Search Tips: No.1—Using Literals

Subtitle: Using Literals to Find Sexy Corset Images


Around mid-2009 Microsoft introduced their Bing search engine. As part of the lead up to releasing Bing—although technically it is still in Beta testing and not actually “released”—they did some user surveys. From these surveys they found that most computer users did not know the first three basic techniques about search constructs. These are constructs that all professional computer users have known about and been using for years, and are industry standard methods that will work with almost any search engine anywhere.


Coming from a computing background I am well aware of these basic constructs and use them all the time when searching the Web using Google, Yahoo, Lycos, Bing, or any other Web search engine. Knowing and using these constructs can make your Web searches much more effective. Over the next couple of weeks I hope to have time to briefly and quickly introduce these most basic of search constructs.


The first and most powerful is the use of literals. Literals are also sometimes called quotes, double-quotes, or rabbit-ears (seriously), and they look like this: .  According to the word literal is pronounced as lĭt'ər-əl.  They way I pronounce it is ‘litter-elle’. Maybe both pronunciations are the same. Who knows how you say one of those backwards e characters?

Basically, if you put a phase (more than one word) together in literals in a search construct then this tells the search engine (Google, Bing, Yahoo, or whatever) that this is exactly how you want to find the term; i.e. literally how you want the term found.

As an example, if I search for “Blackhawk down” in literals using Bing I get 3.8 million hits.

If I remove the literals and search for the words Blackhawk and down then I get over 26 million hits.

What happened?

With the first search putting “Blackhawk down” in literals forced the search engine to only find Web sites that included the actual phrase “Blackhawk down”. With the literals removed in the second search the search engine went off and found all Web pages that included the words Blackhawk and/or down in them somewhere, which would obviously be many more pages than the literal search, and it was; six times more pages were found. And these extra pages are almost certainly not going to be anything whatsoever to do with the movie Blackhawk Down. They will be something to do with blackhawks and something to with going down, but nothing to do with Blackhawk Down.

Check out the following results; this time using Google and a longer literal.


Searching for the literal string “so long and thanks for all the fish” gets us 585,000 pages and they are all a direct match for the search string we entered.

But remove the literals and look what happens . . .

23 million pages are found! 46 times more than the literal search.

What happened in the second case is that Google searched for all the words separately. This is what all search engines do with a non-literal search. But if you put them in a literal search then the search engine will keep them in place and search for exactly what you entered.

This is seriously powerful stuff to understand when it comes to doing searches.

Even more powerful when you considered that you can mix multiple literal and non-literal terms in the one search. The following search is really narrowed down by searching for the literal “twin peaks”, plus the literal “owls are not what they seem”, and the non-literal cooper.


With such a refined search only 669 pages were found.

You can imagine what this search would return if the literals were removed and all these words were just searched for randomly.

That reminds me, I must do a blog or two on Twin Peaks at some time (makes note to self in Microsoft OneNote; adds note to do a blog about Microsoft OneNote as well at some time).

Anyway, I hope I have explained the use of literals when doing searches, and remember that literals are an industry standard search construct so they will work with almost any professionally implemented search engine where-ever you might find it. It does not have to be a Web search engine.

The trick is to know when to use literals and when not to use literals because using literals significantly changes the search method and results. Following are some examples that may, or may not, help you get the idea.

Looking for stuff about

Suggested search

Red back spiders

“red back” spiders

Hi resolution wallpapers of kate beckinsale

“kate beckinsale” wallpapers high resolution

Laura Palmer in the TV series Twin Peaks

“laura palmer” “twin peaks”

How to adjust skin tones using adobe photoshop elements

“photoshop elements” adjust “skin tone”

Lily allen’s corset-top dress concert pictures

“lily allen” concert “corset dress”


I generally like to get a picture of an attractive female into each post if I can, so following are a couple of the pictures I found from the Lily Allen search. These are from a recent concert where Lily wore a somewhat shortish but stunning corset-top dress for the second half of her concert. Lily is a confessed lover of corsets and it would seem she certainly looks good in them.