How to Improve Google Search Results With a Hidden Setting

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Frustrated man using a laptop computer in disbelief studying a website or angry about a message
Roman Samborskyi /

If you feel like search engines have gotten too smart for their own good, you’re not alone.

Gone are the days when Google gives you exactly what you typed in and nothing else — nowadays, the search engine often anticipates what it thinks you meant and gives results for that and related terms without asking.

Sometimes that’s helpful — if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for — but often it’s not. And even tricks that used to guarantee exact matches such as putting quotation marks around the key phrase, which is recommended by Google itself, seem to fail with frustrating frequency.

One lesser-known tactic that can help is to filter out everything but what Google calls “verbatim” results. This option appears under “Tools” on search results pages. Toggle “all results” to “verbatim,” and you should see the results change instantly.

Google explains where to locate this setting depending on your device and browser. It also cautions, “The Search tools you find change based on your search, type of results, and browser. You won’t always find every option.”

While this feature has been around since at least 2011, users have also complained it doesn’t always do what it claims to do, either, and that Google still sometimes ignores keywords. Still, in a world where finding exactly what you asked for is getting harder, it’s another tool to try.

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