Including and Excluding Google Search Terms

Find exactly what you want with Google search parameters

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Google handles more than 3.5 billion searches every day. The process is simple; just type in what you're looking for and—voila—the search results appear. If you aren't getting the search results you expect, you may need to learn a few of the Google search parameters you can use to fine-tune a search. Sometimes you may want to exclude a keyword from Google searches when the search is broad, and sometimes you want to include a word that Google thinks is too common and usually excludes.

Including Common Words in a Search

Google automatically ignores many common words, such as and, or, of, a, and I. It also ignores some single digits and letters. This is usually not a bad thing because in most cases, the common words just slow down searches without improving the results. After all, it would be difficult to find a page that never used the common words the or a anywhere. 

Occasionally, you might want to include one of these words in your search. Usually, this happens when one of those common words is part of the exact key phrase you want to find.  

How to Include a Common Word in a Search

The search technique for including common keywords or single digits and letters in a search is to use quotation marks around the keyword phrase. The search matches the text inside​ the quotation marks exactly in content and word order. For example, "Rocky I" in quotation marks searches for the exact phrase Rocky I and does not find lyrics to the song I Love Rocky Road. The results contain sites about the original Rocky film. Whenever your key phrase uses a common word, quotation marks are your best bet at finding the phrase. 

Google no longer supports using the plus sign as a search operator.

Excluding Words

In some search engines, you exclude words by using the Not syntax. This doesn't work with Google. Use the minus sign instead.

If you are researching health issues, and you wanted to find out about pot bellies, you don't want to find out about pot-bellied pigs. To conduct this search, you could type pot bellied -pig. Put a space before the minus sign but do not put a space between the minus sign and the word or phrase you want to exclude from the search. 

You can also use the minus sign to exclude multiple words. If you are searching for swine but don't want results for pot-bellied pigs or pink pigs, use the search string pigs -pot-bellied -pink.

Exclude a phrase by enclosing it in quotation marks and preceding it with a minus sign, so if you are researching livestock swine, you can search for pigs -"pot bellied" to exclude any mention of pot-bellied pigs. This doesn't exclude pages that talk about pig bellies because it only excludes the exact two-word phrase pot bellied. The punctuation is ignored, so the search catches both pot bellied and pot-bellied.