If you’re an advanced Google searcher, then you’re likely to be familiar with the plus operator. If you’re not, here’s the quick explanation:
Google rewrites search queries, in order to try to deliver you the correct results, and to help searchers who struggle to come up with the correct syntax for a successful searches. Perhaps the most common example is for mis-spellings:
Google automatically changes the search results to reflect what the user likely "meant" to search for. And it usually does a reasonable job. As Eric Schmidt once said, "We know where you are. We know where you’ve been. We can more or less know what you’re thinking about". So, they know well enough that you can’t spell. Other examples that are not obvious mistakes are when Google has a high confidence that the user is looking for something else, probably based on aggregated behaviour and other analytics:
This is all well and good. However, if you’re a precise searcher and know what you’re doing, then this behaviour is very frustrating. For me, it is by far the biggest annoyance with Google search (well, perhaps Google Instant is also in the running).How can I found Mr Steven Wonder without multiple clicks? Historically, the easiest workaround has been to use the plus operator. Put simply, you put a plus symbol in front of any word you don’t want Google to rewrite.
Alas, this appears to be being phased out by Google:
So now, we have to use double quotation marks. Arg! A few years ago, Google also supported skipping the closing quotation mark, but this no longer works either.
In these days of energy saving, that’s a lot of extra keypresses for me! OK, I know I’m not a typical Google searcher, but it would be nice if Google kept an amount of convenience for those who like a more advanced syntax. The plus on the numberpad is an easy press. Shift + 2 every time I want to avoid Google second guessing me (several times an hour) is a step too far!
More seriously, over time, Google has become less and less precise, and supported advanced features less and less, which is a shame. Worse still, there are already reports that certain searches are now impossible to obtain good results for. It is possible to use the nfpr=1 parameter in search URLs to avoid some rewriting behaviour – but this doesn’t prevent many of the behind the scenes rewrites.
It would be nice to have a large, quick search engine that had good features for the more technical amongst us. But where is it? Suggestions welcome