What Are Advanced Search Options?

Use advanced filters to narrow down search results

Searching the internet

 All Canada Photos RM / Getty Images

Advanced search options are a set of filters offered by most search engines on the web. They narrow the scope of your search query to eliminate irrelevant information to help you find the exact content you're looking for.

Modern web search engines like Google, Yahoo, DuckDuckGo, Bing, etc., have tabs you can select after performing a search that will limit the results to web pages only, or videos, images, map directions, news, etc.

However, advanced search options takes it even further by letting you decide everything from which words shouldn't appear in the results, which websites to search through, what the language of the pages should be, etc.

The option to access advanced search filters isn't limited to web search engines like Google. Any website with a search tool can incorporate advanced search options, including people search engines, music and video streaming sites, social media websites, reference sites, blogs, etc.

Common Advanced Search Option Filters

Google Advanced Search page

Here's a list of advanced search options commonly found on web search tools:

  • Language: Specify which language you'd like results to come back in.
  • Region: Specify which geographical region searches should focus on.
  • Last updated: Good for returning recently updated content but can sometimes be used to find content published between specific dates.
  • Site or domain: Limit searches to a single website, web page, or top-level domain (e.g., EDU or GOV). Learn how to do this on Google.
  • URL: Show only websites where your search query appears in the URL.
  • Safe search: Filter for language and explicit images, although it's not always reliable for avoiding dangerous websites.
  • Reading level: Determine the reading level you'd like the results to come back in.
  • File type: Search for a specific file format such as Microsoft Word documents, PDFs, and others. Google can do this, as well as Bing.
  • Usage rights: Find pages that you have permission to use.
  • Specific phrases: Use quotation marks to return results where all of those words are side by side.

Some search engines include more search options for images, videos, news, and other content.

Yahoo advanced search options for images
  • Color: Force all images in the results to have an overwhelming color that matches the one you choose.
  • Size: Find high-resolution images, or really small ones. Some search engines include an advanced image search that can show pictures that match an exact size you choose.
  • Type: Find GIFs, portraits, clip art, line drawings, or only pictures that include a face.
  • Duration: Locate short or long videos, usually designated by time, such as 0-4 minutes or more than 20 minutes.
  • Quality: Filter the results to show only high-quality videos. Some let you pick the exact video resolution, such as 480p or 1080p and higher.
  • Feature: Results include the feature you selected, such as subtitles, location information, live content, etc.
  • Source: Show video results from a specific site only.
  • Time: When looking for books in a search engine, you might be given the option to pick which century it was created in.

How to Use Advanced Search Options

Individual search engines use different algorithms and operators, so an advanced search option from one site probably won't work on another. Plus, how to get to a website's advanced search tools isn't always obvious.

See our Google Cheat Sheet for a list of advanced search operators for Google. You can access the advanced search on Google at google.com/advanced_search.

Bing is another search engine with unique advanced search options. See these Bing search tips to learn all about how you can search by IP address, find RSS feeds, and more.

For YouTube, the FILTER option below the search bar (visible after you perform the search) is how you can apply advanced search options when looking for YouTube videos.

Twitter has an advanced search tool as well, accessible at twitter.com/search-advanced.