Search using your terms, verbatim

11/15/11 | 10:00:00 AM

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Behind the simplicity of Google search is a complex set of algorithms that expands and improves the query you’ve typed to find the best results. Automatic spelling correction ([vynal] to “vinyl”) and substituting synonyms (matching [pictures] to “photos”) are just two examples of the improvements we make.

In most cases, Google’s algorithms make things better for our users - but in some rare cases, we don’t find what you were looking for. In the past, we provided users with the “+” operator to help you search for specific terms. However, we found that users typed the “+” operator in less than half a percent of all searches, and two thirds of the time, it was used incorrectly. A couple of weeks ago we removed the “+” operator, encouraging the use of the double quotes, which are more likely to be used correctly.

Since then, we’ve received a lot of requests for a more deliberate way to tell Google to search using your exact terms. We’ve been listening, and starting today you’ll be able to do just that through verbatim search. With the verbatim tool on, we’ll use the literal words you entered without making normal improvements such as

  • making automatic spelling corrections
  • personalizing your search by using information such as sites you’ve visited before
  • including synonyms of your search terms (matching “car” when you search [automotive])
  • finding results that match similar terms to those in your query (finding results related to “floral delivery” when you search [flower shops])
  • searching for words with the same stem like “running” when you’ve typed [run]
  • making some of your terms optional, like “circa” in [the scarecrow circa 1963]
You can access the verbatim search tool under “More search tools” on the left-hand side.

In addition to verbatim search, which will be rolling out to all users over the next few days, we’re also applying similar ideas directly to our algorithms, such as tuning the accuracy of when our query broadening search improvements trigger. In the meantime, if you want to search for a very specific term, be that [carosel] or the [etymology of sissors], give the verbatim tool a try.