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I commonly use the Google wildcard asterisk (*) term. One of my favorites uses is searching with site:*.edu. But I recently tried site:csu*.edu in order to search California State University domains, which begin with csu. So it should search for sites that start with csu like csulb.edu, csus.edu, etc.

This returned zero results. Is there a way to search for only sites that start with specific characters?

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The direct answer to your question is no. What you are asking for is a stemming wildcard operator, and Google Search does not currently offer one. A stemming wildcard lets you identify a group of search keywords having a common stem (prefix). In other words, a stemming wildcard stands for part of a search term. The asterisk is not a stemming wildcard. It stands for a whole search term.

Interpreting your question more broadly, how could you get as close as possible to the search results you are looking for? There are two ways you could go.

Exact equivalent to site:csu*.edu, using stemming

It is possible to get exactly the Google search results that would be provided if the stemming operator was available. You must collect a list of domains and manually string them together with the OR operator:

keyword1 keyword2 [...] site:csu.edu OR site:csub.edu OR site:csubak.edu [...]

For EDU domains, use http://whois.educause.net/ to collect the list. At that site, enter the search csu%.edu (% is a stemming operator there).

This does exactly what the stemming operator would do. It would be useful, for example, to webmasters and others for whom nothing but a strict stemming of CSU will do.

You can copy and paste the resulting list into the Google search box, but you will still have to add the site: operator to each domain name, and the OR operator between each domain name. So one drawback of this approach is the tedious and error prone nature of the process.

Another drawback is that there is no guarantee that domains with the CSU stem are relevant. For example, csufresno.edu is a domain of Cal State, but csu.edu is a domain of Chicago State University, and csuniv.edu is a domain of Charleston Southern University. Furthermore, fullerton.edu is a Cal State domain, but would not be included in search results because it does not have the CSU stem.

Near equivalent to site:csu*.edu, using relevance

The other approach you can take is:

keyword1 keyword2 [...] "california state university" site:edu

This approach relies on Google to provide results within the EDU domain which are relevant to Cal State. It turns out that Google is actually very good at relevance. So, if you are not strictly interested in stemming but are more interested in relevance, that is the way to go.

For example, the search "student handbook" "california state university" site:edu returns results relevant to CSU student handbooks, even in CSU domains which do not have the CSU prefix, such as fullerton.edu.

Note

The site: operator adds an implied wildcard to the start of the domain that matches any number of keywords. This means that site:edu, site:.edu, and site:*.edu are equivalent. It also means that they will return not only results for csu.edu but also (for example) wcsu.csu.edu and origin.wcsu.csu.edu.

  • That does not answer the question. – themirror Nov 2 '11 at 6:36
  • You should elaborate on this. The answer given shows how to accomplish the requested result, to search all CSU domains. CSU domains are "csu.edu" and all domains ending ".csu.edu". The search string "site:csu.edu" will search all of these. Can you give me an example of a domain that this search string will miss? Cheers, MetaEd – MetaEd Nov 2 '11 at 14:56
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    The distinction is that I want to search all domains that BEGIN with CSU, as stated in the OP. – themirror Nov 2 '11 at 16:21
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Google's More search help -page says regarding wildcards:

Note that the * operator works only on whole words, not parts of words.

So there is no straightforward way to do site:csu*.edu search.

As a workaround, you could try to append your search query with "california state university" site:.edu which might or might not help you.

At least when searching for "Hello" I got top results from international.csumb.edu, blogs.csun.edu, www-admin.csun.edu, www20.csueastbay.edu, csulb.edu, www.csufresno.edu and hrd.csusb.edu.

  • Note that the * operator is only documented as a keyword replacement, not in domains. However, it does work currently. For example, site:ftp.*.edu will limit searches to domains having "ftp" as the third level and "edu" as the first level. – MetaEd Nov 7 '11 at 21:41
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Maybe this is too simple? https://www.google.ch/search?q=site%3A.edu%20csu – a search for "site:.edu csu" seems to produce meaningful results.

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