UPDATE: 12/14/11 8:00am EST

I have fixed a bug in the Google Doc that was returning the API data one row off, please re-copy it now if you have used it prior to now, thanks!!

– – – – –

So I’ve been playing around with the related: search operator. Not many folks talk about it, but DAMN Google, nice work. This baby is FAST at helping with some quick competitive research, keyword research and linkbuilding. Especially if you beef it up with some extra add-ons and tools like I’m going to show you.



The Query: Gets Lots of Similar Websites

The related: search operator is a simple search operator, in which Google returns usually 100-200 websites for which it thinks to be similar. (NOTE: Clicking “similar” in any Google result site preview runs the related query for that page – same search, just another way to get to it.) More about search operators on the SEOmoz site here.

So you may remember an infamous chocolate company which I posted how I would do SEO for a few months ago. (Still going to pursue that more, after the Holidays). We’re going to use Vosges Chocolate as the example throughout this post.

First, behold. The related query on www.vosgeschocolate.com

related search for vosgeschocolate.com

AWESOME! This answers a few questions for me, very quickly, that usually take longer to answer;

  • Is this site “seen” in the right family of sites on the web?
  • What are some of this site’s potential competitors?

So we’ve established the value to the related: operator, let’s beef it up a bit!


Tip One: Add SERP Overlays for Fast Analysis

Who doesn’t love a good SERP overlay with useful metrics? The SEOmoz SERP overlay is fantastic. Turn that baby on for some data for some fast sizing up of the “competition”. Get SERP overlay for Chrome or Firefox

seomoz serp overlay screenshot

Don’t forget SEO Quake’s SERP report too!!

seoquake serp report

That’s some FAST down and dirty competitive analysis. Especially handy right at the beginning of the project, when you’re trying to get a quick feel for where the site stands.

Still with me? Ready for some more?

Pssssst…. Google Doc in trick six down there….


Tip Two: Show Sites With Images for Fast Content Assessment

Want a quick visual indication as to the content of the sites? Just turn on “sites with images”;

Ok, ok. Things are picking up a bit. But all our work up til now has still been in the SERPs. Let’s get some of this into Excel!


Tip Three: Grab Results With A JavaScript Bookmarklet

Here’s one way to get stuff into Excel for any Google search. Just use this awesome JS Bookmarklet as explained in this post by Tom Critchlow.

online sales js bookmarklet screenshot

The Online Sales JS Bookmarklet puts all that data into easy cut and paste format.



Tip Four: Fast Prospecting for Link Building

Suppose you’ve got some good links from high quality sites, but you’re saying “I wish I had MORE links from sites like this one”.  You guessed it, the related: search query is your friend here. Do this:

  1. Find a high quality site that already links to you (and ideally sends referral traffic too).
  2. Run the query
  3. Smile. Hundreds of more sites just like it.
  4. Proceed to trick six and get that into a spreadsheet!

Let’s do that for our favorite chocolate company, Vosges.

1. First, I’ll find a site they already have a link from in Opensite Explorer


I’ll choose www.indiegogo.com. Never heard of the site, but the title and domain authority look promising.  Win. Check out this link they got from doing a good thing.

And a related search on that site shows….


LOTS more opportunity. They could hand pick some more charities or sites they like from this list that are in line with their goals and values. (Wouldn’t hurt if they had an SEO on hand to help them find more sites, which align with their companies values, to help identify ones that provide high ranking and referral traffic value…. ahem ahem… )

And once they pick these, over time, supporting some more good causes… LINKS!!  (I do feel a little possessed by Wil Reynolds at the moment – if you’ve seen any of his decks you know what I’m talking about.)

Now go and do that for all of the top quality links you have. Lots of link opportunity to be found. They could also use the top 5 sites from the related query, and run them through the AdWords tool for more keyword ideas too.


Tip Five: Find That Next New Tool/Blog/Site (before everyone else does)

Last trick before the grand finale.

Need some more social bookmarking sites? More photosharing sites? Sure, you could look for a list someone has curated on the web or search [social bookmarking site]… but this is WAY faster.

