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Google just improved this clever way to use search

Google improves quoted search for refining a search, but it still wants you to use natural language to avoid missing out on things.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer on
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People can use various "operators" in Google Search to refine a search – and using quotation marks lets users search for an exact phrase. 

Now Google has improved the way it displays quoted search results in snippets by basing them on where a quoted word or phrase occurs in a page. 

Google made the changes based on feedback from Search users who do quoted searches such as "Google search" to find a page with that exact phrase.   

"We've heard feedback that people doing quoted searches value seeing where the quoted material occurs on a page, rather than an overall description of the page. Our improvement is designed to help address this," said Yonghao Jin, a software engineer for Google Search.

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Google introduced quoted search in 2011 to replace the + operator, which it removed to avoid confusion with the now defunct Google+ social network. 

The new way of displaying the quoted search in result snippets aims to make it easier to find the phrase after clicking through to the page. 

"The snippets we display for search results (meaning the text you see describing web content) will be formed around where a quoted word or phrase occurs in a web document. That means you can more easily identify where to find them after you click the link and visit the content. On desktop, we'll also bold the quoted material," explains Jin.

He said that Google "didn't always do this because sometimes the quoted material appears in areas of a document that don't lend themselves to creating helpful snippets."

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"For example, a word or phrase might appear in the menu item of a page, where you'd navigate to different sections of the site. Creating a snippet around sections like that might not produce an easily readable description."

Google recommends most people use search using natural language rather than using operators because advances in search make them less necessary. However, Jin admits it's a useful tool for power users. 

"By default, our systems are designed to look for both the exact words and phrases entered and related terms and concepts, which is often useful. If you use a quoted search, you might miss helpful content that uses closely related words," notes Jin. 

He also outlines some pro tips for using quoted search and caveats for them not functioning as expected. For example, quoted searches may match content that's not "readily visible" on a page but is actually present in meta description tags or text within a page's URL. Some pages also may have been updated since Google last crawled them. Also, quoted searches are affected by Google seeing some punctuation as spaces. 

Additionally, bold quoted content for web page snippets on desktop but not mobile. It also won't bold when using image and news search.   

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