitive in anyone’s books and being so old will almost definitely have those words in there somewhere.

That does not mean that they cannot easily be passed by smaller more focused sites, in fact that’s been our business model for some time now 😉


So what about the tests, what do we expect?

With the 3 scenarios above we would predict the classic “tortoise and the hare” story, whereby the site fastest out of the blocks (hubpages) is into the top 20 first, followed by the “Ibiza” site with targeted content, and the new site bringing up the rear.

However, over the course of a little time we would then expect that the order will exactly reverse, with the hub gradually dropping away, the Ibiza theme site will get gradually stronger even without direct link-building to the page, but the new site because of it’s highly targeted nature and the total lack of any other seriously targeted competitors (actually trying) will be top 5 first.

We think first appearances into SERP should be almost immediate after publication of this hub, and we think the new site should be top 5 in 8-12 weeks maximum.

We will monitor the rankings once a week and report in additional modules for anyone interested.

Is that a specific enough prediction from this information to make the allin* searches useful to you?

If it turns out to be accurate, then we think so, what do you think?

Update 1 – First Sighting 11 July – 14 hours in..

Scenario 2 & Peter’s Hub both on Page 7

Update 2 – 12 July – Scenario 3 in at #48


Ibiza Scooter Hire – #13 at 24 hours in, point proven?


So we knew it was going be easy but..

The screenshot above shows a 24 hour old domain (28 hours from registration) at Google position #13 for the term it was aimed at.

This hub was supposed to run for a few weeks to monitor progress, but the ease at which this keyword has given up the bootie surprised even us. Although not that much, because as the advanced search operators showed us, nobody decent is targeting it, so it was always on the cards, but it would more usually take a few weeks.

As always live tests are the only way to prove or disprove theories and this one also shows the speed and power of the new Google caffeine infrastructure at work.

Admittedly we thought it would take longer than this, and did therefore estimate high to ensure it definitely happened in that time frame (to save any embarrassment 🙂 but as the allintitle, allinanchor etc searches showed, this was always going to be easy.

So what do you think, might Google’s advanced search operators be of use to you in researching keyword and SERP competitivity ?

Scooter Hire Ibiza – 10 days – depersonalized


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