Breaking Google with advanced search operators

Or: What is it with all of the weird Google Books/YouTube results?

If you're an advanced SEO or have an interest in search engines, then you're more than likely well-acquainted with the various advanced search operators, from getting site-specific results from site: and link: searches, to finding relationships between words with the tilde, or even querying particular parts of the index with operators like intitle:

If you do as much of that type of searching as I do, then you may have noticed odd, irrelevant "backfill" style results coming from Google's "universal search" providers like Google Books and YouTube. This is harder to explain that to demonstrate. Let's try a search for [site:site:]:


Odd Google Books results for a double site search

Notice the odd, irrelevant book search results. These are the usual contenders for this sort of search - perhaps notable as "classic" literature.

Let's throw in a bit of YouTube. Try a search for [site:*]


Odd Google Books results for a double site search

Another win for Joseph Conrad, but notice all the YouTube results? These are very changeable (unlike the Books results) but they can be consistently retrieved. Those doing this sort of searching frequently will know there's a lot of other ways to trigger this type of result set searching with combinations of advanced operators.

I confess, I've been aware of this for years and have never noticed it discussed anywhere. I've always had in the back of my mind that there's something important to learn from it, but I confess I'm mostly stumped. If anyone has any suggestions, they'd be greatly appreciated!

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