Updated July 30, 2020, 12:16 pm
You may have had occasions when you were trying to find something on Google, only to receive somewhat dubious results. While this thankfully doesn’t happen often, it can be frustrating when it does occur. Sometimes this can be the result of user error; a misspelled word, for example, can provide you with poor or even completely unrelated suggestions for your query.
Google has systems in place to help prevent this. When entering search terms, predictive text will make suggestions that will help guide you, while also giving Google a better indication of what you are actually seeking. Google is also capable of detecting typos, offering search results based on the correct spelling. Constant improvements to language understanding systems also help to reduce or eliminate poor search results. All of these systems work together to help Google provide you with the best, most relevant results, even when search terms aren’t a perfect match.
Most of the time.
As much at these systems manage to provide users with the answers they need, there are still rare occasions when search results will simply not relate well to what the user is seeking. This might occur when the user is searching for something that simply doesn’t have much information online, or when the search words cannot be matched to a known subject.
With a new and surprising update, Google has addressed these rare occurrences and will now tell users when the results they are receiving may not be the usual high-quality suggestions they have come to expect. A simple message will appear stating, “It looks like there aren’t any great matches for your search.”
When this occurs, users will still receive suggestions, and you are certainly free to check them out, but Google suggests that you might want to give them a pass:
“Starting today in the U.S., we’re rolling out a new message that lets you know when Google hasn’t been able to find anything that matches your search particularly well.
While you can still go through the results to see for yourself if they’re helpful, the message is a signal that we probably haven’t found what you’re looking for.”
In some cases, Google will be able to provide ideas on how to improve the search and, when possible, might even provide exact queries to be used. According to Google, this will not usually be necessary, but it will help to save time for users, keeping them from scouring results that do not relate to their search.
Google Search also offers various commands to assist users in seeking more relevant results. When search results aren’t particularly useful, the following might be of help:
- Exact-match searches can be made by placing the word or phrase inside quotes
- Exclude words from the search by typing “-“in front of the word
- Combine searches by putting “OR” between each search query
- Social media searches can be made by adding “@” in front of a word
- Price searches are made with “$” before a number
- Searches for a range of numbers can be made with “…” between two numbers
- Hashtag searches use “#” at the start of a word
- Search for a specific site by typing “site:” in front of a site or domain
- Related sites can be found with “related:” in front of a web address you already know
- Google’s cached version of a site can be found with “cache:” in front of the address.
- Do not insert a space between these operators and the search term
Google continues to improve the user experience with better and more relevant results for your searches. Unfortunately, there may still be times when your search comes up with questionable suggestions, but with this update, you are at least informed that adjusting your search might be necessary.