172 Social bookmarking or related type sites. There’s definitely some you will have heard of, but lots I was not aware of. Can be used for links, for research….


[related:technorati.com] returns some interesting sites that could be useful for blog linkbuilding etc.


*meant to say “thinks” instead of “things” 🙂


Tip Six: Copy This Google Doc for FAST Prospecting!!

No matter the application of the query, you’ll want your juicy list of URLs in a spreadsheet – without having to cut and paste or hire a random college kid on fiverr.com

Here it is, I made you a little Google Doc Tool. All you have to do is enter the site name, and it will return the Titles, URLs, mozRank and Domain Authority automatically. (I want to beef it up a bit more in the future, but let’s not get too ahead of ourselves, yes?).

The beauty of this technique is, you only need ONE website name and it returns 100 sites of similar content. It builds the list, and starts the prospecting process for you all in one step.

Click me to open Google Doc

First, here’s a screenshot of the final result. Marvelous. Just look at ‘er.  (I know, its getrichslowly.com – I’d done some random ones while trying it.)


Now, here’s all you need to do to use this for yourself.

1. Open the Google Doc from the link.
2. Make a your own copy (File->Make a Copy)
3. Enter your own SEOmoz Linkscape API key in the Config sheet.
4. Type the URL you’d like to get the related result for in cell A2 (Sheet1). Sit back. Relax. And let ImportXML and the LS API do the work.

Then you can pull the data in Excel and per usual; sort, filter, mash up etc to refine your list.

HUGE thanks Tom Critchlow, John Doherty, Ian Laurie, Richard Baxter & Tom Anthony (who calls himself the sexiest SEO ever). They’re really the ones who’ve done the technical heavy lifting, I simply put some pieces together from several of their blog posts. And thanks to Mike King & Ted Ives, who let me bounce a few ideas off of them before putting together this post.

Resources used:

What Do YOU Think??

So that’s it, now you’ve got a fast way to get some SERP data into Google Docs. Please leave feedback, ideas and comments below. I’m going to continue playing around with ideas for making the SEO process easier – so your thoughts are crucial!!

About Dan Shure

Hi! I'm Dan Shure. I write all of the posts and host all of the podcast episodes you'll find on the Evolving SEO blog. Say hello on Twitter @dan_shure!


  • December 12, 2011 Reply

    Eric Scism

    Wow Dan this is incredible! Is this only available in Google Docs or could I recreate the same thing in Excel?

    • December 12, 2011 Reply

      Dan Shure


      Thanks! You can use APIs in Excel. Like in this post by Richard Baxter, he uses the AdWords API. And I’m honestly not sure about ImportXML for Excel. Something to look into for sure though!


  • December 12, 2011 Reply


    Dan –
    Good stuff here man! This is wicked smart. I’ve been a fan of the Related: search for a while, as it has always returned me great results, but never thought to do it in a GoogleDoc.

    One comment I have is that you might want to consider doing a bit of backlink analysis on the sites that just have 100 or so LRDs. Those sites have often started doing a bit of linkbuilding, but are not anymore, and a lot of time you can find some gem link targets in there.


    • December 12, 2011 Reply

      Dan Shure

      Thanks John! Absolutely right, there are a lot of directions you can go in with these results to drill down in the research process. I’m definitely going to try and develop the spreadsheet some more and work in some of those things.

  • December 12, 2011 Reply


    Thanks for the share Dan, I really enjoyed the different ways to prospect for link building. One thing for sure there is no one method better than the other, depending on the objective.
    Can’t wait to see your expansion on this G-docs.

    I’m currently working on an internal tool for our digital dept. It is similar to this but its a desktop via python applicaton.


    • December 12, 2011 Reply

      Dan Shure

      Hey Jon, thanks! I know, there’s no one approach that’s the same across the board. Certainly one thing that keeps the work interesting. Also, I still think there’s lots of room for these techniques to grow, which can only advance the industry, and perception of the industry. Your tool sounds cool!

  • December 13, 2011 Reply


    What’s the difference between the APIdetails and the Config tabs on the google doc sheet?

    Do you only enter credentials on the Config tab?

