Google Kills + Search Operator

Oct 24, 2011 • 8:42 am | comments (12) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine

Google + OperatorEveryone knows about Google +, Google's social network, but the old Google + was the use of the + sign in the Google search box for exact matching on your keyword searches.

Google described this operator on their Google search operator help page as:

Search exactly as is (+)
Google 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 Google 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 Google to match that word precisely as you typed it. Putting double quotes around a single word will do the same thing.

Google recently removed this from the page and no longer supports this special operator.

There are some complaints in the Google Web Search Help forums, in which Kelly F. from Google replied that you can still get the same results with the quote operator. She explained:

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"].

Are you sad to see one of Google's oldest search operators go away? Do you suspect it has to do with confusion around Google +, the social network?

Forum discussion at Google Web Search Help.

Previous story: Google AdWords Dynamic Search Ads: Ads Without Keywords


Ian Williams

10/24/2011 01:09 pm

When Google launched '+1', within days it ranked 1st for a search on +1 - ahead of BBC Radio 1 - and surprising given that really that should have been seen by Google as a search for '1'. Google's +1 page at the time didn't have anywhere near the same backlink volume or quality as the BBC Radio 1 page. It always struck me as extremely odd that a search for '1' would yield 'Google +1' as its #1 result. NB. This was before the + operator was made redundant - unless Google made it redundant for searches on their businesses, or manipulated the SERP to favour their - essentially unsearchable - +1 tool.

Fantastic Dan

10/24/2011 02:04 pm

That's a bit annoying but what would be far more annoying would be the removal of the - (minus) search operator or the 'OR' command. I find these really useful when I don't know precisely what I'm looking for or if I know exactly what I don't want.  

Rob Hammond

10/24/2011 02:52 pm

Really not a fan of this, especially as Google's increasingly deciding to ignore certain queries it decides are less relevant than others. Using quotes around single words is far less intuitive, goes against general search conventions and requires 1 more keystroke :(

california labor laws

10/24/2011 03:11 pm

I already have my own account in Google+. But when we talk about the being famous as a social network site. Facebook is far more better than Google+, not only because it has a lot of users but also because it is a user friendly website, all in access and you will never get lose.

Michael Martinez

10/24/2011 03:18 pm

I've been intuitively relying on the quotes more and more over the past few months.  I suspect other people have, too.  The old + operator was becoming a bit awkward for me.  I cannot say I miss it.


10/24/2011 03:26 pm

I haven't used the + operator for many years. Quotes just make more sense.

Ron Leal

10/24/2011 11:09 pm

Have used that operator too..didnt even know it existed.

Angry searcher

11/03/2011 10:36 pm

Without the + operator, searching for something like +"democratic peace theory" (which in the past would return results with ONLY those three words, in that order, and with that spelling) is no longer possible. "Democratic peace theory" is not the same as +"democratic peace theory". Anyone who thinks it is the same isn't the search ninja they think they are.


11/04/2011 01:54 am

I wondered what happened, and why my searches were no longer working. WTF?! This jst broke milions of embedded search configs. Can someone PLEASE point me to an overview of what was done, why, and the full fixes we should be using? My search for +"broken google" -"chinese hackers" is not returning anything relevant. Tweeks

SEO cupcake

11/07/2011 03:22 pm

It doesn't make sense to get rid of the "+" operator. WTF?


02/17/2012 12:18 pm

It's easier to type one + instead of two ".  Why change something?  Google are doing dumber and dumber things all round. And BTW the double-quote operator isn't a substitute anyway since it doesn't insist the word is there. Someone should get fired for this.


02/17/2012 12:22 pm

Hey, don't worry. Bing seems to support it. Bye Bye Google. Seems all Microsoft has to do is sit still in the water while Google drills holes in their own boat. Duuuuuuuhhh.  

blog comments powered by Disqus