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January 16, 2007

Google Auto-correcting Queries

I tend to make spelling mistakes when I type a search query, so Google's "did you mean...?" feature is really useful. But lately I've noticed that Google auto-corrects keywords from a query, without even asking. For example, if you search for [oper labs], all the top results include "opera labs", which is also highlighted in the title and the snippets.

From what I tried, Google is the only search engine that does that and, at least for this query, it does a pretty good job.


  1. I've got different answer: (no correction to Opera lab)

  2. You must search on page. It works for me!

  3. Well I can't say for sure but I don't think it does that. If you notice in the results it bolds only labs.oper in the link. If it did auto-correct the query I guess it would bold labs.opera. I think it just happen to be the best match to your query.

  4. Look in the title, the snippet. "Opera" is in bold.

    The normal results for this strange query would be these. You can also try other search engines to see for yourself.

  5. XSoft, I think you are using a different language Google, hence it doesn't work.

    On another note, I really wish that Google would stop doing this. When I type in something related to Kubuntu, e.g. "How to install Kubuntu", it automatically converts Kubuntu to Ubuntu. Annoying.

  6. I use searchmash now, it works there too. (I know, it's G's too)

    The only problem with sm is that SiteAdvisor doesn't give me the 'safe checkmarks' fature. hint hint

  7. If you look at the cached result you'll see it claims that "oper" appears in pages linking to this one. That makes sense, since "Oper" is German for Opera. But this search:

    inlink:oper labs

    returns nothing. I thought that

    intext:oper labs

    would return zero, but instead it returned a million results. Where did those million results go in the first query??

    And... if you search on

    labs oper

    then you get the same results (a million hits).

  8. A bit of my traffic comes from this query :
    bogdanoff pub club internet

    But it returns many results (including my blog) with "bogdanov" and not "bogdanoff".

    It seems to me that this feature has been on for quite some time now (at least a few weeks/months)

  9. I think this is part of an effort to incorporate spelling correction into all their products. I've noticed that recently my GMail account has started underlining misspelled words and occasionally auto correcting them.

  10. If you don't want it to auto correct put quotation marks around each word: "oper" "labs"

  11. I have had nothing but trouble with this feature. It is far off base when you enter in 4 or 5 search words. I then have to retype my search again.

    I thought it was spam or a virus that started changing my inputs.

  12. Thanks, Kevin. That's helpful. Though I'm not sure I'm excited about this feature either. Autocorrect might be helpful for most, but it's quite annoying to the one person out there actually looking for Oper Labs and who doesn't know to put each word in quotes. It's really not too much extra effort to click the "Did you mean" link.

  13. Interesting, but I agree with anon:10.22 and Nate. It's a particular nuisance when searching on phrases. The software isn't always smart enough to work out if you've really made a mistake or whether you meant what you typed. It'd be nice if there was an option on the advanced search menu like "Search on the exact string supplied".

  14. There is a simple way to search for an exact keyword. Add + in front of the keyword.

    For example:
    +oper +labs

  15. Thanks kevin.

    I dont think auto-correcting is a good idea. What if I wanted to search for oper labs and not opera labs ?

    It would be impossible to search for what I wanted to search for initially.

    Or, they should've a link Did you really mean oper labs ?

  16. lame and very not usefull feature

    dangerous even


  18. I also find this very annoying. I live on the Isle of Wight, so if I want to search for something/someone local, I often simply add the word wight to the query, e.g. John Smith Wight or transport information wight. I used to get a "Did you mean transport information weight?" with a hyperlink, which is handy when you *have* spelt something incorrectly, and no trouble when you have got it right. Now it automatically includes weight in the search, so my narrowing technique fails.

    Thanks for the workarounds suggested, they will be useful, though I don't think they should be needed. This is taking the Microsoft approach and trying to think for you "It looks like you're writing a letter...."

  19. if you put [oper labs] in quotations it doesnt automatically correct it.