How to Search Better:
Natural language searching

Natural language searching, using a complete sentence for a search phrase, is often used by people looking for things online, but this is actually no better than using key words.

The trouble is that virtually no search engine really attempts to offer true, full natural language searches except in a very limited way. Pinning down exactly how a search engine will use a search phrase can be more difficult than it might seem to begin with.

In the normal run of things, Google will ignore common words such as and, the, a, for, me, and so on. Imagine searching for “find me the best joke in the world”. As Google doesn’t bother with some of those words you’d think it would be the same as searching for “find best joke world”. Curiously, it isn’t, and the reason is that Google does do a certain amount of language interpretation within your phrase. For example, ‘in the world’ is recognised as a phrase, despite not being wrapped in quotes. The search will still find items with the words individually scattered through the content (although it will prefer close groupings), but it will bias its selections to pages which do happen to have that ‘in the world’ phrase. If you look in the Results strip just above the list of pages you’ll see that the words which were used in the search are shown as links. Where more than one word is linked together Google has given it a small amount of weighting as a phrase. Curiously, ‘in the world’ and ‘of the world’ are grouped, but ‘for the world’ doesn’t get the same treatment.

In the end it doesn’t usually matter much whether you use full sentences or the more clipped argot of experienced searchers, as long as you understand how the search engines work and know the processes required for bending them to your will.

How to Search Better

What are you looking for?

Taking control

Google Tricks

Natural language searching



Browser tabs

Google Calculator

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