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How should I be googling for an email address in a way that minimizes false positives (while avoiding false negatives)?

That is, just searching the email address isn't enough, since you end up with a lot of false positives.

For example, searching Adam@lifehacker.com doesn't really give conclusive results, since Google doesn't treat the @ as a string-preserving character. (I'm using the email address of the editor of Lifehacker as an example, since its publicly available, ie, on the Lifehacker sidebar).

Searching "Adam@lifehacker.com" is better, but its still subject to false positives.

Lately, I've been trying "(adam@lifehacker.com)", and it seems to be a huge improvement over the other two.

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sounds a bit like this belongs over on StackOverflow.com as it is more programming related. - that said I'm not so sure about this service... even searching for my own name "{first} {last}" brings up dozens of other people that are Not me. I'm fairly sure that if someone wants to be contact-able they will provide an option to be found. ;-) – scunliffe Jul 19 '10 at 13:18
StackOverflow is for programming questions. This is about how an individual would use the Google Search box when typing manually for the best way to find an email address. The reasons are programmatic, and if I had trouble with that aspect, StackOverflow would be the place to go. There are ethics questions either way, but the fact is, many peoples email addresses are easily found via Google. This just automates the search. – Yahel Jul 19 '10 at 14:00
@scunliffe, I've removed the reference to emailguesser, so that it doesn't make people think that this is a programming question. – Yahel Jul 19 '10 at 14:02
ah, now that the web app reference is removed it does belong here. If I Google my email address in quotes, I get 100% accurate results where every page is a page that my email address is displayed. Do you have an example of "false positives" that are actually occurring? PS I get exactly 98 results with both "emailaddress" and "(emailaddress)" – scunliffe Jul 19 '10 at 15:05
it also helps to not include the test email in the question as it is crawled by engines and soon as it posted. – phwd Jul 19 '10 at 15:23

For this particular example, I think the best query is:

("adam lifehacker com") +"adam lifehacker com" -"tips adam lifehacker com"

  • I excluded the punctuation since it isn't indexed by Google (although now that I think about it, it might be better to leave it in in case Google ever does add this functionality).
  • In this case we know one of the false positives (tips+adam@lifehacker.com) so I excluded it using the - operator. However, it still does match it on some pages.
  • The next thing I did was add the + operator, which should guarantee that the keywords exist on the actual page (and not only in a page that links to it). This would especially be useful if you are including other keywords in your search.
  • I also repeated the email address, which I believe is the most effective change I made. This should let Google know that it's an important keyword in your search, and it eliminates many of the pages from the results. I haven't checked which pages are eliminated, but I'm guessing it's most of the false positives.
  • The last thing I did was use that particular order of keywords. If you try the query +"adam lifehacker com" ("adam lifehacker com") -"tips adam lifehacker com" instead, you will get an extra 100 results, so you can try different orders of keywords (see the previous link for more information about this feature).

Another thing I tried, which didn't work, was using " adam lifehacker com" in hopes of it not matching tips+adam@lifehacker.com, but it simply ignored the whitespace.

Apparently the * operator must match a single word, however I'm not sure how that can help cause when you do something like "adam lifehacker com" -(tips * adam lifehacker com) for example, the - sign in front of the parenthesis doesn't work. Plus, I believe it still matches zero words even though the cheat sheet says it doesn't.

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up vote 1 down vote accepted

Google recently introduced Verbatim Search that solves this problem:

enter image description here

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Try searching the email address as a phrase: ["adam@lifehacker.com"] returns even fewer false positives than the method you suggested using parentheses. Unfortunately I haven't yet figured out how to exclude the matches on tips+adam... ;-)

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If you are referring to search for emails within Google Mail... then you could try use the operators built into Gmail such as: "from:adam@lifehacker.com" or "to:adam@lifehacker.com"

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No, I'm referring to using Google Search, not Gmail search, to find email addresses on the Open internet. Gmail search and Google search are very, very different specimens. Gmail search has special operators, and is much better at precise string matches, but is not able to utilize PageRank (since there's no email link ecosystem). – Yahel Jul 19 '10 at 19:19

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