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Google’s Lesser known Search Operator – AROUND(n)

Amit Agarwal of Digital Inspiration recently blogged about a new Google search operator that totally missed my radar. But according to Googler Daniel M. Russel, who was the first one to write about this AROUND operator in early October 2010 – this operator has been around for over 5-6 years!

Google AROUND(n) Operator

AROUND operator is basically a proximity search operator that lets you find a phrase that happens to be in close proximity of another phrase. Previously if you have searched for a term like: pancake recipe in Google search (without any quotes), what it would basically do is search the entire web for the term “pancake” + “recipe” and will return the pages where both these terms happens to be on the same page (regardless of their proximity).

But then you may sometimes prefer to do a phrase search / exact match search where they can put your search term inside quotes, like “pancake recipe” and then Google will only return results where the word pancake and recipe appears together.

So in this example the results returned via the first technique is often ‘too broad’ and the latter is ‘too specific’. What if you want something that is in between? Even better, what if you could specify the exact proximity of your two keywords (in words) to get more desired results?

With this Google AROUND(n) Operator, you can do just that!

Syntax: Keyword1 AROUND(n) Keyword2 [Where n = number of words (proximity)]

So the same search of pancake recipe can be performed using something like this: pancake AROUND(10) recipe. Here I’m telling google to return all those pages where the keyword – pancake & recipe appears within the proximity of 10 words.

google around search operator

Some Notes:

  • If my keyword1 contain multiple words (e.g. breakfast pancake instead of just pancake), then you can use “quotes” to limit the search scope of your first keyword to only breakfast pancakes. So it will look something like this: “breakfast pancake” AROUND(10) recipe
  • The word AROUND needs to be in CAPS in order for this to work
  • If Google can’t find anything within the limit that you specified, it will just do regular ranking of the terms without the AROUND coming into play.
  • Barry Schwartz pointed out that Microsoft’s Bing also have a similar search operator called “near:n” which works pretty much the same way. You can read more about it here.

So, what do you think ?