When you visit a website and want to find a specific piece of information, one of the first things you are likely to do is look for a search box on that website. But wait, what if there isn’t one?
So how do I search websites without a search box?*
*search box – also known as a search bar or search facility.
You go to Google, and you use the Google site: operator. The site: operator is an easy and powerful tool to use. The steps to do this are outlined below, using a real website as an example.
Steps to follow to search websites without a search box
As an example, we will use a well-known UK news website called Sky News. This example is an excellent news website that I often use. However, their website does not have a search box, so it will perfectly suit our exercise. The web address of Sky News is news.sky.com. Go to that website now. The following screenshot is what you might have seen on the date this article was published.
Note: you can click or touch any screenshot below to see a bigger image. If viewing on a mobile phone, you will see a bigger image if you hold your phone in horizontal mode.
As you can see, there is no way you can easily search the Sky News website as there is no search box you can use.
Steps you need to take to search the Sky News website using the Google site: operator
Copy the website address to your clipboard. The way you do this depends on the device you are using.
Visit Google.co.uk for the next step
Go to google.co.uk, or if you are using Google outside the United Kingdom, go to the Google version specific to your country. For instance, if you are in Ukraine, you can use google.ua. If the country you are in does not have a country-specific Google version, you can use google.com.
Once you are on Google’s search page, in the Google search box, type the word site: followed by the web address without a space after the colon. In this first example, we are searching for all pages on news.sky.com. The following screenshot shows what you have to type in, or you can paste in the web address you previously copied to your clipboard.
This is what Google will show you
Use the Google site: operator to target results specific to your purpose
Let’s say you are interested in all the news articles on Sky News that mention the town of Brighton on the south coast of England. To achieve this you can type the following into the Google search box: site:news.sky.com brighton. You will need to omit the full stop at the end of the previous sentence.
This will show you the results for every article on Sky News that contains the word, Brighton.
We can be even more specific in our search
You now wish to see every article on the Sky News website that mentions the words Brighton and London. This time, in the Google search box type: site:news.sky.com brighton london.
You can narrow down your search even more. You may be preparing an article about Brighton, London and town halls. You do not want to type in site:news.sky.com brighton london town hall, because that would return every single page that has those four words present. In this case, you are additionally interested in town hall as a phrase. That’s easy to achieve. You need to type in town hall within inverted commas like this: “town hall”. So your complete search in Google should look like this: site:news.sky.com brighton london “town hall“. Doing this will only return every result from Sky News that mentions Brighton, London and the phrase town hall.
Can you target your search to be even more specific? Yes, you can! Continuing work on our fictitious article about Brighton, London and town halls, you now wish to exclude any pages from Sky News that include information about the town of Guildford in Surrey. All you need to type into Google’s search box is a – sign before the word you would like to be excluded from your search. In this case, you should type: site:news.sky.com brighton london “town hall” –guildford.
Another search technique you can use: The Google cache: operator
Updated 2 February 2023. Use of the cache: operator has been discontinued by Google. Source: theverge.com.
Let’s say you visited a website page yesterday because you were looking for a specific piece of information. Today, you visited the same website page and you didn’t find this information. Perhaps the web page author removed that information? In this case, you could try using Google’s cache: operator before the web address of the page. Doing this will cause Google to display the previous version of the page from its cache.
As an example, on 28 March 2022, Sky News published an article titled Daily Climate Show: The future of nuclear power in Britain, and BA to use sustainable jet fuel. The full web address of this page is: https://news.sky.com/video/daily-climate-show-the-future-of-nuclear-power-in-britain-and-ba-to-use-sustainable-jet-fuel-12577079. To view the cached version of this page from a previous date, you would type the following into Google’s search box:
On the 2nd of March 2022, Google showed the cached version of that article, which was dated 1st of April 2022.
Hopefully, this tutorial about how to search a website without a search box will help you in your research.
But wait, there is more!
An important point to note about the Google cache: operator
A website administrator can, if they wish, instruct Google not to show cached versions of their website. If caching has been disabled, a cache: operator search will not display any results.
Comments are welcome. Leave a comment below
Subscribe to future posts by email. No spam, just an email when a new post is published.