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google won't show search resultsGoogle has been working hard to fit various people’s searching needs and find what they need even they don’t know what they are looking for 3 Google Tricks When You Don't Know What to Search For 3 Google Tricks When You Don't Know What to Search For Read More .

The set of features developed by Google aiming at making it easier to search and find should be helpful for most people. But according to Google’s official guide, “sometimes Google helps out a little too much” and you need to know how to fix that.

Let me first clarify in which cases you may have trouble getting Google to search for what you exactly want:

What To Fix:

1. Google’s Spell-Checking Feature

Google treats spell-checking errors in two ways:

  • You may be suggested the proper spelling (but you will be lucky enough to see the search results for the original (misspelled) keyword you entered). This happens when too many people misspell the word, so Google starts thinking the spelling might still be valid;
  • You may be suggested the proper spelling (and you will see the search results for that “correct” spelling no matter what you have typed in the search box).

Google error fix

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2. Google’s Phrase Versus “Oneword” Search

It is somehow related to the above one (as Google should be considering it an error) and I fight with it almost on a daily basis. Whenever you type the phrase as one word (when, for example, you are searching for a service name), Google would search for the phrase instead.

For example, I was recently trying to search for the articles related to OneLook (which is a direct and reverse definition Use A Definition To Find The Word With OneLook's Reverse Dictionary Use A Definition To Find The Word With OneLook's Reverse Dictionary Read More search). Yes, I got a few results related to the service but most were dedicated to the phrase:

google won't show search results

3. Google Synonym Search

Some time ago Google started quietly showing and bolding synonyms in its search results:

Most of the time, you probably don’t notice when your search involves synonyms, because it happens behind the scenes. However, our measurements show that synonyms affect 70 percent of user searches across the more than 100 languages Google supports.

They do confirm that their synonym search algorithm isn’t perfect and there are “bad” synonyms returned. The reason is easy to understand: it is too hard to teach the machine to understand the natural language.

While Google does its best to refine the system and the underlying algorithm, some irritating cases still happen. The example is [google ads] search that exclusively focuses on “Google Adwords” in search results (which are similar but still different concepts: Adsense is the system while ads are the actual advertisements served):

Synonym search

So How Do I Fix That?

There are two common fixes to the three aforementioned issues. Here’s how:

1. + (used before the keyword) operator forces Google to stick to the exact match in search results: no error fixing or synonyms:

Google employs synonyms automatically, so that it finds pages that mention, for example, childcare for the query [ child care ] (with a space), or California history for the query [ ca history ]. But sometimes Google helps out a little too much and gives you a synonym when you don’t really want it. By attaching a + immediately before a word (remember, don’t add a space after the +), you are telling Google to match that word precisely as you typed it. Putting double quotes around a single word will do the same thing.

Google search operator: +

2. “” (used for “phrase search”) works like the above one but should be used when you want Google to search for the exact phrase (stick to each word in the phrase and their exact sequence):

By putting double quotes around a set of words, you are telling Google to consider the exact words in that exact order without any change.

google won't show search results

(note: in this case, the + operator would also help: [dr +robon]

Do you ever have trouble finding something in Google? Please let us know in the comments and we will try to find the fix together!

  1. Ann Smarty
    August 7, 2010 at 6:53 pm

    Great tip and great examples as well - thank you!

  2. DeadlyDad
    August 7, 2010 at 7:34 am

    BTW, 'OR' (always all caps) works both outside *and* inside quotes. For example, "Thomas OR Tom +Müller OR +Mueller"

  3. DeadlyDad
    August 7, 2010 at 5:34 am

    BTW, 'OR' (always all caps) works both outside *and* inside quotes. For example, "Thomas OR Tom +Müller OR +Mueller"

  4. Nico W
    July 22, 2010 at 3:10 am

    Aha! These tips will change my searching habits. Thanks...

  5. Michael Benidt
    July 13, 2010 at 2:16 pm

    What drives me nuts about all of this is that a "fix" should not be necessary. There's about 4 people on the planet that know about the "+" (putting that single word in quote marks also works the same, by the way). So, the majority of us humans go away from our searches thinking there weren't any results - or, swearing about Google not understanding what they clearly typed in.

    Your headline is not misleading at all. People who are technically inclined far too often have a cynicism about how all this makes sense to them - so it must make sense to everyone else. Not everyone studies this sort of thing. Most people just live their lives - and don't have the time to devote to the arcana of search terms. Google owes these customers more respect - but they're not getting it.

  6. Ann Smarty
    July 13, 2010 at 10:08 am

    "Thomas +Müller"

    - seems to work for me...

  7. Andreas Beer
    July 9, 2010 at 3:54 pm

    Google has a major issue with replacing special characters from other languages (like umlauts) with another char that is supposed to be the äquivalent. but mostly this decision is made by looks (which char looks most similar) instead of phonology (which character sounds most similar) or transcription (which char is usually used in crosslanguage transcription).

    for single-word queries, i fixed that by searching for "Müller" in order to avoid results containing "Muller", but for Phrases "Thomas Müller" this won't work, because it also finds "Thomas Muller". Maybe a search for +"Thomas Müller" will fix this?

  8. Andreas Beer
    July 9, 2010 at 1:54 pm

    Google has a major issue with replacing special characters from other languages (like umlauts) with another char that is supposed to be the äquivalent. but mostly this decision is made by looks (which char looks most similar) instead of phonology (which character sounds most similar) or transcription (which char is usually used in crosslanguage transcription).

    for single-word queries, i fixed that by searching for "Müller" in order to avoid results containing "Muller", but for Phrases "Thomas Müller" this won't work, because it also finds "Thomas Muller". Maybe a search for +"Thomas Müller" will fix this?

    • Ann Smarty
      July 13, 2010 at 8:08 am

      "Thomas +Müller"

      - seems to work for me...

      • Andreas Beer
        July 18, 2010 at 11:00 am

        thanks, i never thought of putting control characters inside the hyphens...

  9. Anonymous
    July 8, 2010 at 10:28 am

    Ancient history! People have been using these since the days of Alta Vista, if not before. The headline for this piece is incredibly misleading.

    • JK III
      July 8, 2010 at 9:38 pm

      I agree. The headline should have been something like "Two more cool google tips".

      • Ann Smarty
        July 13, 2010 at 8:18 am

        Doesn't it sound even more misleading (and too generic to reflect what is said in the post)?

  10. Richard Bankole
    July 7, 2010 at 11:08 pm

    + feature is new to me... it works!

  11. Rono_solo
    July 7, 2010 at 11:07 pm

    just visit my blogsite for being a power searcher on "google"
    http://ronoethicalhacker.blogs...

  12. JK III
    July 7, 2010 at 7:23 pm

    I did not know about the "+" one. Awesome tip!

  13. Gonzalo Brusella
    July 7, 2010 at 7:52 pm

    Aso you can use the - signus to exclude certain content. (Comare this two: http://www.google.com/search?h... and http://www.google.com/search?h...

  14. Gonzalo Brusella
    July 7, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    Aso you can use the - signus to exclude certain content. (Comare this two: http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=gonzalo+brusella+-hiperix and http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=gonzalo+brusella&nfpr=1)

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