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Thursday, April 3, 2008

Google Turns Quoted Search Into Unquoted One If Nothing’s Found

This seems to be (at least relatively) new: now, when you do a quote search that doesn’t yield any results, Google will search for your words without the quotes. This will turn the phrase search into a search where the keywords can appear on the page in any order – including word stemming where appropriate – so that there’s more of a chance to find something. E.g. if you search for ["foo bar"] and there’s no results, Google will look for [foo bar]. In general, Google’s search syntax became more fuzzy over the years, and this is another step in the direction.

When I stumbled upon this earlier the feature was immediately useful, because I had mistyped a word in my phrase search, and Google still found the page I was looking for. I guess the only downside could be that you glance over the results so fast that you’d miss the fact Google turned phrase search into normal search (and normal keyword search may not always be what you want). But the warning that they changed the query for you is not easy to miss, so I guess this won’t be an issue. Scripts screenscraping Google results, though, may need to be adjusted now to look for an occurrence of the “Results for ... without quotes” bit.

[Hat tip to TomHTML and Tony!]


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