Change To Google Search With Quotes

| Created: May 11th, 2008
Search Engine Optimisation 33 Comments

Following my own advice in my last post, about not sitting on semi exclusive news, I thought I better get this post out quickly! I’m not sure if this has been reported elsewhere, or even how long the change has been in place, but it seems that Google have made a tweak to their Search facility.

It’s only a very minor change, but may be of interest to some…


When you do a search using the quote marks, Google returns only those pages which have that exact phrase on it. For example, if I search for:

some random phrase that I type

it will give me any pages which have all of those words somewhere on the page (or in the URL, or in the meta tags, etc).

When I search for:

“some random phrase that I type”

it will only give me pages which have that exact phrase (ie those words together, exactly as in between the quote marks).

This technique is often used by people researching keywords for use with niche sites, as it lets them know exactly how many other sites have the exact phrase they are targeting. These sites may be their competition!

The Change

As I said above, it’s only a very minor change.

In the past, if I searched for a phrase (using quotes) that didn’t exist, then it returned nothing. I would have received a message that my search didn’t match any documents and some advice on changing my search term so it would find something.

Now, it tells me that there are no results found, but it also returns the results for the search term without the quotes.

An example can be seen below.

Not startling news, just something minor, but a good move by Google.

33 responses on “Change To Google Search With Quotes

  1. Megapixels

    I noticed this too the other day. Threw me off a little at first, till I got used to it. I’ve noticed some weird results today, when searching with quotes. One phrase I searched for last week had about 20,000 results, and today it had about 750,000. I like the 20,000 a lot better, but I think I’ll keep an eye on this one. Have you ever seen anything like that?

    1. Stephen Cronin Post author

      Hi Megapixels,

      I haven’t seen the weird results. Hopefully that’s just a one off – I can’t see it increasing by that much legitimately. Maybe one of Google’s data center’s was a bit screwy?

  2. Banner Boy

    Hi, thanks for the post, but I’m confused.
    I thought that the “key word phrase” was a phrase match, and that [key word phrase] was the exact match?
    I’ve also been trying to learn negative matches, but it’s so confusing.
    I think pretty soon, you’ll just “think of what you want” and Google will turn your computer on, get your credit card out, and buy the item. That would be a “Google Match?” Of course they’d have to take $2 to $22 for the effort, and then ban you if you tried to do the same thing. (No follow da Google)
    Banner me Boy

    1. Stephen Cronin Post author

      Banner Boy,

      I thought that the “key word phrase” was a phrase match, and that [key word phrase] was the exact match?

      Actually, “key word phrase” matches on the exact phrase (at least with Google Search). To be honest, I’ve never tried [key word phrase] and I’ve never heard it mentioned before – if anyone can clarify this, please do!

  3. peter@Peter Answers

    It’s the law of big numbers – with billions of daily searches there are probably tens of thousands of searches daily where the exact search brought back no results and the person did not search any more, thereby not giving Google the opportunity for revenue. This seemingly simple change will probably pay for a bunch of engineers salaries.

  4. Discount Plantation Shutters

    this is the first mention as I said already before that I have read this. thanks for catching the details and passing it on.

  5. Renato@DVD

    I didn’t know this keywordluv, let me see if works ;D

    returning to the post… this was a simple but a very useful modification, I already did many searches with quotes and the results come so naturally that I didn’t notice the feature, I think that is because i’m lazy or the message is like when you search on a and doesn’t exists results on that language so the google displays the universal results. ;D

  6. Annie@Sevierville Real Estate

    Funny you posted about this. I have been noticing this for, well I guess about 2-3 weeks maybe. Yes it is a small change but i like it. For us lazy ones out there, I couldn’t bear the thought of having to retype my search string w/o quotes. Now I can just click on it! :>)

  7. Fred @ cheap acoustic guitars

    This is a very useful change by Google. I am glad that google keeps innovating. It is good for the Internet users.

  8. Bass Lake Real Estate

    I do qoute based searches all the time to find exact things quickly. It never bothered me when no results were returned.

  9. zohai

    Hmm? I thought ” ” searching is universal and has been there like forever for phrase searching? =/ But many don’t know about it though 😀 Oh well.

