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]:

~dog

(click image for full SERP)

dog

(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.

About Hillary MacBain

Hillary MacBain is an SEO Associate at SEER Interactive in Philadelphia, PA. She loves all things internet and digital marketing and is always brainstorming ways to improve ideas and processes. When she's not at work, you'll find her on her bike, out for a run, or enjoying a soy latte. Follow her on Twitter.

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

Comments (12)

  1. Hi Hillary,

    I just noticed this change yesterday, and similarly found no data on it. I thought I’d gone completely insane, because there was literally no mention if it before your post. I made a reddit thread that pointed me here.

    It’s a shame, the tilde operator was a really useful and convenient SEO tool, especially with the ~word -word trick… I guess I’ll have to start messing around with Sets.

  2. Even i tried this once a few weeks back but nothing was coming out in SERP by using the tilde operator so i thought it must a bug from Google’s side as it happens sometimes in GMT also but after reading i am sure that they have discontinued it.

  3. Definitely interesting. Just an issue of different ranking positions for the dog related query. I’ve also tried a few other queries and the results were completely identical, same ranks.

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  12. Hillary, it is such an interesting post I really like to use these tildes from Google and it was too easy to get benefit from using this and after losing this I was feeling too difficult for some things I used this tilde. I don’t know why goggle removes this but I hope we will find it again in future in some different things.

What do you think?

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