15 Unique Features of Custom Search Engines

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As my friends know, I have been fascinated by Google’s Custom Search Engines (CSEs) for years. I have met several colleagues who have become as addicted to CSEs as I am; I feel as if we belong to a tribe. 🙂

I remain disappointed by the apparent CSEs’ low penetration into our industry tools. Part of the undeserved unpopularity is due to the lack of documentation from Google – or anybody else. (Google help no longer keeps the documentation of its advanced operators either.) The lack of info makes the operators like a medieval trade secret that is known to few (and, in our times, communicated via Messenger!)

David Galley and I contribute to covering the CSE documentation gap by blogging, hosting webinars, and preparing a book on the subject.

I have never seen a summary of unique CSEs’ advantages, so I came up with one. Many of the features have been there from the start (in 2006), but some unique semantic features are newer additions and deserve your attention. I have tried to make a full CSE feature list; let me know if you think of something important to add.

CSEs can:

  1. (Invisibly for the user) include only given site(s) (e.g., linkedin.com/in, which will find only LinkedIn profiles)
  2. Exclude given site(s)
  3. Give priority to the given site(s) but search the entire web
  4. Give priority to pages with given keyword(s)
  5. Narrow to a language
  6. Narrow to a country
  7. Boost results by country
  8. Include multiple sites via patterns using an Asterisk (e.g., site:behance.net/*/resume)
  9. Automatically append a string to user’s search (for example – narrow the search to PDF documents by adding filetype:PDF)
  10. Define synonyms to process user’s input
  11. Use the Synonyms feature to run long OR statements (for example, search for common women’s names)
  12. Select pages with given Schema.org object(s) (like Person, Physician, or Organization)
  13. Search for the presence of Schema.org objects’ fields (for example, find pages that have the filed “email” in the Person object)
  14. Search within Schema.org objects’ fields (for example, search for Github profiles containing “love Python” in the bio or LinkedIn profiles containing “open to new opportunities” in the headline)
  15. Guide the search by selecting Knowledge Graph object(s) (for example, find pages that are “CVs”)

While the first 11 points have been there from the start, 12-15 are later additions and make CSE search truly semantic, quite a challenge for a global search engine, nicely solved. (The only things that are less nice about CSEs is the old-style UI and cryptic operators to write out).

Please join us for an online class on CSEs on Tuesday, May 19th – “Become A Custom Search Engines Expert”. The optional workshop is the next day, Thursday. Seating is limited, sign up now!

Sales Navigator and LinkedIn Recruiter Import Replacement – with a Basic Account!

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We all dearly miss the free Sales Navigator extension and the related link to cross-reference emails. When LinkedIn announced that they are removing the SN Chrome extension, I posted a blog commenting on the Sales Navigator Death.

LinkedIn Recruiter (the “old” version) has an import function, which they call “Talent Pipeline,” capable of cross-referencing massive email lists at a time. But it’s available only to subscribers. And, the function was made into something much less powerful in the “new” Recruiter.

Now I am going to explain how you can do individual and mass-cross-referencing LinkedIn profiles against the emails they are registered with, just with a Basic or Professional account.

In the post on discontinuation of SN, I suggested looking more in-depth into uploading lists of emails to your LinkedIn account. You can upload emails from a CSV file or sync your Gmail.

At the time of the March post, all we had available to access the uploaded info was this link – https://www.linkedin.com/mynetwork/import-contacts/results/member/. Unfortunately, it only displays so many contacts, and there is no search. (You can also download the “Contacts” as part of your LI archive in preferences, but it no longer shows the names of people associated with email addresses.)

However, recently I ran across this function, which is new. It shows everyone uploaded (you have to scroll to see more). People who are identified by emails show the names, titles, and companies; those not identified show only an email address. The great thing is that you can now search within those imported contacts:

It is an interesting search function – clearly, they search within the beginnings of words. The search is performed in three fields:

  1. First name
  2. Last name
  3. Part of the email before @ (but not the email domain),

as shown in the screenshot:

(Apparently, the search is a bit buggy and shows duplicate results.)

So, here is what you can do. Create a CSV file with email address(es) in question and upload it to your personal LinkedIn. For the emails identified you will see the pictures, names, titles, and companies, but not the emails. Nevertheless, it is not hard to find any person in question using the search since we have the uploaded file to check with.

More technical users can review the search page source code and get straight to all identified profiles from the uploaded list. Email addresses are invisible on the LinkedIn page but are present in the HTML code. Here is an example:

A person’s email address and his/her LI ID are both stored in HTML. Once you have the ID, you can go to the profile appending the ID to linkedin.com/in, like https:linkedin.com/in/ACoAAAHZeaEBmlz8ZQoTNUggLjPj3DJURl31XTE. It won’t be hard to write a script to collect those from the HTML code.

