Google’s Tilde (~) Operator – Gone?

Working in SEO, it is necessary to understand and utilize advanced queries in Google on a daily basis. They make our jobs easier and faster, and they make prospecting (nearly) painless.

Thought it’s not in the daily rotation, the Tilde (~) operator is a veteran in my SEO toolbox. Combine it with the Minus Sign (-), and the Tilde operator comes in especially handy for synonym searches in the early stages of keyword research.

For example, [~dog -dog] gets you results with “puppy”, “canine”, etc. Great tool, especially when you need it.

Well, today it stopped working for me. It appears that Google no longer recognizes the Tilde as a search operator, much like it ignores apostrophes and commas in search.

Now when I search [~dog], Google serves the exact same results as [dog]:


(click image for full SERP)


(click image for full SERP)

And when I search [~dog -dog], I get zero results:

~dog -dog

Interestingly, the Philadelpha-specific SERP has listings for Burger King.

The June 4 cache (img) for the Google Search Operators page shows the ~ for “include similar words”, so this is a fairly recent change.

I can’t seem to find any documentation on this change, from Google or anybody else. Are you seeing similar results when using the Tilde? I’m still brainstorming alternatives to using the Tilde in keyword research, and would love to hear your ideas or methods.

Update: Justin Briggs showed me that Google Sets functionality is still available as a Google Drive feature. Though this doesn’t completely replace use of the Tilde, it provides a viable alternative. This blog post shows you how to get Google Sets results in Google Spreadsheets.

15. June 2013 by Hillary MacBain
Categories: SEO | Tags: , , , , | 12 comments

SEO Hunger Games: Penguin 2.0 Style


Breaking news: Penguin 2.0 is now rolled out. 2.3% of English-US queries are affected. The algorithm update has rolled out across languages worldwide. Your first reaction is probably to run to your nearest ranking software. But in all honesty, the best part of every update is watching the panicked tweets of SEOs everywhere.

The panicked tweets didn’t just start with the release of the algorithm update – in fact they began the moment Matt Cutts released his video last week. I just loved the video - didn’t you? I heard reactions all the way from “omg he’s wearing a Firefox shirt! Is he hinting towards something?!” to “He’s using really journalistic language as opposed to SEO language. What does it mean?!”

No matter your reaction, here’s the reality: Penguin 2.o is here. Based on what you did prior to May 22, 2013, either your site is going to thrive or it’s going to take a head-first dive off the first page of the SERPs.


 Good freaking luck. If you’ve been mastering spammy or black hat practices, I have one thing to say to you: 

You might be on edge right now, frantically checking your rankings to keywords vital to your client. You’re wishing upon your lucky stars and a retweet from Rand Fishkin that your site’s keywords aren’t part of the 2.3%:


Still ranking? Has your site gotten a boost in the rankings from the update? You’re about to have a much better Thursday than some of your colleagues in the industry.


Good for you. Your friends will tell you this: it doesn’t feel good at all to fall from the good graces of Google and the algorithm. If you’ve been deindexed, prepare to put on a show to prove yourself to Google. If you’re lucky, they’ll accept your reconsideration request, and you’ll be well on your way to being back on your feet.


Whether you’re feeling good or embracing the probability of your site’s imminent death, it’s safe to say that all SEOs are on edge today. If we had to put the state of the industry into a single gif (yeah, that’s pronounced “jif”, not “gif.” Deal.), Katniss Everdeen sums it up pretty well:



The most reassuring aspect of our industry is that we’re all in this together. HASO – Help An SEO Out – if he or she has been penalized by Penguin 2.0. It’s the best way for our industry to learn and improve as a whole.

22. May 2013 by Hillary MacBain
Categories: SEO | Leave a comment

Christmas Tree Tool

To properly get in the spirit of things this year, I decided to work on my Javascript and HTML skills to build a tool that would tell me exactly how to decorate my tiny Christmas tree (Tell me, exactly, what else there is to do besides get a little geeky when it’s -40°F wind chill outside?) The numbers are based Continue Reading →

20. December 2012 by Hillary MacBain
Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Busy Fallacy

You blink and you miss it: November is just a couple days away already here and October is a blur. Before you know it, we’ll be singing carols and sipping cocoa. Where does the time go? Continue Reading →

02. November 2012 by Hillary MacBain
Categories: Personal | 686 comments

Error-Proof Blogging

Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty: Even if you have a way with words, create memorable content, and write a weekly topical blog post, nothing is more frustrating for the reader than publishing your content while it is still riddled with tiny errors. Continue Reading →

10. October 2012 by Hillary MacBain
Categories: Blogging | 1 comment

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