When it comes to search techniques, you’ll never find a more anal group than librarians. So when search tools start mucking around with the search short-cuts, we tend to shake our heads and mumble something like “it worked just fine the way it was… why do you keep changing it??” In fact, there are many law librarians out there that still think that “Dot Commands” in Lexis is truly the only way to conduct legal research queries. Now it is Google that has changed one of the basic search commands that we’ve used for years and replaced it with what amounts to a two-step process to replace a single one.

A couple of weeks ago, Google removed the “+” search command that allowed you to search for a specific spelling of a word or words (without Google correcting your spelling or stemming the word.) According to Google’s research, two-thirds of the commands that used the “+” designator were using it incorrectly, so they replaced the “+” with the either using a double-quote or by clicking on the new advance tool called “Verbatim.” (I’m actually thinking that someone in Google’s marketing department mentioned that they needed to get rid of the “+” command because someone might confuse it with their social media site name of “Google+”… but that’s probably just me being paranoid.)

I’m not one who argues against change, in fact I usually am one of the first to embrace these new features, but I have to say that I’m a little disappointed that Google dropped the one-step “+” command and replaced it with a two-step “double-quote” command (you have to close that quote!) and the three-step “Verbatim” resource (you have to run the search, then click “Show Search Tools” on the left-hand side of the results, and then click on “Verbatim” to get the results.)

Rest in peace my old friend “+” and long live “double-quote” and Verbatim… at least until some future round of enhancements comes along and finds that two-thirds of people are not using you correctly and finds a four-step process to make it easier.

  • Greg – a question, not a comment: I search on "legal technology" (WITH quotes) and get 872k hits. Then I click Verbatim and the number of hits INCREASES to 6969 hits, a 10x jump.

    I would expect "verbatim" to reduce, not increase number of hits. Can you explain?

  • Ron,

    You've run into a Boolean issue between the phrase searching vs. the "AND" search.

    When you searched "legal technology" what you searched was those pages where the words "legal" and "technology" show up side-by-side (aka Phrase).

    When you searched the Verbatim, it took away your phrase search and made it where the words "legal" and "technology" both appear somewhere on the webpage, but they do not have to be in the phrase form.

    However, you did point out that one of the apparent drawbacks of Verbatim is that it doesn't seem to allow you to use the "Phrase" search by using the double-quotes. (Perhaps there's an Advanced Verbatim Search page out there??)

  • hmmm… I was trying to see if I could verify this and have tried different searches and continue to find that switching from "phrase" to verbatim consistently increases the number of search results.

    I also tried to see if I could go to some of the "deep" results to see if I could spot results that don't have the phrase, but got this message:

    "Sorry, Google does not serve more than 1000 results for any query. (You asked for results starting from 179940.)"

    I found this message to be very interesting! So, if it doesn't show up in the first 1000, you're out of luck??

  • Fred D.

    Apparently the main reason Google dropped the old [+] command was that they wanted to re-purpose it: [+] in Google will now be used to search for company pages in Google+ (e.g. [+Pepsi]): http://allthingsd.com/20111107/google-adds-pages-for-brands-and-businesses-and-will-feature-them-in-search/

  • Greg–In my estimation if you have time to review more than 1000 results, you're a lucky man indeed.