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August 7, 2007

Google Hack: Finding Supplemental Results

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Guest Entry by Mike Terry, SEO Analyst for Bruce Clay, Inc.

Like everyone else in the SEO community, we’ve been scrambling to deal with the recent blow of having supplemental results unlabeled and intermixed with the regular search results. We believe we’ve found a solution.

Even before Google stopped labeling supplemental results, it was useful to automate the process of finding and viewing them. If you had a very large site, it was nice not having to wade through several–or several dozen–SERPs just to find the supplemental pages. To that end, a small collection of obscure search command lines had been gathered by the community to filter out primary index entries and leave only pure, unadulterated supplemental results. The most popular of these was:

site:domain.com *** -asdfgh

… or variations which essentially did the same thing, such as:

site:domain.com *** -view

As we reported last month, however, this supplemental search results command line was disabled by Google. It’s fun to note that in the comments at that post just a month ago, folks were basically saying, "So they took away an undocumented command. You can still find supplemental results with a regular search. What’s the big deal?"

The big deal is that it was a portent. Soon all traces of supplemental results would be expunged from Google’s interface.

Aside from above, other syntaxes that once worked, but have since been purged include:

site:domain.com ~s
site:domain.com/&
site:domain.com * -asdf

With our old tools broken, we set to work finding alternatives. It didn’t take long. We hacked away, and eventually BC SEO Analyst Darren Slatten hit upon the magic incantation. Let’s build it up step-by-step (Note: Client www.finemoments.com used in examples by permission.):

1. Primary and Supplemental results mixed:

site:finemoments.com/boybabybirthannouncements/ (39 results)

2. Primary results only:

site:finemoments.com/boybabybirthannouncements/* (3 results)

3. Supplemental results only:

-site:finemoments.com/boybabybirthannouncements/* +site:finemoments.com/boybabybirthannouncements/ (36 results)

For the last, you’ll probably have to click on the link to show omitted results.

Item 3 does what we want. What it lacks in brevity it makes up for in workingness. It contains a "plus" (+) command and a "minus" (-) command. (The plus is technically superfluous; it’s just there for labeling.)

The plus command in 3 retrieves all documents prefixed by the specified URL fragment, including primary and supplemental content. The minus command in 3 retrieves all documents in the primary index, but doesn’t check the supplemental. This is crucially different from the behavior shown when combining some other special search commands and operators with the site: command.

After retrieving both sets, the plus set is filtered by comparison to the minus set and we’re left with only supplemental results.

Incidentally, if you try to use 2 above to just view the primary results, but Google finds "too few" primary results, it will show you a couple supplemental results. I haven’t verified how much is "too few". It’s probably one of 0, 1, or 2, but I’ll leave finding the exact number as an exercise for the reader. If you suspect you have very few primary results, you can of course compare the results of 2’s command to the supplemental results (3’s command) and see if there are any matches. If so, you know 2’s results are not "legitimate".

Here at Bruce Clay, we’re not one-trick ponies. We’ve developed other methods for identifying supplemental entries and mutually verified the results with each other. Unfortunately, we’re afraid Google will block these command lines, which forces us to hold in reserve some of our better techniques. Perhaps that’s not such a bad thing. After all, we must keep some secrets, mustn’t we?

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5 responses to “Google Hack: Finding Supplemental Results”

  1. Simon Heseltine writes:

    Hmm, it may be that the threshold for showing supplementals in the second command is higher than you anticipated…

    site:searchenginetigers.com/ = 136

    site:searchenginetigers.com/* = 24

    -site:searchenginetigers.com/* +site:searchenginetigers.com/ = 117

    Interestingly with a large site with over 147k+ in total, and only a few k showing from the primary only query, the combined third query “did not match any documents”

  2. m1t0s1snofollowtest writes:

    This doesn’t work, based on my old supplemental results from ibm.com

  3. m1t0s1snofollowtest writes:

    I should of added, compared with my test showing 3.4 million

  4. Susan Esparza writes:

    Mike’s response:
    Simon,
    It looks like it should still be pretty close. It may be that that’s the best we can do now. Regarding the results for the larger site: There’s growing evidence these searches aren’t reliable there. We typically aren’t closely tracking larger site’s supplemental pages, as our SEO efforts are better spent elsewhere.
    -mwt

  5. Marah Marie writes:

    Interestingly, method #3 no longer works, at least not for a straight search with no category title appended to the site name (as in your example, which made no sense to me).

    I put my site name in the search box with the +/- command exactly as #3 instructs and got all my SERP #1 pages back in results. This is not telling me what pages are supplementally indexed, unless of course my entire site just got tossed from Google’s index today and I’m still unaware of it (unlikely, they usually wait a few months before tossing it out again).



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