Hack: Use 500 Keywords, Not 32, on Google

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Google’s limit of keywords is 32. It’s a challenge for long OR searches, especially for diversity sourcing – for example, searching for women’s first names, Latino last names, or diversity colleges. I am no fan of long ORs on Google (definitely not to list synonyms for a word), but in cases like the above, or searching for target companies or locations, I admit, long ORs would be useful, and 32 is limiting.

I have recently thought of a way to push the number of search terms much further. You can do it via Google Custom Search Engines (CSEs), its Synonyms feature.

Google and CSEs will automatically search for synonyms – it is a “built-in” feature. However, if you want to identify related words that may not quite be considered synonyms, the Synonyms mechanism in CSEs allows that. The limit is 500 terms and 10 synonyms for each term. Synonyms can be defined in a special XML file and uploaded. Keeping synonyms in a file and editing with a simple tool like Notepad++ seems more convenient than editing online.

You can define legitimate synonyms (for example, CV = “curriculum vitae” = resume) to help yourself and your end-users. But nobody will check whether the synonyms you enter are “correct”. You may want to play with the setting, defining words with different meanings as synonyms and see what happens. (Define “top sourcer” as <your name>? Just kidding.)

If you love long OR statements, you can enter up to 500 “synonyms” – some of which can be phrases – for an “artificial” keyword like mysynonyms, in the CSE Synonyms setting, and you will be able to push the limit of keywords from 32 to beyond 500!

By the way, David Galley and I have a CSE eBook in the works; stay tuned! In the meantime, check out our first two books, “300 Boolean Strings” and “Sourcing Hacks”.

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