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Title Searching Showdown

Last updated May 1, 2002.
by Greg R. Notess

Title searching is a valuable tool in the searchers arsenal for getting closer to a subject search on the Web. Unfortunately, even among those search engines that support some form of title searching, it does not always work consistently.

Why use title searching? It can be a great way to narrow results and can often give a search more of a subject focus.

Who supports it? AltaVista, AlltheWeb, Northern Light, Lycos, MSN Search, HotBot, iWon, NBCi, and Google. Infoseek (Go) used to, but that search engine is no longer available.

How to Use Title Searching: Usually available via command line and form. Do not leave a space after the colon on command line searching. In other words, use title:word rather than title: word. The latter sometimes works, but the former always does. See below for a quick look at how title searching works (or fails to work) at each of the search engines that support it.

CommandFormtitle:x yPhrase in Title
allintitle onlyy AND intitle:xallintitle:"x y"
AltaVistatitle:Powery OR title:xtitle:"x y"
phrases only
y AND title:xtitle:"x y"
Lycostitle:Advanced: Page Fieldy AND title:xtitle:"x y"
Northern Lighttitle:Powertitle:x AND title:ytitle:"x y"
iWon (Inktomi)title:noy AND title:xdoes not work
HotBot (Inktomi)title:Powery AND title:xvia form
MSN (Inktomi)title:Advancedy AND title:xdoes not work

Command: The command line syntax that can be used.
Form: If title searching is available via a form, the name of the form and a link to it is listed here. Note that All the Web can only search title phrases in their advanced search forms, unless terms are put in separate boxes.
title:x y: On the command line search, this column shows how two or more terms are processed when entered after the field name. Most will only search for the first word in the title. To get all words in the title, use the title: label in front of each word or try the form.
Phrase in Title: If you want to search for a phrase in the title, this column shows the method to use, if any is available.

For more details, see
Greg R. Notess. "Tracking Title Search Capabilities." Online 25(3), May 2001.

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