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October 22, 2011

Google's Plus Operator, No Longer Available

The plus operator from Google Search was useful to highlight one or more keywords that had to be included in the search results exactly as you typed them. If you search for [ai], Google matches terms like "artificial intelligence", "Amnesty International", "Art Institutes", "Appraisal Institute", "Adobe Illustrator" and that's not so useful. To restrict the results to pages that include "ai", you had to replace your query with [+ai]. Unfortunately, the plus operator is no longer available and you now have to use quotation marks even for single words and search for ["ai"].


"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 putting double quotes around a single word, you are telling Google to match that word precisely as you typed it," informs the Web Search help center.

The plus operator was easier to use for single words and it was intuitive, considering that the minus operator is employed to exclude results that contain a certain word. Maybe Google wants to use the operator to integrate Web Search with Google+.


{ Thanks, 7E. }

44 comments:

  1. I always used to use the operator and keep on putting it even now in my queries only to correct it after getting the results and the reported message :(

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  2. I didn't actually know this operator, always used the quotation marks.

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  3. It hasn't worked for a while now, but at least now they explicitly tell you

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  4. Well, damn. How are we supposed to tell Google that ALL of the words in a search are required, rather than just some of them?

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  5. I didn't even know about that operator - I've always used quotation marks, and it looks like I'll continue to! I would really like searches to include punctuation though, especially if searched for quotation marks. Commas, apostrophes and so on are currently ignored, returning results that sometimes aren't what I'm after...

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  6. Exactly: How are we supposed to tell Google that ALL of the words in a search are required, rather than just some of them?

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  7. I've been using Google from day 1. Is it just me or are they turning it into a piece of crap??? My searches aren't like "How do I get to Larry's house?" Most of the time I have to search for documents that contain certain keywords. Google seems to be doing everything they can to make that harder. x-(

    Maybe MC Hammer's search engine will do it right. LOL

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  8. Will try to find a fix in a GSM script... Google will loose a lot of power users in the long run...

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  9. Now I understand why It hasn't worked thanks

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  10. why get rid of it? what was the cost of keeping it as a capability?

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  11. All it requires is an extra keystroke for the trailing quotation mark... I don't see how it really makes it more difficult, if only to remember what you're doing if you always used the plus. Besides, when they *do* add G+ to searches, I can search for articles, webpages, topics, etc. that have been already curated or made by a particular GPluser.. Makes good sense to me...
    How about this one?
    [stew recipes +Emeril "lamb"] or [plane tickets "asia" +Clark Howard]
    Can't wait to see it-- I'd even use it on myself on occasion, as I tend to use +1 as a sort of "stuff I think is cool on the net" button and want to search through my list.

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  12. doesn't the '+' operator now summon + user names, in a preemptive popdown?

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  13. no quotes = 'ANY' usage of the word anywhere on the page. constrained by quotes seeks exact ordering of the words. oh, and google now supports hashtags, though don't know if that is what you are looking for...

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  14. Just because Google choose the name Google+, they change the Bolean standard operators... :( not to improve anything.. just for $$$$

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  15. The change is a serious suck. I work in a niche field and typically search for very specific words or phrases. When Google second guesses my searches, it's are almost always wrong. The "+" operator let me say, "No. When I said I want 'x,' I really REALLY meant I want 'x.'" Now, there's no way to do that. Even if I use quotation marks around search terms, in many cases the first and bulk of the results don't contain those terms.

    It's actually kind of amazing how much this one little change has degraded Google's value to me.

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  16. Does the AND operator function the same? Does it include synonyms in a Boolean search or must you use quotes around single words with it as well? How about the tilde ~ can it still be used, or has it been deprecated by the automatic inclusion of synonyms?

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  17. I work as an academic librarian and most of the questions I get are from people that have already tried Google and couldn't find what they needed. I often depend on complex Boolean search strings to locate what they need. These search strings are usually built to counteract or circumvent the actions of the relevance ranking, SEO efforts and other roadblocks. The dumbing down of search tools through advanced search forms and increasingly meddlesome search algorithms and relevance ranking makes the tools much less effective for searching after they have failed to return adequate results.

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  18. AND is implicit and it has never been a Google operator.

    ~ is still supported, even though Google replaces some words from the query with synonyms to provide results that are more useful. Compare the results for [~sly] with [sly] and you'll notice that the ~ operator is useless: sky is a synonym for sly. If you search for [~sun], you'll find that herard and times are synonyms for sun.

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  19. frankly speaking i never know the existence of the + string in search actually the same as " " . But i dont take it that much because i usually use " " though :-) t still okay

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  20. So what is the new syntax of:
    +"silver stone" trading
    ?

    The quotation marks had a different meaning when used with multiple words.

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  21. @igitur:

    Plus wasn't necessary for more than one word, so you should search for "silver stone" trading.

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  22. I'd just like to echo the previous comments. The plus operator is/was not the same thing as using quotation marks. I also use very specific search queries and it's very frustrating to get back results for something other than what I searched.