So that the new function allows us to identify someone on LI by an email address like SN Extension (former Rapportive) AND ALSO cross-reference whole email lists, as the old LIR does!

Finally, if you are interested in scraping results from “Contacts” into a table, get in touch with Andre Bradshaw. He has written some code for downloading results.

Enjoy! 🙂


How to Search by City Location on LinkedIn

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The worst part of LinkedIn.com people search is that we no longer can search by any location other than a standardized one, like “San Francisco Bay Area” (where I live). But my area is large; people won’t commute from San Jose to San Francisco, for example.

The workaround for narrowing down to a “city” location, like “San Jose, California,” is to search in keywords. Interestingly, though on some profiles you will see only a generic area name, the profiles will be found if you put a location name in the quotation marks into Keywords. (Not quite WYSYWIG!)

I recently chatted with Henk van Ess who pointed out that if he searched just by a city name, he would get profiles in this area, in his example, “Apples.” I think I knew about this but have looked into it deeper this time.

Here you go:

  1. LinkedIn.com will find profiles in a search by a city location name. To avoid false positives, you need to enter the full LinkedIn location name in quotes. The location names are the ones you can see in Recruiter, but you can often guess.
  2. (Good for us!) LinkedIn.com does not search within work locations. So we won’t have too many false positives.

Here is an example from our discussion with Henk:

“Apples, Vaud, Switzerland.”

It produces a little over 70 profiles, all of which do reside in the area, though many won’t have it visible on their profiles:

Enjoy! 🙂

We have lots of other tips in our recording “Overcoming LinkedIn Limitations.”

The Full List of Google Operators – 2020

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Operator Meaning
Pages containing keywords in:
allinurl: / inurl: – the URL
allintitle: / intitle: – the Title
allintext: / intext: – the text
allinanchor: / inanchor: – the anchor text
filetype: – file types
site: Narrow results to a site
related: Shows similar sites (being phased out)
info: Shows page info
define Gives a definition
The quotes (“”) Search for a phrase
The minus (-) Exclusion
OR Alternatives
Numrange (..) Search for a range of numbers
Asterisk (*) Stands for a word or a few words
AROUND (n) Proximity search
before:, after: Date search


Working on my presentation “‘Visualize Success’ as the Google Search Principle” for Online Sourcing Learning Day – May 6, I have updated the full list of Google search operators and thought it would be a good idea to share it here. (As you know, Google no longer documents most of these.)

Bookmark it! 🙂

Using Your Hands vs. Boolean Builders

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My Dad was a simple man. For him, life was about figuring out what is right and wrong and then doing the right thing, which he expected of others – and didn’t hesitate to tell them. (Needless to say, I did many things wrong.) But, in his Partial Differential Equations, he was quite intuitive and subtle, often thinking and speaking in metaphors, as Mathematicians do.

I think Dad would have been able to appreciate an intuitive yet common sense approach to searching on the web as superior over “Boolean Builder” tools.

I would advise against Boolean-building tools. They seem attractive, there’s marketing angle to how they sound, and a long-lived tradition of (outdated) long OR searches that recruiters continue to share. Yet these automation tools are all ineffective; I can give you multiple examples using your favorite Builder and your current search. On a given search, they will have missed too many matching results and found too many false positives. Additionally, Boolean ORs are not a good practice on Google (see my latest post about it). A notion that Boolean Builders are for novices or busy, or non-technical people is a myth. It’s best to search “by hand,” and search on Google simply (and repeatedly).

“Boolean building” tools shift your focus to creating a “string” (or even “the string”) while your focus should be getting results, which you achieve by changing the searches all the time to get more and different data. I suppose there are exceptions, where you may need a long OR list of companies or schools to include. You can accomplish it by an Excel “OR” builder, but you would still need to review the list – to have the right coding, include abbreviations, etc. The output would be a string for LinkedIn because Google restricts you to 32 keywords.

Your comments are welcome (especially if you disagree)!

Please join my seven international friends and colleagues and me at the Online Sourcing Learning DayMay 6th! We already have over 100 participants – which we expect to double – from most US states, Canada, Mexico, many Europan countries, Australia, India, and are quite excited about it! If you have a team, please get in touch. I will be speaking on concepts like this one 🙂

Please Say No to OR on Google

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As I tweeted the other day, “I celebrate each time I talk a recruiter into stopping using long ORs – or any ORs – on Google. Stop – it is an outdated, ten-year-old technique.”

And I do not mean using | instead.

Here are some brief notes on the subject – and I hope to convince you, too!

1. Using OR defeats useful Google’s semantic interpretation of your search

What happens if you use the OR operator, for example, search for Developer OR Engineer? Google will find pages with “Developer” and pages with “Engineer.” It mixes them up and displays. But it will have a hard time deciding which should go first because you have asked about several different things, not specifying priorities. (Does it make sense?)

