How to Search Google Creatively (to Research Related Twitter Userbase)

I confess, I love (searching) Google and moreover, I am better at searching Google than any other (type of) search engine. OK, I appreciate social media and real-time search tools that are emerging, but honestly I never use them for random daily searching. Whenever I really need some info, I turn to Google.

The reason why I love the search engine so much is its flexibility. The range of opportunities I have with the tool is enormous. Many people don’t even have the slightest idea of how many options they have besides typing a word and hitting “search”.

This post is an attempt to show how really flexible and creative you can be with Google. It is an attempt to inspire.

In this post we will try to research our potential Twitter following (and probably competitors) by searching for Twitter users.

Note: before we actually start searching, here are some great ideas for you to learn what else you can get from Google search results besides just clicking through them:

  1. Take a look at this (rather old but still valid) post of mine on exporting Google results to Excel (and the comments to it): this way you can open results in a more organized, ready-for-analysis way.
  2. Take a look at Google trends, especially the word cloud tool.

Throughout the post we are going to use “site:twitter.com” search command to restrict results to Twitter domain. Also, you may want to set Google to show at least 50 (better 100) results per page (You will need to disable Instant search for that).

1. First Things First: Just Search for Your Keyword

The best way to start is to just run straightforward search [SITE:twitter.com keyword] in Google and see what happens.

What most likely is going to happen is that Google will return Twitter users and Twitter lists that have your keyword in the title tag and / or URL – this is just how Google works most of the time. These will probably be bloggers and official Twitter accounts and lists that promote their profiles and are very much focused on the topic of your interest:

twitter google search

twitter google search

There is likely to be more Twitter lists in search results (depending on your keyword, of course), which is surely useful but not really the purpose of this post. So what we are going to do is to apply some filtering.

2. Show Google What You Need: Apply Filters or Force the Exact Match

So if we need only Twitter users returned in search results, we need to filter some URLs out. It would be possible if we had “list” word somewhere in the Twitter list URL showing it’s not a user. However with Twitter it is impossible – the URLs of Twitter lists are all different: they consist of /%username%/%twitter-list-name% parts which are both variables.

Therefore we need another way to drop the lists of the search results. If we look closely at search results, we’ll see that all Twitter users have “(%Username%) on Twitter” part it the title as opposed to Twitter lists:

twitter google search 2

twitter google search 2

So we can use this part to exclude Twitter lists from the search results. For that we will need three operators:

  • intitle: to indicate where the part should be located;
  • “” (quotation marks) to indicate the exact match;
  • + to force the part in the results:
twitter google search 3

twitter google search 3

Nice! Your results are pretty much ready for Excel export and/or analysis!

twitter google search 4

twitter google search 4

Now let’s try something trickier:

3. Go more in-depth: Search within people’s bios

The above search did return many results, but the important limitation of them is that, like I said, Google will give top rankings to those using our keyword in the page title and URLs (which is good in most cases and does reflect the topic of most web pages) but will cause us to miss a great deal of highly relevant results: users who mention the word in the bio (without including it in their full names or usernames).

If we want to focus the search on those Twitter users, we need to include the word “bio” in our search.

Note: If you opted in “New Twitter”, you may have noticed that the word “bio” has been removed from users’ profiles. This could result in our experiment failure because Google won’t know it’s a bio unless there’s the exact word on the page. But the good thing is that unregistered users as well as Google still see “old” profiles with the word “bio” on them – which we can make sure of by taking a look at Google Cache of any Twitter profile.

So while we don’t (yet) have the tools to use Google to restrict results to a particular part of the page, we can use the word “bio” to show which part of Twitter profiles we need to focus on.

New search operators we will use:

  • to exclude results with our keyword in the title (we’ve seen enough of them in the previous step) combined with intitle: to show where we don’t want our keyword to appear;
  • to let Google replace it with one or more random words (people might use in their bios):
twitter google search 6

twitter google search 6

We can export these results as well and merge the list with the one we built above.

Now, from the above screenshot, let’s make sure we understand why we need each part of the search query:

  • site:twitter.com restricts search results to Twitter domain;
  • “bio * diabetes” indicates that we really want the word diabetes to appear somewhere near the word bio. We need * (wildcard) there to make sure that isn’t the exact match – without the wildcard Google will only find users whose bios start with the word diabetes.

Note: To control the proximity you may also want to play with AROUND() operator which I haven’t found terribly useful – which also makes me wonder if it actually works at all.

  • -intitle:diabetes excludes all pages with diabetes in profile page title (which means it drops all the Twitter users who have the word mentioned in their “full names” or “user names”)
  • +“on twitter” forces Google to only search profiles (dropping all lists out).

Looks good? I hope this post has demonstrated how flexible and incredibly smart Google search is when you use it to its full potential! Please share your favorite search operators and tips!

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