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How Do I Search a Site That Has No Search Box?

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Leo, the search box on your site disappeared. How do I search?

The search box in the upper right of each page depends on two things: Google being accessible from your location, and Javascript being enabled. If either of those conditions aren’t met, there’s no search box. (Firefox’s NoScript extension is the most common cause for the latter – just make sure askleo.com gets an exception, and all should be well.)

But that got me to thinking …

As long as you can reach Google, you can still search my site. In fact, you can search any site that is searchable.

It’s a handy trick to know.

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Search operators

In addition to just searching for whatever words you throw into Google’s search box, there are a number of special instructions you can include. They’re called “search operators”.

Google has a handy list.

You probably know some already. Things like the quote operator, using “OR”, or perhaps the “cache:” operator and the like.

The one we care about here, however, is the “site:” operator.

Using “site:” to search a site

“site:” causes Google to restrict its search results to pages from the site you specify. For example, searching for “site:askleo.com word” will return results only from askleo.com1.

Site: operator used on askleo.com

In other words, it’s a way to search a specific site, whether or not that site has a search function of its own.

In the case of Ask Leo!, my search function is implemented using Google search, so the results from using “site:” versus using the search box at the top of the page should be relatively similar.

What I’ve found, however, is that even when a site has a search function of its own, using Google often gets me better results, or at least presents a different view on those results.

The one exception to all this is if a site has told Google it does not want to be included in Google search results at all. In those cases, the “site:” operator on Google search won’t help. You can try other search engines, like Bing, which also have the “site:” operator, but typically, if a site has specifically told Google to ignore it, it’ll have told all the major search engines the same thing.

Another interesting use of “site:”

“Site:” is actually a pretty interesting tool to find out if a site has been indexed by Google at all.

Just search for nothing, using the site: operator.

Site: operator searching for nothing

If there are results, then the site is in the Google index. If there’s nothing, it’s not. This can happen for new sites that are waiting for Google to discover them and get indexed.

By the way, the results count shouldn’t be taken as accurate. It’s an approximation at best, and can be off by quite a bit, particularly for large sites.

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Footnotes & references

1: Turns out that subdomains are considered part of “the site”, so searching site:askleo.com will also return results from forum.askleo.com, glossary.askleo.com, and so on. The reverse is not true, so searching site:glossary.askleo.com will search only glossary.askleo.com.

10 comments on “How Do I Search a Site That Has No Search Box?”

  1. Control F is handy for many sites with a little search box opening up on the right top. I just did it, typed in Leo and found that your name was in 20 locations on the browser page that was open.

    • That’s a useful tool. I use it several times every day, but it does something completely different from the ‘site:’ operator. It only searches for the exact text string you typed on the current page in your browser.

  2. I just tried this out for fun. I typed this in google search box. ” site:cnn.com/indiana” Nothing came up. I also tried Isis instead of indiana. Some things came up in Arabic. What’s going on?

  3. Google has been working fine until last few days and now when I search for something using the Google Search Box it only shows one or two sites, instead of the long list, like before. Have I hit a wrong button on my phone (Samsung Galaxy S4) or could I have done something when I was in settings on my laptop bc it’s happening on all of my devices that are synced to one another…Google Chrome is doing same thing.

    Plz Help Me,
    Ty in advance and have a wonderful day

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