If instead, you search for (just) Developer, Google will find Developer, developing, development, Software Engineer, Coder, Programmer, and others who develop code and show the most relevant pages first.

On a tight search, with no ORs, you will get more results than with ORs. You can test it yourself.

Using ORs for synonyms and similar terms on Google is counter-productive. If you want to include either term in your search, it’s best to run two or more consecutive searches, where you will know what you are looking to find in each.

2. Using OR does not help to find many terms on one page

For example, if you search for Accenture OR Deloitte, Google will run queries with one, then another, and mix up the results pages. It won’t prioritize pages with both terms if that is what you wanted.

3. If you must use ORs, look into Custom Search Engines

In some cases, you will have a long series of search terms that are not synonyms – for example, school or company names. If you must search for a long Boolean OR of terms, Google will not help very much because its searches are limited to 32 words. This approach can help, though it’s a bit technical. But you may want just not to utilize Google for those.

I will be sharing this type of content, with many how-to examples, at our upcoming

Online Sourcing Learning Day, May 6th.

You must join us!





Invitation: Online Sourcing Learning Day – May 6th

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Have you ever wanted to make a big jump in your sourcing skills in just a day? I would like to invite you to join David Galley, Guillaume Alexandre, Kim and Gordon Lokenberg, Balazs Paroczay, Marcel van der Meer, and me on May 6, 2020. We will present a unique six-hour online event with an in-depth, diverse, actionable content on Sourcing and Recruiting. So, don’t wait and head over to:

Online Sourcing Learning Day May 6, 2020 Registration

You’ll find the details on the site, but here are some points, briefly:

For those with a serious interest in sourcing: this is going to be a one-of-a-kind event.

Presenters are all experienced sourcing hands-on practitioners. We are also all trainers and speakers; most of us have met at Phil Tusing’s Sourcing Summits and have become good friends since. I have listened to each of our speakers and guarantee you inspiration and quality, up-to-date content, delivered from diverse angles.

Our topics cover “everything,” from running intelligent Google searches to recruiting unicorns to peeking inside a Sourcer’s mind to OSINT techniques.

We will be running a side-by-side virtual coffee bar and break room throughout the event. Get together with your favorite presenters and ask any questions you like!

Not up for listening six hours straight? Want to review some points later? All who sign up will get the slides and video-recordings for you to keep and use to practice what you have learned.

We have priced the event to be affordable. We expect participants from many countries, with the majority being from the US and Europe (hence, the times of day). Please help us to promote Learning Day by sharing the link on Social Media and with colleagues. Our hashtag is #OLSD. Your support is appreciated.

We will be able to accommodate teams on an individual basis. (Tip: a “team” does not have to come from one organization. Contact your colleagues and form a team.)

I hope to “see” you there! Sign up now.




Search for Women in Your Industry: 5 Tips and a Bonus

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I live in a very diverse area (and love it). Let me demonstrate what it is like in the streets and parks, when people are out, by showing a screenshot for local Python Developers (no diversity filters applied):

However – search for CEOs in the same area and you will see a very different picture:

(A stunning difference, isn’t it?)

Different industries, locations, and career levels have their diversity employment challenges. And every company, at every level, benefits from hiring diversity for all roles.

Let’s talk about searching for Women, with the purpose of including them in the talent pipeline. Our webinar this week will serve as a Complete Guide to Sourcing Females. I have forty slides on that. 👩👩‍🦰👱‍♀️ In a short blog post, I will mention a few approaches that will complement your diversity efforts.

1. Searching in a Diverse Area? Use Women’s Names for Ethnicities.

It is highly applicable here in the San Francisco Bay Area, where Indian and Asian Software Engineers are a majority. I wasn’t finding many profiles on LinkedIn for my diversity project by searching for common (English) women’s names until this occurred to me! Strings I had started using then, like an OR of Indian women’s names – (Aditi OR(Bipasha) OR(Damayanti) OR(Eva) OR(Gayatri) OR(Harshita) OR(Indira) OR(Jesminder) OR(Kanika) OR(Lata) OR(Madhumita) OR(Nadia) OR(Padmavati) OR(Rajadhi) OR(Saloni) OR(Tanisha) OR(Uma) OR(Varsha) OR(Yamini)) (etc.) – brought the desired results.

2. Continuing on the fruitful “image for *” technology exploration, started by my friend @theBalazs, search for diverse colleges and organizations. For example:

or, just this (add your terms):

Note that you will find additional results with

Switch to the Image Tab to see how accurate your search is.

3. Have you noticed that diversity searches often require long lists of terms, such as relevant associations or schools, as part of the approach? Custom Search Engines can automate relevant searches for you.

Here is my X-Ray LinkedIn for Women’s Names.

4. Some sites allow us to X-Ray by gender:

We could also create one for CrunchBase, since member profiles have the gender info.

