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How to search Google by file type

How to search Google by file type

If you always search Google by simply entering one or more words and hitting return, you’re only using a small percentage of its functionality. There are actually more than 40 Google search operators you can use to finetune your searches and get Google to return more specific results.

One I only discovered recently is the filetype: operator, which allows you to limit your search results to one type of file, such as .pdf, .doc or .txt. This can be really useful if you want to separate the wheat from the chaff in your results and get hold of a certain type of document related to your search.

How to search for a specific file type

Let’s say I’m looking for product guides and instruction manuals for the Kyocera Ecosys M6230cidn printer. If I just Google the name of the printer, I might get all sorts of results I don’t want about where to buy it, its product page on the Kyocera website and general reviews.

Rather than these, I want official documents. To refine my results, I can limit the search to .pdf files, which are likely to be guides and manuals that can be downloaded to my hard drive and printed out if necessary. I can do this by searching for:

kyocera ecosys m6230cidn filetype:pdf

Now, all my results will be .pdf files and I can collate them to build up a set of brochure-style materials about the printer.

How to search for more than one specific file type

If limiting searches to .pdf files is too restrictive, I can include one or more other file types in my search. This is done by using the OR operator, which instructs Google to include more than one set of results.

The below search query would return results about the printer that are in either .pdf and .doc format:

kyocera ecosys m6230cidn filetype:pdf OR filetype:doc

How to leave a specific file type out of your search results

On the other side of the coin, what if I really don’t want .pdf results? I might be searching on my phone and not want it to download .pdf files to it.

This can be achieved by using the exclude operator, which means putting a dash/minus sign in front of anything you want to avoid. A simple example of this is if you wanted to search for Birmingham, UK but keep getting results for Birmingham, Alabama. In this case, a search for “birmingham -alabama” would tell Google to look for results with “Birmingham”, but without “Alabama”.

That means to exclude a certain file type, you simply put the dash before the filetype: operator as below:

kyocera ecosys m6230cidn -filetype:pdf

Your results should then be .pdf-free!

Knowing how to use Google to its fullest can improve your search experience as a user, and knowing how to optimise your site for it can help it be found by Google users. To learn more about search engine optimisation (SEO) and how it can bring you more business, speak to Engage Web today.

Content Team Leader at Engage Web
John works for Engage Web as a Content Team Leader and regularly contributes to the website and programmes of his beloved Chester F.C.
John Murray

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