Many people are adding “reddit” when searching on Google and other web search engines to get relevant results off the giant news aggregation and discussion site. There’s a better way to search both on and off Reddit, however.
If you’re a long-time Reddit user or simply just somebody who lurks about and finds content on the site useful, you’re already familiar with why someone might want to search Reddit.
If you’re less familiar with the site, you might be a bit confused as to why people are including Reddit in their search queries.
The answer, broadly, is that Reddit is essentially a fusion of a wide variety of internet resources. It’s like a combination of social media and the BBS/Usenet/forum discussions that used to be prevalent in the early days of the internet (except all fused together into one mega directory). It’s an absolutely massive platform that includes discussion focused on everything from breaking news to incredible niche hobbies.
Don’t get us wrong: There is a lot of dumb (and even awful/objectionable) content on Reddit, but there’s also home to a huge amount of helpful user-generated content.
From identifying what plants are growing in the flower beds of your new home to figuring out what the obscure error code your 3D printer is throwing out means, there’s a good chance you can use Reddit to do it.
In fact, the habit of leaning on Reddit for organic human-driven answers has become so widespread that people have taken to appending their Google search results with the word “reddit” to help filter regular Google search results.
It’s so widespread that, as Boing Boing Editor Rob Beschizza highlighted, the “reddit” search term has even percolated into the “People also ask” Google search results. We were able to replicate the same result, seen in the screenshot below.
Clearly, there are a lot of people searching Reddit to get answers to their questions. So let’s take a look at how to search Reddit because digging through the millions of subreddits and the billions of comments to drill down to the information you actually want is crucial if you want to actually find useful information.
First, we’ll look at how to use the recently-improved on-site Reddit search, and then we’ll look at how to leverage Google to wade through all those billions of comments.
Historically, however, searching Reddit was a bit of a hassle. The on-site Reddit search engine was abysmal. For years and years it was so terrible it was borderline useless and amounted, more or less, to just blanket searching the entire site like you were scanning through a massive text file with the find command.
If you searched for something straightforward like “stretches for back pain” it was a total crapshoot whether you’d get useful results from a physical therapy subreddit or nonsensical results from a fan-fiction horror subreddit.
In fact, it was so bad, if not for the recent changes Reddit rolled out in April 2022 updating the search algorithm and including features like comment searching, we wouldn’t even bother with this section.
There are still a lot of reasons to prefer a proper search engine like Google over the native Reddit search, but knowing how to use the search on Reddit boosts your chances of finding useful information.
One of the primary benefits you get from searching directly on Reddit, for instance, is the ability to sort the search results by Reddit-based metrics like how many comments the post has, how new it is, number of upvotes (Reddit’s community-based approval system), and the ability to easily limit the time frame.
While you can replicate some of those search customizations in a regular search engine you can’t replicate them all, and it’s much faster to use Reddit’s native interface to flip between them.
In addition to using the GUI elements to change up how you’re sorting the results and what time frame you’re using, you can also use filters in the actual search box to rapidly narrow the scope of your search.
Here are the available filters. Every one of them is used directly in the search box and without a space between the filter and the parameter. Each entry below is an example, simply swap out the text after the colon for whatever parameter you want to use. Enclose multiple words in quotations.
author:GovSchwarzenegger— Filters by username. In this case, it will limit your search to just those made by Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Reddit account.
flair:Biology— Filters by subreddit “flair.” Flair, in this context, is something set individually by moderators of subreddits to help organize that subreddit. The /r/Science subreddit uses the “Biology” flair, for example, and the /r/BuildaPC subreddit has various flairs like “Build Help.” This search parameter is only super useful if you’re searching in a specific subreddit and want to filter to just show posts with that flair.
self:true— Filters to show only “self” posts (posts made by an individual, not posts made by sharing a link to an outside source like a news article). Useful if you want to filter out discussion about articles, videos, and such, and focus on self-generated user topics.
selftext:"GTX 3090"— Searches the body of self-made posts. In this case, it’s searching for references to the GTX 3090 video card. Note that we enclosed the multi-word search term in quotes.
site:theatlantic.com— Searches for submitted articles or content from a specific domain. Useful for location discussions about content from specific news sources or finding a post you forgot to save and can only recall the general domain.
subreddit:buildapchelp— Restricts search results to a given subreddit. Useful when you have a good idea which subreddit has the information you’re looking for, such as searching /r/buildapchelp for help with your PC project or /r/plantclinic if you need help diagnosing what’s wrong with your houseplant.
title:"white bugs"— Filters based on submission title. If you were already filtering to /r/plantclinic you might further filter to “white bugs” in the title for more focused results.
url:technology— This filter looks for the parameter within the URL of the submitted content. By itself it is almost totally useless but when combined with the site: filter it allows you to drill down into content from that site. Searching for
site:theatlantic.com url:technology, for example, returns just submitted articles from The Atlantic and in the Technology subsection of the magazine (because they group them under /technology/).
