Google’s Search Relations team discussed the limited functionality of the “site:” operator in a recent podcast episode.
The team had an insightful discussion about the tool commonly used by website owners and SEO professionals to check a website’s indexing status.
However, the team emphasized that Google Search Console offers far more detailed indexing data, while the operator provides a high-level overview.
Limitations of the “Site:” operator
The site: operator, which you can use to search for pages on a specific site, does not provide a comprehensive list of indexed pages.
Gary Illyes, a member of the Google Search Relations team, went straight to the point, saying, “No, the site thing shows me some of the pages that are indexed.”
Illyes says it is not feasible for Google to provide users with a complete list of all pages indexed.
Use cases for the “Site:” operator.
While the “site:” operator may not serve as an all-encompassing indexing checker, the team highlighted several useful purposes for the tool.
It can be used to search for unwanted keywords or content, such as “buy viagra in a casino in Timbuktan without a prescription”, as Illyes vividly demonstrated.
The operator is also helpful when it comes to finding localized versions of pages or checking image indexing, which is useful for websites hosting user-generated content.
“On our search document page, Developers.google.com/search, I sometimes use them to find some of the localized versions of individual pages…” Illyes said.
“When you search for images… like in image search or in the images tab, that lets you see what kind of images we’ve indexed, because sometimes that can get pretty awkward too.”
While the discussion was light-hearted at times, the team delivered a sobering final message. Google Search Console is far superior to the “site:” operator in correctly diagnosing and fixing indexing problems.
A discussion in the latest episode of Search Off The Record examines the capabilities and limitations of the “site:” operator to ensure an accurate understanding of how and when to use it.
While this may not be the most accurate way to check a website’s indexing status, its usefulness in other areas makes it a valuable tool to understand and use effectively.
source: Google search confidential
Featured image created by the author using Midjourney.