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forcing exact phrase in search engine
Thread poster: MollyRose

MollyRose  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:33
Member (2010)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Dec 6, 2016

I used to be able to do a search to see if certain wording is generally used. It helps me to choose word order sometimes, or more appropriate words for the context when synonyms are involved. For example, in English, do people usually say "odd and even numbers" or "even and odd numbers"? Putting the phrase in quotation marks like this is SUPPOSED TO show exactly as shown and nothing else, but lately I've been finding variations and sites listed with some of the words, or synonyms or related words.

When I typed "even and odd numbers," Google showed (with the audacity to even show on the FIRST page) also "odd and even numbers" with no inclusion in the heading or paragraph of my exact phrase. It even had some sites that mentioned the words but not necessarily forming the phrase in any order of the words.

This is just an example. I've also searched for things like amblyopia and it would include sites mentioning "lazy eye" without even showing the actual word that I had typed!

For the odd and even number thing today, I tried "Search Tools" and Verbatim, but that didn't show any improvement (what's the purpose of "verbatim" then?), and it didn't show any count of hits, either. So I see that's no good for some of my searching purposes.

Is there a way to force Boolean search in Google, or adapt to how exact phrase matching works in Google now? Or maybe they took it away and it doesn't work any more? I had noticed quite a while back that there was the option of using Boolean and I wondered why it would be an option and not just standard. Apparently as a transition of taking it away. If so, this makes Google way low on the useful list of resources, whereas before it was pretty high up there.

I have done quite a bit of searching and it seems to be a lost cause. "Answers" given often avoid the real issue, claiming that searches ignore punctuation, such as "even and odd: numbers that do this or that..." I have noticed this phenomenon and ignore those hits, but that seems to be the only kind of "answer" anybody gives, ignoring the core of the matter. I don't think that writing "odd" "and" "even" "numbers" will work because it would just show sites with all the words (supposedly) but not caring about the phrase or word order.

Is there another search engine that will show exact phrases only (and the other Boolean stuff), with "hit" counts? And show on the screen some context of the phrase, like Google shows?


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Tony M  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 11:33
Member
French to English
+ ...
try this... Dec 6, 2016

MollyRose wrote:

...
Is there a way to force Boolean search in Google, or adapt to how exact phrase matching works in Google now?...


The option is still there, but a bit harder to find.

Under the Google search box, on the right you should have the button 'Tools' (or seomthing like that), which opens a sub-menu 'All results' and 'Verbatim' — which is the option you need.

It still isn't 100%, but should be a lot better.

I think this was done because most people (other than us translators!) probaby just want Google to return results for 'approximate' matches, i.e. that contain most of our search terms.


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MollyRose  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:33
Member (2010)
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I did try Verbatim Dec 7, 2016

and tried again at your suggestion, but still no improvement. Only 4 of the 10 "hits" on the first page showed the exact phrase that I had put in quotation marks ("odd and even numbers"). If I remove the quotation marks, only 3 of them show the exact phrase. And it gives no clue as to how many (although that would be a moot point anyway since the phrase isn't accurate).

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Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 11:33
German to English
a sometimes helpful work-around Dec 7, 2016

Edited, because I used characters that made the answer disappear out of my response.

Using your example, you can get the results you want by searching:
"odd and even numbers" -"even -and -odd -numbers" (with the quotation marks, etc., exactly as is)

Or you can use the advanced search page to do the same.

That will produce exactly the results you want (= without the false positives), although this technique obviously doesn't help with a lot of questions.

And I think it really does look like it is true that Google never even indexes punctuation, so that can't be searched, even though a lot of translators (myself included) would like to be able to do so.

It would be interesting to see if other search engines are more helpful for translators, but we have to remember that we are ultimately misusing these search engines: 99,9% of users probably want to get the combined results for "odd and even" and "even and odd", even if they are using a Boolean search. They are trying to find information about something and not about how to say something.

[Edited at 2016-12-07 10:17 GMT]


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Rolf Keller
Germany
Local time: 11:33
English to German
Google search is tricky Dec 7, 2016

Michael Wetzel wrote:

Using your example, you can get the results you want by searching:
"odd and even numbers" -"even -and -odd -numbers" (with the quotation marks, etc., exactly as is)

Alternative method 1: "even and odd numbers" -"odd and even numbers"

Alternative method 2: Leave out stopwords because they sometimes produce strange results. Google treats "and" as a stopword. So use "even odd numbers" resp "odd even numbers".

BTW, certain modifications (not the ones that are discussed here, though) of search phrases can be performed automatically by the Omni-Lookup tool. www.omni-lookup.de

Omni-Lookup features a settings dialog for this. This means that you can create several Google buttons or hotkeys, each of these triggering a different search mode. One of these modes is "Enclose the phrase with quotes", another one is "Complete the phrase by 'filetype:pdf'". Combined with Google's Advanced Search there are several convenient possibilities.


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Christophe Delaunay  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 11:33
Member (2011)
Spanish to French
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It's a bit different but Dec 7, 2016

sometimes this helps:

https://books.google.com/ngrams


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:33
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Oh yes please! Dec 7, 2016

MollyRose wrote:
Is there a way to force Boolean search in Google, or adapt to how exact phrase matching works in Google now?

