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:
- 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).
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 search). Yes, I got a few results related to the service but most were dedicated to the phrase:
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):
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.
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.
(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!