Google's "+" Search Operator is No More

Chris CrumSearchNews

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Google has decided to shut down an old search operator: the "+" operator. Historically, it's been used when you want to tell Google that you want to include specific words together in a query. Now, they're taking a different approach.

Google search community manager Kelly F says on the company's help forum (via Search Engine Land):

We've made the ways you can tell Google exactly what you want more consistent by expanding the functionality of the quotation marks operator. In addition to using this operator to search for an exact phrase, you can now add quotation marks around a single word to tell Google to match that word precisely. So, if in the past you would have searched for [magazine +latina], you should now search for [magazine "latina"].

We're constantly making changes to Google Search - adding new features, tweaking the look and feel, running experiments, - all to get you the information you need as quickly and as easily as possible. This recent change is another step toward simplifying the search experience to get you to the info you want.

A Google spokesperson has also been offering around the following canned statement: "We're streamlining the ways you can tell Google to search for the exact keywords you type, whether it's an exact phrase or a single word, by focusing on the functionality of the quotation marks operator."

As you might imagine, not everyone is thrilled with the changes. Some are wondering why they had to get rid of the one people have used for so long, even if they wanted to add the quotation mark functionality. There is also a lot of criticism about how it is actually harder to perform these types of searches now, with added steps. This is strange, considering Google's usual emphasis on speed.

One Google+ user, SignpostMarv Martin (Google does seem to be lenient on some of these pseudonyms already), writes:

“How does requiring us to type two characters instead of one in order to ensure that a key word appears in the search results simplify the search experience? For that matter, how do random and unannounced changes requiring us to change our documentation (and you you're own - which you haven't done) help anyone? If you want to expand the functionality of quotation marks, that's great, but why remove functions that have worked before?”

"Oddly, other popular and long-standing search operators, such as OR and the – symbol, are unchanged, leading to speculation by some that the move is to cut down on confusion with the Google+ social networking site."

Is it to cut down on confusion with Google+ or could Google be planning a way to make it easier to search Google+ itself from There is no indication of this so far, but it doesn't seem out of the realm of possibility. Remember, "Google+ is Google," and the company has made it abundantly clear that who you are matters more in search than ever. Why not make it easy to find people from Google?

Here are some Twitter reactions:

Local bald man angry over Google's removal of the '+' search command. 19 minutes ago via Twitter for Mac · powered by @socialditto

RIP +. Wonder if the minus sign will be next? RT @jeffscott: aaaaaargh!! #Google Removes The + #Search Command 1 hour ago via TweetDeck · powered by @socialditto

Sad day, the + search operator is gone! I used it a lot, hopefully quality of my search results doesn't go down... 2 hours ago via Timely by Demandforce · powered by @socialditto

Google adds plus signs all over the freaking place and removes it from the one place it belongs - as a search operator. 3 hours ago via web · powered by @socialditto

google search... RUINED! I used + as a boolean operator because it was faster, now I have to use Bing 35 minutes ago via Echofon · powered by @socialditto

I haven't seen anyone say anything like, "Finally, Google removed that stupid + search command." It seems like Google may have missed the mark on user experience this time.

You can still use "+" when doing addition problems in Google.

Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.