Asterisk * vs. AROUND(X) on Google

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Both the Asterisk * and AROUND(X) are proximity operators on Google and provide their own benefits.

The Asterisk stands for one word or a few shorter words. “<keyword1> * <keyword2>” will find phrases where the keywords are close together. Example, exploring company email formats:

Using more Asterisks will find phrases where the keywords are further apart:

You cannot use the Asterisk with other operators: intitle:”account * at salesforce” returns nothing.

Using the Asterisk at the beginning or end of a phrase usually pushes the phrase into snippets:

AROUND(X) looks for the terms to be X or fewer words apart, and in either order. Example:

Even when Google documented all of its operators, they said nothing about AROUND. Right now, the operator works, but there have been years when it did not.

You can use AROUND with other operators:

The keywords in AROUND are not interpreted: manager AROUND(8) people -manager produces no results.

Here are some applications of AROUND.

Search for <firstname> AROUND(2) <lastname>: 

will find jones mary, mary l. jones, and mary lisa jones.

AROUND gives the LinkedIn X-Ray “Graphic” hack a nice spin:

will find LinkedIn members belonging to organizations with the word women or latino. It is a way to search for Diversity.

On LinkedIn public profiles, the word “connections” is next to the location. So you can search for locations like this:

Search for a title at a past company:

Can you suggest other applications?

Unfortunately, Yandex has dropped its proximity operators and Bing’s near(X), while being documented, does not currently work.

You will find the full list of 21 Google search operators here. Join me next week for the class Boolean Strings Basics & Beyond and learn about every one of them!


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