Google Literally Replaces + Operator With Verbatim Tool

Nov 16, 2011 • 9:15 am | comments (5) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine

Google VerbatimGoogle announced a new search option that replaces + operator they dropped about a month ago, so it can be used for Google + direct search.

Google said they removed it because it was rarely used and today, Google shared the stats on that. They said "the "+" operator in less than half a percent of all searches, and two thirds of the time, it was used incorrectly."

So instead, they added a "verbatim" option under the "More search tools" on the left hand side.

Using it will perform a literal search, and not do anything with the following:

  • 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]

Matt Cutts from Google said in a Hacker News thread:

I know that a lot of people were sad that we switched from +word to "word" to do an exact match for a word.

The good news is that we're rolling out a "literal mode" that will search for exactly the words you typed. It does a verbatim match with your words, so it turns off things like spelling corrections, stemming, synonyms, optionalized terms, and so on. I think we saw multiple proposals for this on Hacker News, so thanks for the suggestion.

He then fields dozens of questions about the tool and the rational behind it.

Forum discussion at Hacker News & Google Web Search Help.

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11/16/2011 03:08 pm

Good stuff, glad to see the + back and being used for something useful.


11/16/2011 07:52 pm

You cannot combine this with any of the "Past Year," "Past Week," etc. operators.  Functionality is still crippled.


11/17/2011 03:38 am

Thanks for sharing this helpful update. Verbatim is great.

Duane McLennan

11/17/2011 03:01 pm

Anyone have comments on this statement? "personalizing your search by using information such as sites you've visited before" Will this actually remove those or just give us the perception that personalization has been removed?


04/01/2012 11:30 am

In addition to what seth pointed out, the Verbatim tool also makes it impossible to apply the + operator functionality to only a subset of the terms of a query. I am also amazed at how consistently Google representatives give out the false information that double quotes can be used for this purpose. Double quotes don't, and never have, forced terms to appear in the result pages. It seems to me that Google themselves don't remember what the + used to do—maybe that's why they claim it was "used incorrectly"? I would also like how they come to that conclusion, by the way. The stats seem dubious anyway. Half a percent of queries? I wouldn't have expected the amount of queries that use advanced functionality such as operators at all to be much higher than that, so half a percent tells me that the + operator was in fact quite popular. Anyway, a more truthful replacement for the + operator than the Verbatim tool might be to just use 'intext:' everywhere you used to put a +.

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