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Better Google Results with Quotation Marks?

How to search using Google.



2:38 am on Jun 16, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

You need to search with quotation marks if you want true results from Google. As far as I can see we are witnessing the death of Google as the leading search engine.

As they say "what goes around comes around".

If you type in several words or a phrase to make a search then the closest matches should come up at the top of the results - on Google they do not. Just look at the cached pages for some of the weird results from Google.

The only way to get a true result from Google is to put the phrase in quotation marks. Google should not make this a necsessity - the searched for phrase should be the top result then descending down according to the number of matching words.


10:00 am on Jun 16, 2005 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member ciml is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

In my opinion, one of the most important things that helped Google give typical users better results than the other engines at the time was the default proximity weighting. AltaVista had a "near" operator, but I expect that very few people used it.

While PageRank helped pick the famous sites that people expect when they search popular one or two word phrases, the proximity weighting helped people find the more precise matches near the top of the results.

I agree that phrase searching is currently useful in Google, but I'd rather see the proximity weight turned back up than switch to default phrase searching.


10:55 am on Jun 16, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

WhoopsAccident, the option to search with quotation marks is always available, whether or not it should be the default is another question.

Personally I search with quotation marks and minus signs to exclude lots of results and the combination works well.

While I don't expect it to happen anytime soon it would be nice if the masses learned how to search more precisely.

My feeling for Google's initial success is that they did 3 things right while others floundered:

1. Simple (no nonsense) interface that is not a portal
2. Large database finding all sorts of pages
3. Fast results (probably most important factor)

I agree with you ciml, I'd rather see more emphasis on proximity as opposed to exact phrase match, but there needs to be an intelligent algorithm that looks at the number of "exact phrases" and weighs it accordingly to proximity.
For example, if there is only one "exact phrase" then it should be listed first, whereas if there are many then proximity might weigh more heavily.

The Page Rank formula has been abused as has the whole linking structure. What we have now is people buying links, and while this certainly does indicate that a web site has something to do with the link phrase pointing at it, it looks more and more like commercial results for big businesses.


11:55 am on Jun 16, 2005 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member ciml is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

I agree that being big, easy and fast were all important, but I think better search results played a major part.

Just as manipulation of PageRank became a problem for Google, proximity weakened as an indicator of good, relevant content with the proliferation of "made for search engine" pages. I didn't mention the heavy weighting on anchor text (the other area I feel was important to Google being better at the time), but anchor text bombing has been a problem too.

It must be quite hard for any search engine to balance relevance with made for search engine pages, but I detect a gradual trend towards complaints that Google too often favours an irrelevant page on a favoured domain to a more relevant page on a less favoured domain. Phrase searching helps overcome this but I must wonder if Google would do better to put some weight back on proximity.


12:12 pm on Jun 16, 2005 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

While I don't expect it to happen anytime soon it would be nice if the masses learned how to search more precisely.

I agree ... it won't happen anytime soon! People are too lazy to type "what+I+want+to+find" ... your logs prove that! What percentage of people (who are not technology freaks) know or care about using quotes, plus or minus signs?

Google themselves have not done their jobs in educating the public on the "how to" search front. The "Advanced search options" is too much like work. Searchers just want to plug in the words and go!

If they offered three, "in your face options" at the search box saying:

Option 1:

1) Search for exact match only
2) Search for close matches
3) Search for anything resembling this phrase

Option 2:

1) Set my default search setting to: 1, 2, 3
2) Display unselected options.
3) Do not display unselected options.
4) Display "Change default search setting" beside search box.

If Google would offer options to the user which aren't as convoluted as their advanced search options, I think they could train the vast majority of searchers how to search ... once and for all. They would see the quotes, plus and minus signs that google would insert into their searches and would likely try searching other engines by placing these signs in their searches as well.

Google could really turn this into yet another grand way of "helping" searchers find things more easily. I'm surprised they haven't done something like this already.


4:13 pm on Jun 16, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

If they offered three, "in your face options" at the search

Good point Liane.
Perhaps they could even substitute the Google Search and I'm Feeling Lucky buttons with Exact Match and Close Match.


4:34 pm on Jun 16, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

My search terms came back to the top today, hopefully to stay. No need to put them in quotation marks.

I understand nothing and have learnt nothing. Just a lot of anguish and life-shortening stress!


2:06 pm on Jun 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member annej is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

I've been concerned about how scattered results get with 2 and more word phrases.

Good ideas here. I like the idea of replacing the "lucky" box with an exact match button.

Most people don't even look at a link titled "advanced search". If it was a choice on the search page they would use it.


3:42 am on Jun 19, 2005 (gmt 0)

The end of Altavista was precisely when I started to need quotes around things to get good results.

I see the same coming for Google. Horrendous results is what I see lately. Still some folks continue to praise it, must be the red herring syndrome.


4:08 am on Jun 19, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I am almost done with a beta engine that uses the Google API .. adds a few filters to the results and removes some.. so far the results from our test study have proven it to be far more reliable in terms of quality of results.

Some of the features .. if you type in the world 'home' you now get things about homes.. rather than NASA's site.

The engine now removes all Google Bombs.. if you type in 'failure' you don't get the whitehouse or Michael Moore.

We have been working on it for about a month now.. and in the next 3-4 weeks we should have a beta open to the public.. the problem is that it is limited to only 1000 searches per day as per the API .. and it's really only a test to see how to improve the Google Results.. so the roll out will be VERY limited.. we could have 1 guy do 1000 searches himself and ruin it for the rest of us..


1:43 pm on Jun 19, 2005 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member billys is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

I noticed this back in the December timeframe - not sure if it was related to an update or not. But when I didn't find what I was looking for in Google, I would use quote. Nine times out of ten I got much better results.

I also use the site: feature to find .edu and .gov sites when I think they might have better information. I think that Google has turned the knob too far away from exact phrase matches.


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