In addition to those search filters, you can use Boolean operators to include or exclude search terms. Reddit supports AND, OR, and NOT. You can group parts with parentheticals.
- AND — All the words must appear in the search results, such as “Intel AND 3080 AND budget.”
- OR — Search results can include either term, such as “Intel AND AMD.”
- NOT — Search results include the first term, exclude the second term. Such as, “MSI NOT Zotac”
You can also combine the two, filters and Boolean operators, together. Searching for
subreddit:buildapc title:(1080 AND 3080) , for example, will limit your search to the /r/buildapc and display only posts which have both “1080” and “3080” in the title.
When these tools are useful, they’re very useful. When you remember things about what you’re looking for or you have a very good idea where you need to look and what search terms to use, you have a solid chance of finding it.
But they’re not quite up to snuff with single-purpose search engines, so let’s take a look at using Google to get better search results when you’re casting a broader net.
Despite that search update in April 2022, we mentioned a moment ago, the internal Reddit search just can’t compete with Google. Sure you’re less likely to get bizarre search results from horror-centric creative writing subs in your on-site Reddit search results now, so that’s great, but it’s just not the same as using Google.
Rather than limit yourself to throwing “reddit” on the end of your Google search queries, however, you can use a few Google search tricks to essentially create a custom Reddit search engine powered by Google’s spooky Eye of Sauron abilities.
Let’s start with the first search parameter you’ll need and build from there. Instead of adding “reddit” to the end of your search, start it off by using the “site:” search flag to narrow it down to just the reddit domain. This functions exactly as the site search in the previous section about Reddit’s internal search.
So anytime you’re using Google (or any other search engine with similar search flags) to search Reddit, you should start with:
site:reddit.com [your search terms here]
Just switching over to searching with Google gives you an immediate algorithmic-boost and you might be happy with the search results right out of the gate.
If you’re not, however, you can easily use all the regular Google search parameters and tricks to narrow down the scope of your search.
Boolean operators like AND and OR, as we outlined in the previous section work. To exclude something as if you’re using NOT, instead use a dash. So to search for MSI not Zotac, you would search for
site:reddit.com MSI -Zotac
While Google search is superior, overall, to Reddit’s native search, there are a few areas where it does fall short, however. Several of the tools built into Reddit’s native search just don’t have equivalents that you can use when searching with Google.
For instance the Reddit search flags like
selftext: , and so on don’t have any sort of Google equivalent nor can you bend a particular search trick to your will to replicate them. You can’t, for example, recreate author-based search on Google by, say, changing out “reddit.com” to “reddit.com/user/theirusername” in your search query because the user pages aren’t indexed by Google. (You can still search, broadly, by username but it’s not quite the same).
You can, however, recreate the
subreddit: parameter by limiting yourself to the URL of the subreddit. For example if you were searching for information on gaming monitors and came across the /r/buildapcmonitors subreddit, a sub devoted exclusively to monitor recommendations, you may wish to restrict your search. You could do so by simply appending the site: entry like so:
site:reddit.com/r/buildapcmonitors best 4k gaming monitor
Doing so would limit your query about “best 4k gaming monitor” to just that subreddit.
Overall we recommend starting broad with your
site:reddit.com search and drilling down only if you find the results aren’t focused enough. Typically the top-level results, without additional tweaking, or pretty useful.
Restricting your search to particular subreddits and/or using the date filter to limit the results to the last 6-12 months, however, can be useful when searching for things related to current events or computer hardware where you want the most up-to-date information.
If you make no other changes to your Reddit’s searching habits than switching from plain old “reddit” to
site:reddit.com you’ll be in good shape. The popularity of Reddit means not only is there a lot of content actually hosted by Reddit to parse through but there are tons of non-Reddit sites also mentioning Reddit (exactly like the article you’re currently reading, as a matter of fact). Restricting yourself to just Reddit.com results is an immediate search powerup.
As for when to use native Reddit search over Google search, or vice versa? If you’re already a Reddit user and familiar with the conventions of Reddit then using the Reddit search to find very specific things can be quite useful. But for the vast majority of people who just want to tap into Reddit users’ vast knowledge base, letting Google’s algorithmic magic comb through the data for you is the way to go.