Tara Calishain and Rael Dornfest – Google Hacks: Tips & Tools for Smarter Searching (Excerpt)
Whenever you search for more than one keyword at a time, a search engine has a default strategy for handling and combining those keywords. Can those words appear individually in a page, or do they have to be right next to each other? Will the engine search for both keywords or for either keyword?
Google defaults to searching for occurrences of your specified keywords anywhere on the page, whether side-by-side or scattered throughout. To return results of pages containing specifically ordered words, enclose them in quotes, turning your keyword search into a phrase search, to use Google’s terminology.
On entering a search for the keywords:
to be or not to be
Google will find matches where the keywords appear anywhere on the page. If you want Google to find you matches where the keywords appear together as a phrase, surround them with quotes, like this:
“to be or not to be”
Google will return matches only where those words appear together (not to mention explicitly including stop words such as “to” and “or” […]).
Phrase searches are also useful when you want to find a phrase but aren't sure of the exact wording. This is accomplished in combination with wildcards [...])
Whether an engine searches for all keywords or any of them depends on what is called its Boolean default. Search engines can default to Boolean AND (searching for all keywords) or Boolean OR (searching for any keywords). Of course, even if a search engine defaults to searching for all keywords, you can usually give it a special command to instruct it to search for any keyword. Lacking specific instructions, the engine falls back on its default setting.
Google’s Boolean default is AND, which means that, if you enter query words without modifiers, Google will search or all of your query words. For example if you search for:
snowblower Honda “Green Bay”
Google will search for all the words. If you prefer to specify that any one word or phrase is acceptable, put an OR between each:
snowblower OR Honda OR “Green Bay”
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