Google will finally search for what you type: Verbatim

Google is adding a new feature called Verbatim to its web search options. As the name implies, this will search the web for exactly what you typed.

Google is adding a new feature called Verbatim to its web search options. As the name implies, this will search the web for exactly what you typed. This is a massive change from what happens at the moment, where Google searches for what it thinks you probably want, based on what it knows about you, what it knows about language, and the results of billions of previous searches. This approach can work well, particularly for inexpert and almost illiterate users. However, it can also produce amazingly bad results, while annoying expert users who are trying to construct precise searches.

Google's approach works best for the sort of person who wants information on, for example, Justin Bieber, where roughly the same information appears on millions of sites and users don't really care where they get it. It may not work quite as well for people who are trying to find specific information that appears on relatively few websites (unless it's on Wikipedia).

Some expert searchers became annoyed with Google three weeks ago when its search engine suddenly stopped supporting the use of the + sign, which is commonly used to force search engines to include one or more specific words, just as using a minus sign would exclude them. The + sign also prevents "stemming" and the use of alternative spellings, so searching for +favourite should not bring up pages that include the word "favorite".

Some speculated that + had been removed because of Google's odd choice of name for its social network, Google Plus. Certainly Google now searches correctly not just for G+ but similar terms such as A+, though not for G- or A- or G! or A! etc. If true, this looked self-serving.

Responding to complaints in a blog post, Search using your terms, verbatim, Google says: "we found that users typed the + operator in less than half a percent of all searches, and two thirds of the time, it was used incorrectly". However, it adds:

Since then, we’ve received a lot of requests for a more deliberate way to tell Google to search using your exact terms. We’ve been listening, and starting today you’ll be able to do just that through verbatim search. 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]

To use "verbatim search", you have to enter your search in the normal way, then select "More search tools" from the menu on the left hand side. When these appear, Verbatim will be at the bottom of the list, after "Translated foreign pages".

Most users don't have access to Verbatim search, but Google says it will be "rolling out to all users over the next few days".

@jackschofield

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