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Google: How to Use Search Operators for SEO via @sejournal, @martinibuster

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Google published an Advanced SEO Help page about using Google search operators to debug a website.

Google search operator search results are not tied to Google’s regular ranking algorithm and the index used is limited and not up to date.

Yet even with those limitations the search operators provide useful information that can be used for search engine optimization related purposes

They aren’t useful for trying to learn about Google’s algorithm. But the search operators are very useful for learning more about a website.

The new documentation contains a statement about the limitations of the data:

“Because search operators are bound by indexing and retrieval limits, the URL Inspection tool in Search Console is more reliable for debugging purposes.”

Search operators can however be used to discover interesting information about a site.

The new documentation covers the following search operators:

  • site:
  • cache:
  • related:
  • src:
  • imagesize:

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site: Search Operator

The site search operator shows a sample of the pages in Google. It’s not all the pages, as Google’s caveat makes clear when it stated that the search operators “are bound by indexing and retrieval limits.

Site Search does not use Google’s regular ranking algorithm and only shows a SAMPLE of pages that are indexed.

There’s always been a random quality to all search operators and that make them unreliable in terms of completeness and especially for trying to find out ranking or algorithm related factors.

This has been true for all of the search operators.

I use site: search as a quick and dirty way to find pages with specific keywords in them but I do that with the understanding that there are pages that might be missing.

For example, I had an issue with Users Generated Content where members on Apple devices were cutting and pasting non-UTF letter characters into the web page, resulting in symbols instead of letters.

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Using a site: search operator I was able to find many of them and have the site software rewrite the symbols back into letters sitewide.

Google’s new support page says:

“Find search results from a particular domain, URL, or URL prefix. For example:

site:https://www.google.com/"

cache: Search Operator

The cache: search operator shows you Google’s cache of a web page, a copy of what the page looked like when Googlebot last crawled it.

The cache is a great way to figure out if a site is hacked and showing different content to Google (cloaking).

Google’s support page for the cache search operator has a warning:

“The actual cached version might look incomplete or even empty in certain cases.

This might be because JavaScript operations on your page that are responsible for creating the actual layout of the page were blocked by your browser’s same-origin policies.

This is normal and not something that has to be fixed. To see if a JavaScript operation was blocked by the browser, look for errors in your browser’s developer console.”

related: Search Operator

The related: search operator is a nice one. It tells you what other sites Google identifies as related to the site being searched.

The related: search operator can be useful for telling you if there’s something wrong with the content relevance if Google shows wildly unrelated sites as being related.

This is how to use the related: search operator:

related:https://www.example.com/

Google also has a caveat about this search operator, too:

“The lack of your URLs showing up for related: queries is not an indicator of the quality of your pages, nor any other search signal.

The relatedness of URLs is generally only calculated for the most popular URLs on the internet.

Moreover, the data that powers the related: query operator is not refreshed real time, so recent popular URLs might not show up in results for the related: search operator.

The related: search operator is not a good tool for debugging specific URLs.”

src: The Hotlink Finder

The src: search operator finds pages that hotlink to an image.

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This is the example that Google’s src: search operator support page uses:

src:https://example.com/media/carrot.jpg

imagesize:

The imagesize: search operator finds images with a specific size and is typically used with a site: search operator.

The two image search operators also have limitations.

Google’s caveat is similar to previous warnings:

“Because image search operators are bound by indexing and retrieval limits, you might not see all of the results that may appear for a standard search query.”

Use Google Search Operators

Google’s search operators have many uses although not all of the uses might be apparent at first glance.

For example, I’ve never had a use for the imagesize: search operator but there may come a day when I need to know if Google has crawled or indexed an image with specific image dimensions.

Citations

Read Google’s brand new search operator overview
Overview of Google Search Operators

Read These Other Search Operator Pages as Well

site: Search Operator

cache: Search Operator

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Google Images Search Operators

Searchenginejournal.com

SEO

How To Optimize The Largest Contentful Paint & Rank Higher

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How To Optimize The Largest Contentful Paint & Rank Higher

How To Measure The Largest Contentful Paint Of Your Website

Run a free website speed test to find out. Your LCP speed will be displayed immediately.

The results of your speed test will tell you if:

  • The LCP threshold is met.
  • You need to optimize any other Core Web Vital.

How Is The Largest Contentful Paint Calculated?

Google looks at the 75th percentile of experiences – that means 25% of real website visitors experience LCP load times of 3.09 seconds or higher, while for 75% of users the LCP is below 3.09 seconds.

In this example, the real-user LCP is shown as 3.09 seconds.

Screenshot of a Core Web Vitals data of DebugBear.com, November 2022

What Are The Lab Test Results On My Core Web Vitals Data?

With this specific web speed test, you’ll also see lab metrics that were collected in a controlled test environment. While these metrics don’t directly impact Google rankings, there are two advantages of this data:

  1. The metrics update as soon as you improve your website, while Google’s real-time data will take 28 days to fully update.
  2. You get detailed reports in addition to the metrics, which can help you optimize your website.

