Google Improves ‘Quoted Search’

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Man typing on Google search on his Mac laptop

Google has made it easier to do quoted searches by adding snippets to search results to help users save time in locating a phrase on a web page. 

Quoted Searches

Quoted Searches are searches where the search term is placed within quotation marks to find an exact match in the search engine results. However, although Google Search returns pages with the precise term therein, up until now, it has been the case that users have to then search within that page to find whereabouts the exact term is located. Google’s explanation for this is that quoted material can appear in areas of a document that don’t lend themselves to creating helpful snippets, e.g. a word or phrase might occur within the menu item of a page. 

Snippets To Show Where Exact Term Appears

Google’s new change to quoted searches means that snippets will be displayed in the search results, which show precisely where a quoted word or phrase occurs in a web document, thereby saving users time. So, for example, if a user searches for [“google search”], the snippet will show where that exact phrase appears. Google also says that the quoted material will be shown in bold on a desktop.

Other Information About Quoted Searches

Although quoted searches have been improved, Google has offered some tips and caveats to accompany its announcement of the change. For example: 

– Quoted search results may still match content not readily visible on a page, e.g. a meta description tag, ALT text that describes images, or material brought in through inline frames. Google says in these circumstances. Users can try using a standard Find command in a browser or search from within Developer Tools to help find where the exact match phrase occurs. 

– Where pages may have changed since Google last visited them, and the exact phrase no longer exists on the current page, users could try looking at the Google cached copy to see where the quoted content appeared on the previous version of the page. 

– Quoted terms won’t appear in web page snippets if they only appear within title links or URLs of a web page. 

– Google says that although punctuation is sometimes seen as spaces by its system, it will be able to match content where punctuation like commas or hyphens breaks up words, e.g. don’t, doesn’t, don’t / doesn’t, or don’t – doesn’t. 

– If a search involves multiple quoted terms, the snippet may not show all of them if they are far apart. 

– Google will mainly show in bold quoted content for web page snippets on desktop. 

– Quoted searches don’t work for local results. 

– Using quotes may be a useful tool for “power users”, but Google will look for the exact words and phrases by default. 

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

After making the news for a couple of less than positive issues lately (i.e. the Google engineer who said that Google’s LaMDA chatbot was aware, which resulted in his sacking, plus news of a delay in banning third-party cookies), this is a bit of good news, particularly for “power users” of Search. This is a long overdue improvement to one aspect of the search engine results and is timely. Mobile device users may find it particularly awkward to search whole web pages for a phrase. Businesses may also be pleased to know that this is not a ranking change, i.e. it won’t affect the ranking position of pages. However, the difference may impact the click-through rate, depending on how the snippets help a user decide how relevant a page could be to their query.