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Making Google Search Results a little less annoying

Google's search engine is a fantastic tool, and there still seem to be no effective competitors. Unfortunately, however, Google have been making quite a few changes which have hugely affected the relevance of results, and often leads to needing to enter a second search.

This post details some of the tips users can use to try and reduce this, including minor changes you can make to Chrome/Chromium and Firefox to allow searching through the inbuilt search bars to be less irritating!


Autocorrection

For me, one of the biggest sources of frustration is Google's insistence on assuming I have misspelt words. If I was searching for a vendor supplying VOIP systems, I may choose to search for Wombit. Google, of course, decides to automatically correct this to Wombat, so I then have to click a link to load the correct results.

This can get quite tiresome when you need to search for lots of terms similar to other words.

To minimise this, you can change the configuration of your browser slightly.


Firefox

  1. In the address bar type about:config
  2. Use the config search box to locate keyword.URL which will contain something like "http://www.google.co.uk/search?q=" and change this to "http://www.google.co.uk/search?nfpr=1&q="

Now autocorrect will be disabled when you search!


Chrome/Chromium

  1. Load preferences (Spanner Icon -> Preferences)
  2. Click Manage Search Engines
  3. At the bottom, it should say add new search engine (three text boxes).
  4. In the first enter Google2
  5. In the next enter www.google.co.uk
  6. In the third enter (without line breaks) {google:baseURL}search?{google:RLZ}{google:acceptedSuggestion}{google:originalQueryForSuggestion}{google:searchFieldtrialParameter}{google:instantFieldTrialGroupParameter}sourceid=chrome&client=ubuntu&channel=cs&ie={inputEncoding}&q=%s&nfpr=1
  7. Press Enter
  8. Now hover over Google2 and select the Make Default button.

Now when you type a search query into the address bar, autocorrect will be disabled.

There is however, one catch (for both Firefox and Chromium). Once your result page has loaded, any searches made through the webpage (as opposed to the browser's search bar) will still autocorrect.

For the really determined, this can be avoided by using the Greasemonkey (https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/greasemonkey/) extension with a script such as this one.


Auto-Refresh whilst typing (Google Instant)

It wasn't that long ago that Google rolled out this function, but it's something that I find incredibly frustrating. There are two fixes for this, one needs you to be logged into a Google account for it to work, the other is largely 'foolproof' but is not necessarily a sensible route to use on some computers (such as work machines!)


The Official Route

  1. Log into your Google Account
  2. Access www.google.co.uk
  3. Click the cog icon (top right corner) and choose search settings
  4. Choose "Do not use Google Instant"
  5. Click Save preferences

Now Google Instant should be disabled, but only when you are logged into that Google account (which can become very annoying if your browser clears all cookies regularly).


The Unofficial Route

To prevent the automatic displaying of unsuitable content, Google automatically disables Instant as soon as it detects a stopword. The trick here is to include a stopword without having it necessarily impact the results returned.

  1. Access www.google.co.uk
  2. In the search box, type a minus sign (-)
  3. Next type (without inserting a space) an expletive
  4. Next type a space and type your actual search query.

You'll notice that Google originally tried refreshing the page when you began typing, but stopped as soon as you'd entered an expletive. Unfortunately, if you do want pages with that word in, you'll need to either use another or tolerate Instant Search.

This method works well for longer queries (there's little point for a short search term) but is probably not a wise move when behind a corporate firewall. You could, if really determined, use the methods above to also add the explitive to your search bar.

There may be terms that are perhaps not as obvious, but would also prevent Instant from working, though it's left to the reader to identify what these might be.


Broken Boolean Searches

At this point, I've unfortunately not come across a way to restore the boolean functionality that Google broke earlier this week. Unfortunately as the change is internal to Google's systems, it seems those who used to use the "+" functionality are going to need to change search engines or get used to the illogical use of quotation marks (and tolerate the side effect of far less usability).

For those not quite sure what the fuss is about;

Before the change if I wanted to buy a puppy with big eyes, I could either search for puppy for sale with big eyes and trawl through a huge number of results, or I could search for puppy +"for sale" +"big eyes" and receive more relevant results (the + used to force the search engine to ensure that the term existed in results).

Google have finally updated their Search tips to reflect the changes, but haven't actually given any information on how to fully replicate the functionality of the + (double quotes work in a very different way).

The only workaround available seems to be to use your browsers 'Find' functionality once you have run the search to locate your additional term. Unfortunately, as Google (for obvious reasons) only displays excerpts, it's quite likely that some results will be missed!


That said, the minus operator still works (as we saw above), so you can still make results more relevant by excluding terms you don't want.

If, for example, you were searching for a recent news item, but didn't want to include people talking about it on Twitter and facebook you'd search for Tornado -twitter -facebook.


Hopefully this post has helped make your searches a little more relevant, and has given you the basis for understanding how Google make it possible to refine your search results without additional searching.

Rate this blog entry:
Ben is a Network Security and Linux specialist with experience on a wide range of Unix based Operating Systems, as well as a serious amount of experience with the Microsoft Windows Operating Systems. Ben is also an amateur photographer and enjoys writing articles on technical subjects.

Comments

  • Guest
    Lorna Wednesday, 28 March 2012

    Hi Ben! I am a Brit living in France and Chromium insists on sending me to Google.fr whenever I use the search bar. I presume it's using my IP address for this because all my language settings etc. are set to UK English. Do you know what part of the string is doing this, and what I need to replace it with to get it to use Google UK instead?
    (PS I'm getting a Page Not Found error when I click on your Terms & Conditions hyperlink!)

  • Ben Tasker
    Ben Tasker Wednesday, 28 March 2012

    Hi Lorna,

    If you go into Chrome Settings (chrome://settings) under Basic is the option Search.

    Click Manage Search Engines and you can adjust things there. You'll probably find, however, that it's Google itself re-directing you rather than anything Chromium related.

    What you can do in this case is create a new search engine in Chrome settings but set the URL to be http://www.google.com/webhp. This should prevent the redirect.

    Thanks for letting us know about the 404, we'll take a look!

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