A simple function made difficult by several search engines

Posted on August 24, 2021

 

I’ve written before about the merits of using different search engines from time to time. I’m not sure it’s healthy for any sector to be as dominated by one company as online search is by Google, and there are far more alternatives out than many people realise.

However, I have to grudgingly admit that Google is the best search engine. This is frustrating to me, because there are some simple improvements many of its rivals could make to get their offerings on par with Google. One example I gave in April 2020 was Bing’s poor video search suggestions, which were often strange and woefully off the pace on the rapidly developing coronavirus outbreak (to give Bing its dues, its suggestions do seem a little better 16 months on).

Even more annoying to me than this, however, is how many of these search engines make hard work of searching for an exact string, meaning a sequence of words appearing in that exact order. This can be particularly useful if you’re trying to find something like song lyrics, quotes from films or an article where you can remember a certain phrase.

With Google, this can easily be done by putting your search query in quotes. For example, if you search with Google for “Liverpool is a great place” in quotes, you’ll notice you get different results to if you search without quotes. That’s because the quotes indicate that you want that exact phrase to appear in your results, whereas without them, Google will simply find what it thinks are the most suitable results containing those words or similar ones, such as “good” or “nice” instead of “great”.

It doesn’t seem like a lot to ask of a search engine to me, but most others find it difficult. All the way back in September 2011, a Bing user posted on the Stack Exchange network, saying the search engine wasn’t giving exact matches for an in-quotes search for “Moscow is a beautiful city”. Nearly a full decade on, it still doesn’t, despite Bing’s own help pages saying that using quotes “finds the exact words in a phrase”. The same is true for Yahoo and DuckDuckGo.

Nevertheless, it is possible to perform an exact string search with these sites. You just have to put a plus sign before the quotes, so a search for +“Moscow is a beautiful city” will do the trick, but why this extra step? I’ll admit I’ve only just learned this is possible while writing this article, and I’m sure there will be others who didn’t know. It should be as simple as putting your phrase in quotes.

Basic issues like this remind me that while it is worth monitoring other search engines, it’s best for businesses to focus their search engine optimisation (SEO) efforts on Google. If you would like to improve your rankings and gain more visibility on the search engine, have a chat with us at Engage Web.

Content Team Leader at Engage Web
John works for Engage Web as a Content Team Leader and regularly contributes to the website and programmes of his beloved Chester F.C.
John Murray
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