Monthly PC Tips

Use Quotes in Your Search Queries

March 2013 – by Per Christensson

If you're like most Internet users, you search the web several times a day. While you've probably become rather proficient at searching with the correct keywords, there is another technique you can use to refine your search queries — quotes.

By placing quotes (" ") around a word or phrase, you can tell the search engine to only return results that include the exact text within the quotes. This is especially useful when searching for less common or obscure keywords, since search engines often return results that match similar words and phrases. If you don't specify certain terms with quotes, the search results may be cluttered with pages that contain terms you weren't searching for.

Say, for example, you are looking for a program that will open a file with a .TAX2012 file extension. If you don't use quotes in your query, the search results may include several pages about how to file an extension for your 2012 taxes. However, if you put quotes around the keywords i.e., ".TAX2012 file extension", then the search engine will only return results that include the exact phrase "TAX2012 file extension". These results will be more likely to include information about the TurboTax file type, rather than information about filing tax extensions.

You can also put quotes around part of your query instead of the whole thing. For example, you might search for "PCM chat acronym" meaning to find the meaning of PCM, when used in online chat or text messaging. Without the quotes, your search may return other other technical meanings, such as "Pulse-Code Modulation." If you want to get really specific, you can even use multiple sets of quotes in a single query.

All the major search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo!, and others) support quotes in search queries. Therefore, next time you don't get the search results you expected, try specifying certain keywords with quotes. You might be surprised with the improved results.

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