- Every word matters. Generally, all the words will be used. See the exceptions listed below for the few cases that are exceptions.
- Search is always case insensitive. Searching for 'interest checking' is the same as searching for 'Interest Checking'.
- With some exceptions, punctuation is ignored. That means, you can't search for @#^&*()=+\ and other special characters).
Guidelines for Better Search:
- Keep it simple. If you're looking for a particular product or service, start with its name. Most of your searches won’t require the advanced search techniques described below.
- Use the words that are most likely to appear on the page. Think about how the page you are looking for would be written. The search engine can only match words you give with what is actually there. For example instead of 'my head hurts', say 'headache'.
- Describe what you need with as few terms as possible. Each word in your search focuses the search further. Since all words are used, each one limits the results returned. For example, 'weather cancun' will likely give better results than the longer 'weather report for cancun mexico'. If you limit too much, you will miss a lot of useful information. If you don't get what you need at first, the results from using fewer terms will likely give you a good indication of what words are needed to refine your search.
- Choose descriptive words. The more unique the word is, the more likely you are to get relevant results. For example, 'celebrity ringtones' is more descriptive and specific than 'celebrity sounds'.
If Your Search Returns No Results:
- Check the spelling. Make sure all the words you entered in your search are spelled correctly.
- Try different keywords. Synonyms of the words you are looking for may return better results.
- Try more general keywords. Using more general keywords may also give you some ideas on how to narrow your search.
Advanced Search Techniques
Phrase Search ("")
Putting double quotes around a set of words tells the search to consider the exact words in that order without any change. The search already uses the order and the fact that the words are together as a very strong signal and will stray from it only for a good reason, so quotes are usually unnecessary. By insisting on phrase search you might be missing good results accidentally.
Excluding Terms (-)
Attaching a minus sign immediately before a word indicates that you do not want pages that contain this word to appear in your results. The minus sign should appear immediately before the word and should be preceded with a space. For example, in the search 'anti-virus software', the minus sign is used as a hyphen and will NOT be interpreted as an exclusion symbol; whereas the search 'anti-virus -software' will search for the words 'anti-virus' but exclude references to software. You can exclude as many words as you want by using the - sign in front of all of them, for example 'jaguar -cars -football -os'.
Wildcard or Fill in the Blank (*)
The *, or wildcard, is a little-known feature that can be very powerful. If you include * within a search, it tells the search to try to treat the star as a placeholder for any unknown term(s) and then find the best matches. For example, the search 'Obama voted * on the * bill' will give you stories about different votes on different bills. Note that the * operator works only on whole words, not parts of words.
Search Exactly as is (+)
The search employs synonyms automatically, so that it finds pages that mention, for example, childcare for the query 'child care' (with a space), or California history for the query 'ca history'. But sometimes it helps out a little too much and gives you a synonym when you don't really want it. By attaching a + immediately before a word (remember, don't add a space after the +), you are telling the search to match that word precisely as you typed it.
The OR Operator (OR)
The default behavior is to consider all the words in a search. If you want to specifically allow either one of several words, you can use the OR operator (note that you have to type 'OR' in ALL CAPS). For example, 'Newsletter January OR February' will give you results about either one of these months, whereas 'Newsletter January February' (without the OR) will show pages that include both months on the same page. (The AND operator, by the way, is the default, so it is not needed.)
Exceptions to 'Every word matters'
- Words that are commonly used, like 'the,' 'a,' and 'for,' are usually ignored (these are called stop words). But there are even exceptions to this exception. The search 'the who' likely refers to the band; the query 'who' probably refers to the World Health Organization - the search will not ignore the word 'the' in the first query.
- Synonyms might replace some words in your original query. (Adding + before a word disables synonyms.)
- A particular word might not appear on a page in your results if there is sufficient other evidence that the page is relevant. The evidence might come from language analysis that Google has done or many other sources. For example, the query 'overhead view of the bellagio pool' will give you nice overhead pictures from pages that do not include the word 'overhead.'
Punctuation that is Not Ignored
- Punctuation in popular terms that have particular meanings, like 'C++' or 'C#' (both are names of programming languages), are not ignored.
- The dollar sign ($) is used to indicate prices. 'nikon 400' and 'nikon $400' will give different results.
- The hyphen - is sometimes used as a signal that the two words around it are very strongly connected. (Unless there is no space after the - and a space before it, in which case it is a negative sign.)
- The underscore symbol _ is not ignored when it connects two words, e.g. 'quick_sort'.