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Hack 15. Repetition Matters

Repetition matters when it comes to keywords weighting your queries.

Using keywords multiple times can have an impact on the types and number of results you get.

Don't believe me? Try searching for internet. At the time of this writing, the home page for Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser is the first result. Now try searching for internet internet. At the time of this writing, the Internet Society (ISOC) pops to the top. Experiment with this using other words, putting additional query words in if you want to. You'll see that multiple query words can have an impact on how the search results are ordered and in the number of results returned.

1.27.1. How Does This Work?

Google doesn't talk about this on their web site, so this hack is the result of some conjecture and much experimentation.

First, enter a word one time. Let's use clothes as an example, which returns 51,800,000 results, the top being a site called The Emperor's New Clothes. Now, add another clothes to the query (i.e., clothes clothes). The number of results drops dramatically to 14,700,000, and the first result is for Traditional Korean Clothing, The Emperor's New Clothes is no longer in the top 10, and some new finds move their way up into the first few results.

Why stop now? Try clothes clothes clothes. traditional Korean Clothing stays on top and The Emperor's New Clothes is still not found in the top 10.

1.27.2. A Theory

Here's a theory: Google searches for as many matches for each word or phrase you specify, stopping when it can't find any more. So clothes clothes returns pages with two occurrences of the word "clothes." clothes clothes clothes returns the same results, because Google can't do any better than two occurrences of "clothes" in any one page.

1.27.3. So What?

Because Google discards nonmatching multiple instances of the same query word, you can use this search as a weighting system for your searches. For example, say you were interested in pipe systems for the gas industry, but you're more interested in the impact that the pipe systems were having on the gas industry (and less so in companies that happen to sell piping systems for the gas industry).

Search for "pipe systems" gas. Now query for "pipe systems" gas gas. You'll notice that the focus of your results changes slightly. Now try "pipe systems" pipe pipe gas gas. Note how the focus slants back the other way.

Based on observations, here are a few guidelines for using multiple iterations of the same query term:

  • Multiple iterations of product names or nouns seem to favor shopping sites. This is especially true if the name or noun is plural (e.g., scooters).

  • Just because you're not getting different results for the second or third iteration doesn't mean you won't get different results for the fourth or fifth iteration (e.g., successive occurrences of baseball).

  • Remember that Google has a limit of 10 words per query, so relegate repetition to only those situations where you can spare the query room [Hack #29] .

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