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I've been using the allintitle operators to determine keyword competition (in conjunction with using the Adwords Keyword Generator), my understanding is that when you do an allintitle search, the results will reflect all webpages that have "all" of those words in the title tag regardless of their order. When, however, I do a search for

allintitle:thai restaurants, I get 744,000 results

But when I reverse the order allintitle:restaurants thai, I get over 27 million results.

What am I missing?

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the results will reflect all webpages that have "all" of those words in the title tag

What are you basing this on?
Everything I've ever seen agrees with you that the results returned will have all the provided terms in the title. Nobody mentions a promise that it'll be all of them.

Also remember that search engines don't only do what you explicitly tell them to. There's all sorts helpful(usually) stuff like spelling correction that's done more or less transparently, as well as customization/localization, eg. I get about twice as many results for your first example.

Keeping in mind that Google does in many cases try to "understand" what you're searching for and act upon that, I can suggest one bit of speculation that seems reasonable:
It's important to note that with this particular situation your search terms aren't arbitrary pieces you can shuffle around without semantic effect. If I search for "restaurants thai" it's possible that I'm just looking for those two words, with no particular context intended. On the other hand, in a search for "thai restaurants" it's much more likely that I am in fact looking for a Thai restaurant. If–remember: speculation–Google does have something like this in place, then it could be used to filter the results with the intent of trying harder to find you actual restaurants(or information on them), rather than pages that just happen to have the terms.

I suspect that if you were to pick another set of terms that were more easily re-arranged without affecting meaning, the difference in result counts would be lower.

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hmm...interesting. Thanks for your response Sue. I didn't realize that the engines used localized search for the operators as well. if this is the case, would you agree that using them to gage competition is not very helpful? Other than the google keyword generator is there another tool you'd recommend for measuring keyword competition? – Lindsay Dec 17 '11 at 22:12
What are you referring to as the keyword "generator?" As far as determining competition, don't they provide their own tool for that? It's presumably tuned for that particular purpose, and if what I speculated above really is a potential problem in regular search, it would avoid or account for it. – Su' Dec 20 '11 at 18:17

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