Additionally, PageSpeed Insights also provides lab data, but keep in mind that the data it reports can sometimes be misleading due to the simulated throttling it uses to emulate a slower network connection.

How Do You Find Your Largest Contentful Paint Element?

When you run a page speed test with DebugBear, the LCP element is highlighted in the test result.

Sometimes, the LCP element may be a large image, and other times, it could be a large portion of text.

Regardless of whether your LCP element is an image or a piece of text, the LCP content won’t appear until your page starts rendering.

For example, on the page below, a background image is responsible for the largest paint.

How To Optimize The Largest Contentful Paint & Rank Higher In GoogleScreenshot of DebugBear.com, November 2022

In contrast, this page’s LCP is a paragraph of text.

How To Optimize The Largest Contentful Paint & Rank Higher In GoogleScreenshot of DebugBear.com, November 2022

To improve the Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) of your website you need to ensure that the HTML element responsible for the LCP appears quickly.

How To Improve The Largest Contentful Paint

To improve the LCP you need to:

  1. Find out what resources are necessary to make the LCP element appear.
  2. See how you can load those resources faster (or not at all).

For example, if the LCP element is a photo, you could reduce the file size of the image.

After running a DebugBear speed test, you can click on each performance metric to view more information on how it could be optimized.

How To Optimize The Largest Contentful Paint & Rank Higher In GoogleScreenshot of a detailed Largest Contentful Paint analysis in DebugBear.com, November 2022

Common resources that affect the LCP are:

  • Render-blocking resources.
  • Images that are not optimized.
  • Outdated image formats.
  • Fonts that are not optimized.

How To Reduce Render-Blocking Resources

Render-blocking resources are files that need to be downloaded before the browser can start drawing page content on the screen. CSS stylesheets are typically render-blocking, as are many script tags.

To reduce the performance impact of render-blocking resources you can:

  1. Identify what resources are render-blocking.
  2. Review if the resource is necessary.
  3. Review if the resource needs to block rendering.
  4. See if the resource can be loaded more quickly up, for example using compression.

The Easy Way: In the DebugBear request waterfall, requests for render-blocking resources are marked with a “Blocking” tag.

How To Optimize The Largest Contentful Paint & Rank Higher In GoogleScreenshot of DebugBear.com, November 2022

How To Prioritize & Speed Up LCP Image Requests

For this section, we’re going to leverage the new “fetchpriority” attribute on images to help your visitor’s browsers quickly identify what image should load first.

Use this attribute on your LCP element.

Why?

When just looking at the HTML, browsers often can’t immediately tell what images are important. One image might end up being a large background image, while another one might be a small part of the website footer.

Accordingly, all images are initially considered low priority, until the page has been rendered and the browser knows where the image appears.

However, that can mean that the browser only starts downloading the LCP image fairly late.

The new Priority Hints web standard allows website owners to provide more information to help browsers prioritize images and other resources.

In the example below, we can see that the browser spends a lot of time waiting, as indicated by the gray bar.

How To Optimize The Largest Contentful Paint & Rank Higher In GoogleScreenshot of a low-priority LCP image on DebugBear.com, November 2022

We would choose this LCP image to add the “fetchpriority” attribute to.

How To Add The “FetchPriority” Attribute To Images

Simply adding the fetchpriority=”high” attribute to an HTML img tag will the browser will prioritize downloading that image as quickly as possible.

<img src="https://www.searchenginejournal.com/optimize-largest-contentful-paint-debugbear-spcs/471883/photo.jpg" fetchpriority="high" />

How To Use Modern Image Formats & Size Images Appropriately

High-resolution images can often have a large file size, which means they take a long time to download.

In the speed test result below you can see that by looking at the dark blue shaded areas. Each line indicates a chunk of the image arriving in the browser.

How To Optimize The Largest Contentful Paint &#038; Rank Higher In GoogleScreenshot of a large LCP image on DebugBear.com, November 2022

There are two approaches to reducing image sizes:

  1. Ensure the image resolution is as low as possible. Consider serving images at different resolutions depending on the size of the user’s device.
  2. Use a modern image format like WebP, which can store images of the same quality at a lower file size.

How To Optimize Font Loading Times

If the LCP element is an HTML heading or paragraph, then it’s important to load the font for this chunk of text quickly.

One way to achieve this would be to use preload tags that can tell the browser to load the fonts early.

The font-display: swap CSS rule can also ensure sped-up rendering, as the browser will immediately render the text with a default font before switching to the web font later on.

How To Optimize The Largest Contentful Paint &#038; Rank Higher In GoogleScreenshot of web fonts delaying the LCP on DebugBear.com, November 2022

Monitor Your Website To Keep The LCP Fast

Continuously monitoring your website not only lets you verify that your LCP optimizations are working, but also makes sure you get alerted if your LCP gets worse.

DebugBear can monitor the Core Web Vitals and other site speed metrics over time. In addition to running in-depth lab-based tests, the product also keeps track of the real-user metrics from Google.

Try DebugBear with a free 14-day trial.

How To Optimize The Largest Contentful Paint &#038; Rank Higher In GoogleScreenshot of site speed monitoring data on DebugBear.com, November 2022



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