Well it looks as though the user feedback to Google on the discontinuation of the +/plus sign for enforcing an exact match search has paid off. Google removed the plus sign as a web search option a few weeks ago and told searchers to use double quotes around terms instead.The double quote marks option does not always force an exact match and increasingly Google is ignoring them and making some of your search terms optional. (See my blog posting Dear Google, stop messing with my search, http://www.rba.co.uk/wordpress/2011/11/08/dear-google-stop-messing-with-my-search/). The official reason for the change was that hardly anyone used it: the real reason has become clear with Google implementing its Google+ Direct Connect Service. This enables you to go direct to an individual’s or company’s Google+ page by prefixing their name with the plus sign, for example +BASF.
For those of us who really do NOT want Google to second guess what we are looking for there is now a Verbatim command. Google’s Inside Search blog (http://insidesearch.blogspot.com/2011/11/search-using-your-terms-verbatim.html) says:
With the verbatim tool on, we’ll use the literal words you entered without making normal improvements such as
- making automatic spelling corrections
- personalizing your search by using information such as sites you’ve visited before
- including synonyms of your search terms (matching “car” when you search [automotive])
- finding results that match similar terms to those in your query (finding results related to “floral delivery” when you search [flower shops])
- searching for words with the same stem like “running” when you’ve typed [run]
- making some of your terms optional, like “circa” in [the scarecrow circa 1963]
So be warned: when using Verbatim you are rejecting Google’s “improvements”!
Verbatim can be found in the options on the left hand side of your results page, which means that you have to run your search before you can implement it. Go to the menu to the left of your results and click on ‘More search tools’ at the bottom. This will open up a menu that includes the Verbatim option.
It works!. When I run a Verbatim search on St Laurence I get only St Laurence and not St Lawrence as well. And my Heron Island Caversham UK parrot search now finds only those pages that contain all of my terms. There is one drawback in that Verbatim is all or nothing. I often want to have an exact match search on just one or two of my terms but am happy to have Google mess around with the remainder. Verbatim works on your whole search strategy but I think that you can include advanced search commands in your strategy. Running searches such as ‘”Heron Island” Caversham UK ~parrot’ or ‘”Heron Island” Caversham UK parrot OR pigeon’ followed by Verbatim gives me what I would expect. However, more complex searches incorporating filetype: and site: gave me very bizarre results. I need to do more research on this part of the strategy.
Overall, I welcome Verbatim and thank Google for listening to its users. However, as Phil Bradley has said it is a tool that “Google should not need to have created” (Google Verbatim tool http://philbradley.typepad.com/phil_bradleys_weblog/2011/11/google-verbatim-tool.html)