Exact Match Query Bug in Google


Here’s an interesting glitch in Google exact match search. The bug breaks down into two parts, one directly related to the exact match search and the other to suggested search feature.

We searched for the following (in quotes): “Today we’re improving the performance of the +1 button and the” and the results seemed normal, but upon closer inspection it was clear that an exact match was missed. As you can see from the screenshot below, there are two results fully matching the query, yet the snippet only highlights segments of it and omits the “of the” part of the query. It also says that it’s showing us the query with “were” instead of “we’re” yet it highlights the “we’re” part in the search snippet:

Google Search Bug

Clicking on the suggested query (which includes “were”) leads to a completely different and more remote result, far removed from our original search intent.

Our guess is that the ‘ symbol had something to do with breaking this exact match query. We haven’t seen this type of behaviour before so it may in fact be related to the recent set of character handling updates announced in March.

Update: Pedro Dias has discovered and reported that the “+” sign is the cause for the exact match query bug.

Dan Petrovic is a well-known Australian SEO and a managing director of Dejan SEO. He has published numerous research articles in the field of search engine optimisation and online marketing. Dan's work is highly regarded by the world-wide SEO community and featured on some of the most reputable websites in the industry.

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3 Responses to “Exact Match Query Bug in Google”

  1. Actually, the phrase you tried to search isn’t really expressed in an “exact” form, because the “+” sign is a special operator even if inside quotes. The symbol *is* indexed but you cannot search for it.
    You can get the expected results if you search for “today we’re improving the performance of the * 1 button”.

    • Enrico
  2. Correct. Still a bug isn’t it, considering people will search for Google+ related things in the future more and more and this may actually happen more frequently now than ever.

    • Dejan SEO
  3. Yes, it’s still a bug. The “+” sign inside quotes is still interpreted correctly if associated to non-numbers or if it’s associated to a number as the first or last word of the quoted phrase. This behaviour makes me think that they started to index tha e”+” sign without switching off the handling of the old “+” operator when used inside quotes.

    • Enrico

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