Is there another search engine that will show exact phrases only (and the other Boolean stuff), with "hit" counts? And show on the screen some context of the phrase, like Google shows?

That would be SO lovely! It doesn't seem to be asking the earth. I mean, it must be a lot quicker and easier to search for one string than do what Google does. Okay, so maybe most people like it to take the initiative, but very often that wrecks it for my purposes.


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 10:33
Member (2008)
Italian to English
I got rhythm Dec 7, 2016

When you do a Google search, it uses its notorious algorthym to first of all search your personal browsing history, including in other places where you didn't know Google was tracking you, in the hope of finding something you might be interested in buying. That may help to explain the unexpected and annoying hits (which annoy me too). Here's what happens:

http://www.wired.co.uk/article/google-history-search-tracking-data-how-to-delete

Usefully, that link also guides you to the place where you can stop Google from tracking you, and delete your entire history.

So the next time you google for "galvanised steel cable trays" you won't get an ad suggesting you might want to look at some transformers

[Edited at 2016-12-07 16:17 GMT]


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Erwin van Wouw  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 11:33
Member (2010)
English to Dutch
Writefull Dec 8, 2016

You might want to have a look at Writefull. This app can be very helpfull for these kinds of search tasks. http://writefullapp.com/

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yinnyann  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 08:33
Spanish to French
+ ...
Visualize hits in Verbatim Dec 8, 2016

In Google Search> press Tools > Verbatim
In order to see the hits > press again on Tools: the submenu will desapear and let you see the hits.
You should use quote marks.

Hope this would help.

* Edited: verbatim was translated in French by "word by word" so maybe it's not what you are looking for...



[Modifié le 2016-12-08 12:43 GMT]


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Lianne van de Ven  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:33
Member (2008)
English to Dutch
+ ...
Something wrong with Google search? Dec 12, 2016

I started to notice too that exact searches in quotes are not returning the desired results. I get hits but not in the correct word order, and in fact I seem to get everything BUT the exact word order. I did some googling on messages in the last month and I found this, posted on Dec. 9.
"I have been using quotation marks to search for different phrases for quite some time. Everything was perfect until two days ago."
Maybe we can contribute to the conversation there.
https://productforums.google.com/forum/#!topic/websearch/W8ZA_HIYXH8

Just got a reply: much more about this:
https://productforums.google.com/forum/?utm_medium=email&utm_source=footer#!msg/websearch/6gHVUEl8y1k/Eg0H2w6zDQAJ

I was able to get exact quotes using intext "sample text".
More about search operators:
http://www.googleguide.com/advanced_operators_reference.html




[Edited at 2016-12-12 16:33 GMT]


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martino21
Poland
Google - inaccurate search results with quotation marks Dec 12, 2016

Lianne van de Ven,

The quoted part is actually mine. Unfortunately, since I posted it on Dec 9 nothing's been changed. I haven't notice any improvements made. Overall, I use google search to look up English phrases, which I have always found really helpful, especially when I haven't been entirely sure how to use a phrase in a particular context. Owing to searching with quotation marks I have never felt weird/odd while communicating/writing to native English speakers, plus it has allowed me to broaden my vocabulary and build up confidence. Now, you literally no longer get accurate results of your searches. The search engine often returns a large number of links to website which should, as assured by the number of matching results right below the search box, contain the exact phrase but once you visit the concrete webiste to find the specific phrase you get quickly disappointed as the wording you are after is not there! I have tried everything and nothings seems to make it better. Now...well, I hope Google staff will sort it out soon...


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MollyRose  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:33
Member (2010)
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you, everybody Dec 12, 2016

I appreciate all the comments, suggestions, and links. I have started checking them out.

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Lianne van de Ven  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:33
Member (2008)
English to Dutch
+ ...
Problem fixed? Dec 12, 2016

Interestingly, the search results seem to be fixed again. Do you get different results?

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Theodoros Karyotis
Greece
Local time: 12:33
English to Greek
+ ...
Google is useless now, alternatives don't quite do the job Dec 13, 2016

I am in the middle of a book translation and this sudden change in Google's behaviour has seriously messed up my schedule and workflow. It seems I am not the only one, there is a thread at google forum full of frustrated translators: https://productforums.google.com/forum/?utm_medium=email&utm_source=footer#!msg/websearch/6gHVUEl8y1k/Eg0H2w6zDQAJ
Of course these forums are never a solution for anything, just a place where to vent one's frustrations.

I should make clear that I have tried everything proposed here (advanced search, "verbatim" option, adding the inline: operator, setting a time bracket) and nothing produces the desirable results.

As for alternatives, nothing quite does the -admittedly very simple- trick.

The only other serach engines that have exact phrase search capability are excite.com and duckduckgo.com .
However none of the two offer "number of hits" for the phrase. Plus, their index is quite limited, so some less common expressions do not appear at all in the results (without it meaning that they are wrong).

Writefull, a stand-alone app that does the same thing, seems to depend exclusively on google, so the change in google's functionality has messed up the app too. So when I look for an exact phrase, writefull says it has 18 million hits, but it only gets back one or two. In any case, it might be better than simply using google right now.

Please share any solutions or workarounds you have found in this thread!



[Edited at 2016-12-13 09:03 GMT]


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