5. Every industry has associations oriented toward women, which you can find by Googling. For each site, you could potentially be constructing searches like:

and find profiles of females in that industry.

Bonus. Here are two additional Diversity CSEs:

Please join me at the fully reworked webinar “Sourcing for Diversity” on April 15th, 2020. Seating is limited.

Avoid These Nine Mistakes on Google

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Google indexes 35 trillion web pages. (Compare the volume with LinkedIn’s. LinkedIn profiles are 0.001% of Google’s Index!)

However, mining Google is not straightforward because the web has different kinds of pages. We can search for terms in the page titles, URLs, or links to the page but usually not for values like job titles or companies. If you want a reminder, here is The Full List of Google Advanced Search Operators.

Compared to, say, ten years ago, Google’s search has changed dramatically, not only adding trillions of pages but learning to recognize user’s intent when they are searching. That is a definition of Semantic Search. Because of clever Google’s interpretation of search strings, we need to be Masters of Boolean – and know when to let Google control results as well.

From our experience training, we have consistently seen two kinds of attendees. Some have an open mind and try to “get it” and apply what they learn right away. We offer a month of support on all our offerings to stimulate that – and are celebrating with the students when they get to understanding and success. Others, especially self-identified “old school” recruiters, copy and keep search strings or use Boolean Builders, all of which have less than optimal templates, or write very long strings on Google. They do not try to understand why the results look like this or that on the screen.

However – everybody can learn, and many have! Boolean search is not Rocket Science. All you need is an open mind and a computer with a browser and wi-fi.

If you are Googling, do overcome these mistakes and unhelpful habits:

  1. There is no operator AND
  2. NOT needs to be written as the minus -, no space between the minus and keyword
  3. Parentheses are ignored. OR is always a priority (unlike it is on Bing or LinkedIn)
  4. Operators like site: must be lower-case, no space between the operator and keyword
  5. Do not trust or compare the numbers of results
  6. Put your terms in the order you expect to see them
  7. Do not try to “catch everything” with one search string. Strings are not “built”, they are run and immediately modified
  8. Do not be a perfectionist. Searches will have false positives and miss something. Your goal is not strings but results
  9. Overusing the operator OR leads to shrinking results – search simple

I cannot stress #9 enough. It is not a good idea to use ORs on Google. (I never do). I can give you numerous examples of how simple search works better than long ORs. It is time to change this habit.

Please join me at our fully refreshed webinar “Boolean Basics & Beyond” coming to your laptop at home on April 7, 2020. We will mostly cover Google but will talk about other sites as well. Seating is limited (due to our need to support everyone who signs up).


How to Correctly X-Ray LinkedIn for Headlines

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It is quite unexpected – and 99.99% of LinkedIn members do not realize that – but in LinkedIn people search, Headlines are not taken into account! (Easy to check). The Headline is the main intro on your profile that you want the world to see but you cannot be found by it. OOPS, LinkedIn. The moral of the story is that you might want to check that your Headline wording is repeated in your Summary so that others will find you as you expect.

Google, of course, does not discriminate between parts of profile pages, and you can search for anything, Headlines included.

Better yet, Google Custom Search Engines (CSEs) provide us with a unique way to search specifically in Headlines! That compensates for LinkedIn’s neglect of its own design. Thanks to my friend and Master Sourcer Pierre-André Fortin for pointing it out. Somehow I’ve been missing it.

While there has been a negative shift in the relationship between Googlebot and CSEs, one (the only one as far as I can tell) way to narrow down to a field that currently works, Headline, is described below. (Note that searches in this post will only find profiles indexed more than six months ago due to the relationship going wrong around that time. CSEs “think” that current profiles do not even have a Person object. It is such a loss! I hope to see it fixed.)

The syntax for the Headline search is not pretty. But you will clearly see which part you need to copy (the operator) and which you can vary (the arguments). The Asterisk * means AND. This search –


finds profiles of members who have both words javascript and python in their Headlines (but obviously not in the job titles). The results are JavaScript and Python enthusiasts.

(To note, the link above is the best LinkedIn X-Ray CSE, whether you use operators or not.)

We have seen many cases in our sourcing practice where Headlines had uniquely qualifying information and brought up additional results, that couldn’t be found on LinkedIn.

Please join me at our class

Overcoming LinkedIn’s Limitations, Wednesday, April 1st, 2020

to get fully updated on search algorithms, workarounds, less-known functionality, and X-Raying of LinkedIn. As we all know, LinkedIn changes are vast, restricting, undocumented, and unannounced. Spend interesting and productive 90 minutes to get up-to-date, choose the right sourcing tracks, and feel confident. Slides and video are included, as well as 30 days of support from us. Note that seating is limited. Those who can’t attend at the scheduled time will get all the materials and support if they sign up.