January 18, 2008

Google is putting more emphasis on phrases

I don’t know how pronounced this trend is, but Google web search seems to be putting more emphasis on phrases than it used to.

For starters, Google doesn’t always ignore stopwords. The Fly and Fly produce different search results. Beyond that, “or” is sometimes assumed to be a word you’re searching on, not an operator — for an example, try live free or die and see the line of text that comes back under the search box. (I’m not sure whether this ever works for “and” as well — even Sanford and Son returns the usual harangue that “the AND operator is unnecessary”.) This is all a pretty clear indicator that Google is looking at phrases. Bill Slawski’s patent-analysis-heavy SEO blog has a lot more to say on that subject, specifically on an indexing scheme that addresses the problems that indexing stopwords in might otherwise cause.

Also, there’s a direct series of patents on “Phrase-Based Indexing.”

Finally, although I don’t recall a link, there seems to be a belief that:

  1. Google is using or moving to Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI)
  2. Word-based LSI is patented by somebody else.


3 Responses to “Google is putting more emphasis on phrases”

  1. Jay Levitt on January 19th, 2008 10:42 am

    Google has always said that “or”, as a lower-case word, is a search term, and that “OR”, as a capitalized word, is the boolean-or search operator.

    I think “or” in lower case used to be a stopword, rather than a true search term, but now I can’t remember. It never functioned as an operator.

  2. Curt Monash on January 19th, 2008 3:55 pm

    Thanks, Jay. That would help explain the asymmetry between the treatment of AND and OR.

  3. Misc Ramblings and Link Love - 25 Jan 08 on January 25th, 2008 5:59 am

    […] Technologies posted a great article on how google is emhpasizing on phrases within the text or the […]

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