I have been complaining for several months that Google does not always “AND” your search terms and delivers results that do not contain all of your terms, or their synonyms, in the page itself or in links to the page. There was a time when you could force Google to deliver exactly what you wanted by prefixing your terms with a plus sign. That option has now gone and Google says that you have to use double quote marks around your terms and phrases instead. Not only is it tedious to have to surround every term with “…” but it does not always work!
I recently took a photograph of autumn leaves on Heron Island in Caversham and uploaded it to Flickr. At the time I hadn’t noticed that there was a bird hiding amongst the leaves and when it was pointed out to me I assumed it was a pigeon of some sort. Someone else, however, thought it might be a parrot. I have not heard of any sightings of parrots in my area but decided to check Google to see if there were any reports. My first search strategy was parrot “Heron island” caversham UK
Over 8,000 results! Unbelievable – which it was. Looking at the top results and their cached copies revealed that Google had decided to forget about parrots or birds of any kind and look for just “heron island” caversham UK.
Changing the search to “parrot” “Heron island” caversham UK reduced the number of results to 84.
This time Google was leaving out Caversham or UK or both. Amending the strategy yet again so that both caversham and UK were within quote marks reduced the number of hits to 23.
There were a handful of directory listings containing all of my terms but the rest contained only one or two of my terms, for example the Tripadvisor page shown below.
There was no obvious logic as to why these irrelevant pages had been chosen by Google – remember that the grand total was a mere 23 – and they were not advertisements. Using advanced search and the allintext option made no difference whatsoever. For the final version of my search Bing found 15 pages that contained all of my terms but sadly nothing to do with parrots in Caversham, UK. DuckDuckGo found three documents but again no sighting of a parrot of the feathered variety in my neighbourhood.
I was disappointed that my original identification of the bird seems to have been correct but extremely annoyed with Google. I had to wade through irrelevant documents and wasted time tweaking my search only to find that Google was ignoring my strategy anyway. I could understand it if my search had zero results and Google wanted to give me something, but there were some documents that did have all of my words. Various scripts that automatically add quote marks around your terms have been written since Google withdrew the + sign for general searching. These really aren’t much help because I sometimes want Google to look for variations of some of my terms and Google seems to be ignoring the quotes marks when it feels like it. More reasons to look seriously at the alternative search tools that are out there.