  10. Brian@Build A Niche Store

    I think its a convenient little change by Google. I don’t think it’s really going to confuse that many people. Most people searching for exact matches are more advanced users and will recognize the change quite quickly.

  11. Jack Keifer@Internet Business

    Interesting. I might have been one of those people to overlook the initial “not found” phrase and stared blankly at the non exact results for a few minutes before realizing what happened.

    This will save a few keystrokes as most of us would revise the search without the quotes anyway & obviously Google figured that out.


  12. K@get around blocked sites

    It sure is a minor but nice change. Saves us a second try without the quotes but not sure if I would have noticed it though. Good eye, Stephen! 🙂

  13. NetAP@Cisco

    For a long time, I have the idea that Google is a kingdom. Google sites service is also published yesterday and the guys of Google are doing more and more.

  14. Kerry - Table Card Holders

    That is neat that they are returning the other results too, its not much of a change, but it will help out some people.

  15. Stephen Cronin Post author

    Hi all,

    A key point that many of you have pointed out is that this will make things better for the user. I agree.

    As one or two people have mentioned, once you know it works like this, there’s no problem, but at first you may not notice it. The actual notification can be hard to see.

    That tripped me up – I was seeing all these results, thinking they were for the quote mark search.

  16. Robert@Where does it go

    Incidentally, when using quotes (“) in Google, you don’t need to close them.


    “I love spam the same as…

    “I love spam”

    …saves precious milliseconds when using Google. 🙂

  17. Business Basecoat

    To me it sounds like an obvious addition to help the person searching, and I think I’d appreciate it if it saves me having to re-phrase and type again.

    However, I can’t help agreeing with a couple of the comments above… I’m sure Google is seeing it as a way to increase revenue through serving ads.

    LINK REMOVED: because of failure to use KeywordLuv syntax (name@keywords)

  18. tracy - tv bracket

    Really if I do a search with quotes I am fine with no results if there are none. If I wanted the non-quoted results I would have searched that way.

  19. Cheryl Marie Cordeiro

    I actually prefer if they had kept the distinction between quoted and unquoted searches because the latter is less specific. To me, it’s like the distinction between a specific deictic “the” compared to the unspecified “a”. It also helps narrow retrieved items.


  20. Chris Cox@opsec

    As a rule, I normally hate change 🙂
    But this has helped me out quite a bit. For one thing, I rarely check my spelling before I hit “search”, so this way I still get good results even if I typo.

  21. tony@Cheap web hosting.

    I noticed google also corrects spelling like yahoo does on some search terms. They used to only show sites with or with out quotes that spelled something one way now they show correct way for some terms.

  22. LibrarianX

    Not only does it now return hits for the term without quotes, but in certain cases it will also insert a space into a single term, dividing it into two terms and then returning additional hits with those two terms next to each other. For example, searching “oneworld” will return hits that have “oneworld” as a single term and “one world” as two terms. This may be useful for people who are sloppy and accidentally leave out a space in their query, but it destroys the relevancy ranking for queries that are meant to be just one word. At first Google just did this for searches without quotes, but now even putting quotes around the term won’t limit your results accordingly. I find this change really annoying, and just another example of how Google caters to people who are sloppy typists and/or don’t know how to spell or search. When I do a search with quotes, it’s because I want my results to be narrowed down in relevancy. By automatically assuming that I might have inadvertently left out a space, Google disallows me from narrowing down my results. So what if I had accidentally left out a space? I would’ve figured it out when I saw my search results, and then could’ve re-run my search. I would’ve lost a few seconds of time, but at least I would’ve had the opportunity to correct my mistake. By autocorrecting my “mistake”, though, Google effectively shuts out the possibility of producing a truly relevant list of results, instead forcing me to weed them out on my own from the irrelevant ones. In my opinion, this dilution of advanced search capabilities in the interest of “convenience” only serves to decrease the usefulness of Google’s search engine.

  23. Wayne@auctions

    First off I would like to say terrific blog!

    I had a quick question that I’d like to ask if you do not mind. I was curious to find out how you center yourself and clear your head before writing. I’ve had difficulty clearing my mind in getting my ideas out.
    I do enjoy writing however it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are lost
    just trying to figure out how to begin. Any suggestions or hints?


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