    For some reason it isn’t pulling data in after I entered my credentials. I even waited a day just in case to let the credentials propagate.

    • December 13, 2011 Reply

      Dan Shure

      Hi Matt

      Sorry for the trouble. Honestly, that configuration of the spreadsheet I copied directly from what John Doherty was doing with his Twitter API sheet. From what I could see, you enter the API credentials in the “Config” sheet, this autofills in the APIdetails sheet – I’m not quite sure why it was set up this way, but it was working so I didn’t change it. See this screenshot for clarification also: http://screencast.com/t/Ubelza5ii1g9

      So yes, only enter on Config tab. Let me know if this clears things up, and thanks for trying it!

  • December 17, 2011 Reply

    Mike King

    Smart stuff Dan.

    Very well done.

    Although I’m curious as to what are the factors to cause Google to consider a site for the related operator to work. For example if I do related: on your site, John’s site, or even the Distilled site I get nothing. However SEOmoz and even my rap return a lot.

    Worth looking into, methinks.


    • December 19, 2011 Reply

      Dan Shure


      I too was wondering the same thing. I’d understand for my site since its relatively new and low authority, but for the Distilled site to not return anything is weird. It certainly seems like an on/off switch, either you get similar results or not, not a gradual thing like rankings. I’d be very curious myself to know what toggles it “on”. Could be revealing for some sort of sign of authority a site carries in the eyes of Google.

      What’s interesting too, is that not all the results in a related query return results themselves. For example [related:seomoz.org] returns a site called battellemedia.com with a DA of 85, yet no related query results are available.

      Thanks for the input!

  • December 20, 2011 Reply

    Samuel Lavoie

    Duh moment for me with tip #5! Good quick trick to find niches and tier2 sites and with SERPs overlay… 🙂

    Thanks for sharing the Google Doc.

    • December 20, 2011 Reply

      Dan Shure

      Hey, no problem, thanks for checking it out!

  • December 22, 2011 Reply

    Mik Pam


    Sick ! So Sick ! What a great share, I’ll sure be playing around with this for a bit . Will post feedback later.

    • December 29, 2011 Reply

      Dan Shure

      Hey Thanks… glad you like… any feedback yet?

  • January 17, 2012 Reply

    Mat Bennett

    Hi Dan – great post. I’ve only recently rediscovered the related query again myself. I’m sure that Google went and secretly made it useful whilst we were not looking. I’m sure it never used to be!

    The sheet looks great, but wasn’t working for me. Linkscape keeps complaining that it is being hit too fast. However, with a small tweak it is all working dandy again:

    In the scripts I just added the following to the bottom of the call linkscape function – just before the reurn:

    That small delay slows things down a little, but keeps Roger Mozbot happy.

  • February 8, 2012 Reply


    Hi Dan

    thanks for the article

    I have download the spread sheet and followed all the steps but not showing MR and DA.

    Please explain how to go about it and making it work

    • February 8, 2012 Reply

      Dan Shure

      Hi – thanks, and my apologies about the sheet! First thing to do, is be sure the site you’re running has related: search results in Google, not all sites do, so try that straight in Google. If that works, take a look at Mat Bennett’s comment. He says how to fix this. SEOmoz changed their API a bit after I created the sheet. Hope to update it soon, but Matt’s fix should work. Please let me know if you still need help with it, thanks!

      • March 1, 2012 Reply


        Hi Dan,

        I’ve copied several of these Google Seo docs from lots of different blogs today who use the seoMoz API and none of them seem to be working?

        I even tried adding Google.com (on your google doc from this post). It brings back all of the similar sites but most of the seoMoz data just says #ERROR!
        Yahoo Uk has a mozrank of 1?

        • March 1, 2012 Reply

          Dan Shure

          Hi Adam

          REALLLY sorry about that! Take a look at Mat Bennett’s comment – he came up with a fix. SEOmoz updated their API shortly after I made the sheet and I hope to fix it on my end soon! Apologies again! Let me know if Mat’s solution works!


          PS – Mat said: In the scripts I just added the following to the bottom of the call linkscape function – just before the reurn:

Leave a Comment

Error: Please check your entries!