Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Google Removes the + Search Operator

Google has just recently removed the + search operator and replaced it with quotation marks functionality.  Instead of placing the Google + operator before a single word that you want to appear in your search results as-is, you now must add quotation marks around the word.  Quotation marks have always worked to give exact results for a phrase, but they now also give exact results for a single word.

If you search using the + operator, you will get a message that says:

The + operator has been replaced.
To search for an exact word or phrase, use double quotation marks

When asked why the + functionality was removed, a Google employee replied:
 "We've made the ways you can tell Google exactly what you want more consistent by expanding the functionality of the quotation marks operator. In addition to using this operator to search for an exact phrase, you can now add quotation marks around a single word to tell Google to match that word precisely. So, if in the past you would have searched for magazine +latina, you should now search for magazine "latina".  "

I'm not sure I see this as an improvement - it will now take two keystrokes to replace one, and I have to remember not to do something that has become second nature to me during my searches.

How does this affect genealogy searches?  Well, now if  I want to search for any word, including surnames, and get exact results, I must use quotation marks.  For example to search for the surname Meyer without getting results that also show Mayer, Myers, and other spelling variations, I must now search for the surname in quotes.  "Meyer"  

It almost seems counter-intuitive to have to tell Google that you want to search for an exact word, after all, isn't that what you expect when you enter a keyword?  But if you remember that Google does synonym searches, it becomes easier to remember that you have to tell it when you want an exact search.  Sometimes getting spelling variations and synonyms in search results is a good thing as it broadens your results and helps you find things you might not otherwise find, but there are time when only exact spelling results are appropriate.

I just hope Google doesn't do away with any other operators such as the minus sign and the OR operator.  So far, they are still working.  Check out the Easy Google Genealogy Searcher for other ways to use Google.

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