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December 8, 2010

Google's AROUND Operator for Proximity Search

Google has an undocumented operator called "AROUND" for finding web pages that include words or phrases which are near to each other.

If you want to find results that include both "Steve Jobs" and "Andy Rubin", you might search for ["Steve Jobs" "Andy Rubin"] or even for ["Steve Jobs * Andy Rubin"]. Google's AROUND operator lets you specify the maximum number of words that separate the two names. For example, you could search for ["Steve Jobs" AROUND(3) "Andy Rubin"] and only get web pages that include the two names separated by less than three words.


"The AROUND operator is a handy trick to use when you're looking for a combination of search terms when one dominates the results, but you're interested in the relationship between two query terms. Note also that if Google can't find anything within the limit, it will just do regular ranking of the terms without the AROUND coming into play. Using AROUND is especially useful when the documents are rather long (think book-length articles). So try this operator in Google Books.... [slavery AROUND(4) indigo]," suggests Google's Daniel Russell.

Barry Schwartz notes that Bing has a similar operator, but it's called "near".

{ via Search Engine Roundtable }

18 comments:

  1. Awesome! Thanks for the tip, Alex. I feel like I use this kind of search all the time doing legal research on Westlaw, and have been wishing Google had some more advanced features, like this, for a while.

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  2. that's almost the same as the boolean operator NEAR. Would have been better to have used that name as every query maker knows it. MS Bing was more consistant in this matter. The (n) addition is great though.

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  3. Was gonna say - I think that's just another version of a NEAR search, which Google has had for years...??

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  4. This does not work according to:

    http://www.websearchguide.ca/netblog/archives/cat_search_techniques.html

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  5. This is a really great tip - a very useful function.

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  6. I always wished text/hex editors had this kind of operator.

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  7. Nice. AROUND(0) works, which is useful for [name AROUND(0) surname] searches (the two in any order).

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  8. zola: They're wrong. I tried the searches and they all worked. It's not for *exactly* n words apart from each other. It's n or less.

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  9. Unfortunately, it doesn't work the way I thought it would.
    I used a little complex search to narrow down my results.

    String used:
    site:in.linkedin.com oracle AROUND(2) migrate "chennai area " inurl:in OR inurl:pub -inurl:dir

    Please check below search page.
    http://tinyurl.com/2apxso2

    Please let me know your views.
    -Medhavi

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  10. Hey, thanks for the tip. That may come in handy in the future.

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  11. This does not seem to work. Have a look:

    "steve jobs" "andy rubin" 693.000
    "steve jobs" AROUND "andy rubin" 681,000
    "steve jobs" AROUND(10) "andy rubin" 681,000
    "steve jobs" AROUND(9) "andy rubin" 681,000
    "steve jobs" AROUND(8) "andy rubin" 681,000
    "steve jobs" AROUND(7) "andy rubin" 681,000
    "steve jobs" AROUND(6) "andy rubin" 681,000
    "steve jobs" AROUND(5) "andy rubin" 681,000
    "steve jobs" AROUND(4) "andy rubin" 681,000
    "steve jobs" AROUND(3) "andy rubin" 681,000
    "steve jobs" AROUND(2) "andy rubin" 680,000
    "steve jobs" AROUND(1) "andy rubin" 679,000
    "steve jobs" AROUND() "andy rubin" 681,000

    Run on 24 March 2011 in London UK via google.com with safesearch off, instant off.

    I have more experiments that show that the Around operator does not seem to do anything

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  12. @Arno:

    Please ignore the number of search results (it's just an estimate) and carefully look at the snippets. You'll notice that the AROUND(n) operator actually works and there are less than n words that separate the two keywords.

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  13. Doesn't work.. try this: labrador AROUND(2) poodle washington -adopted site:petfinder.com

    The first returned result doesn't have labrador and poodle within 2 or 3 words.

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  14. @anon: The page contains around and 2 as words. I guess some of their clusters don't understand the operator and match it as plain text.

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  15. @anon @mork

    Note also that if Google can't find anything within the limit, it will just do regular ranking of the terms without the AROUND coming into play.

    This is what's happening
    labrador AROUND(2) poodle washington -adopted site:petfinder.com

    returns the same results as
    labrador poodle washington -adopted site:petfinder.com

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  16. It works.

    1. Don't worry if you don't see it in the snipet. Open the page and you'll notice that the highlighted appears several times. One of those instances will be next to the word you want.

    2. Don't worry that the search hits don't changes. The first few pages have the pages with AROUND operator in place and the remaining pages are a normal search without an AROUND operator. It's still useful. Concentrate on the first pages (in order).

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  17. I just tried using this. I found that the operator term had to be in uppercase for it to work.

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  18. I've been attempting to use the AROUND(n) operator in Google Scholar. My results don't change no matter what I substitute for "n".

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