Examining Asterisk-Modified Search Queries in Google

This is a quick study on how asterisk symbol affects Google search queries, illustrated on a search for insurance in Google Australia.

Quick Summary:

insurance: brings results with word insurance highlighted in title and description
*insurance: word insurance is highlighted with the nearest relevant phrase before it
insurance*: word insurance is highlighted with the nearest relevant phrase after it 
*insurance*: word insurance is highlighted with the nearest relevant phrases before and after it

Search Variations:

Where Google decided to bold a relevant related term instead of the main key term we searched for:

  • Insure

Search Anomalies:

Terms that were bold in results that are either not relevant or useful to users:

  • ! Insure
  • its insurance
  • | Insurance
  • 25
  • Insurance or
  • Insure with
  • insurance?
  • Insurance |
  • ! Insure with
From the above list we’re seeing quite a few symbols being affected by this including !, ?, | and numbers. Other examples are words like: its, or and with. The appearing number “25” is somewhat relevant in the context of the page but within the extracted description snippet it appears semantically disconnected and not very relevant.
Notes: Ads and places are unaffected. News results however behave in the same way as standard serps.
Try these searches for yourself or take a look at relevant screenshots in our gallery:

Dan Petrovic, the managing director of DEJAN, is Australia’s best-known name in the field of search engine optimisation. Dan is a web author, innovator and a highly regarded search industry event speaker.

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