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  23. Actually for Google OR is implicit with the pages containing both words ranked above those with only one. AND, OR, NOT along with quotes paren's and quotes are recognized by Google and allow for nesting (among other things) withing the search string.

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  24. The quotation marks are NOT the same as the plus operator. Quotation marks simply allow for grouping of words together in a query, whereas the plus operator allowed a user to force google to find pages containing specific keywords, even when google's "fuzzy search" algorithms had decided the user was wrong. This is a horrible change.

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  25. Another change in syntax! I recently used period as separator in phrases, it worked like a charm: dont.be.evil is entered faster than "dont be evil" but this was disappeared years ago. Now I used plus in almost every search, because I don't like fuzzy search. Damn!

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  26. i didnt even knew it until now it is closed..

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  27. That explains why my searches have been so frustrating. Right after I learned to use it, too, after years of quotation marks being insufficiently specific.

    Maybe the advanced search could include an equivalents step, so we could manually narrow or broaden our searches, instead of typing something different in the search bar and getting the same results?

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  28. Someone at Google should notify Google about this change. I just tried searching for

    googlr plos

    and got a link at the bottom of the page: 'Tip: These results include the word "google". Show results that include only "googlr".'

    I clicked it, and got a search page for

    +googlr plos

    with the notification that I (or rather, Google) should now be using quotation marks instead.

    Left hand, right hand...

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  29. In the last month or so, Google searches keep assuming I type ~ in front of every term, as well as not doing the implicit AND. I can't find any setting (like in Advanced search), but it seems instead to come from the google HTTP servers in general.

    I've been adding + in front of the words, which kind of got the "implicit AND" back. Not sure if I'm victim to some unusually bad experiment. I may even have retried some search in Incognito mode just to check that theory. Oh well. I'll switch to HTTPS I guess -- that could elimininate a bunch of other possibilities.

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  30. Spread the word...

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Google-we-want-the-operator-back/115628008547367

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  31. Stupid decision, Google...

    There is no longer an easy way to designate terms that are required... especially to deal with the annoying synonym crap. (I don't mean quotes and I don't want "synonyms".) How about a new "=" operator to specify an exact match (that would make sense for the equals sign), if you can't leave the "+" in the traditional mode?

    I'm not happy that I now will have to at least explore Bing...

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  32. You're right when you say that "the quotation marks are NOT the same as the plus operator". The + operator had two characteristics: the keyword couldn't be modified by Google and it couldn't be ignored. For example, if you searched for [+ibook], Google couldn't show results that matched [ibooks] and if you searched for [android app market +free], Google couldn't ignore the word "free". It's pretty rare for Google to ignore a keyword, so the most important use case of the plus operator was exact matching, which can also be achieved using quotes.

    It would be nice to post some examples where the plus operator was useful and quotes can't replace it.

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  33. Arrogance at its peak. How many PHDs does it take at google to write some code that can distingush the placement of the + symbol for example google+ from +arrogance +money etc. Too much money and the on-going epidemic of changing things that have been long-time standards.

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  34. This sucks! I want my + back! Google is starting to get as clunky as yahoo or bing.

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  35. From Google's Daniel Russell:

    "LOTS of people believed incorrectly that the + operator was the opposite of the - operator. You know what – does, it excludes the term from the search results. That is, if you do a search like [apples –macintosh] the results will not contain the term macintosh in the results. That makes sense. (Some places use the NOT operator for this. Same behavior.)

    Unfortunately, many people believed that a search like [apples +macintosh] would require the term to be in the search results. That's NOT what it did. While the + term would usually be in the results, it was only there because you'd put it into the query!

    So what did the + do? Answer: It turned off synonymization and spell-correction. That is, with a query like [apples +macintosh] you wouldn't get that term macintosh being synonymized for a term like gala, gravenstein or jonathan. (Those are other apple varieties, if you're wondering.)"

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  36. bring back '+' I use it all the time and it always seemed to get me what I wanted!

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  37. Looks like it's back now

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  38. @$^%!
    ^$@%!
    *&^@#!
    *#&$^#@*!
    @$^%!!
    #^&%! @#^$&*! $%*#@!! 4&^@#! !!!*@#&!!!

    Its not back!
    @$^%!!!

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  39. >So what did the + do? Answer: It turned off synonymization and spell-correction. That is, with a query like [apples +macintosh] you wouldn't get that term macintosh being synonymized for a term like gala, gravenstein or jonathan. (Those are other apple varieties, if you're wondering.)"

    BS, It required the word or phrase.
    "quotes" deactivated synonymization
    How now do we turn of synonymization?
    How now do we require a phrase?

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  40. So I want to do research on prehistoric spears in Brittany. How do I enter a search query to avoid a buJILLION hits on Britney Spears? Is there a better browser for searches?

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  41. "prehistoric" "spears" "Brittany" -"britney spears"

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  42. Even after I enclose a search term that must appear on the sites I'm looking for, quotes doesn't seem to do it. If I CTRL-F on a search results page and can't find the quoted search term I was looking for, you've failed me google.

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