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Old 06-01-2005   #1
Jorge
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Accent Marks in Other Languages

The fact is that if you search in google for a word with an accent mark and without it, you will get similar but different results.

What if the word you want to optimize for has an accent mark but people never type it in when searching?

In Spanish you have the following examples:

médico
información
pornografía
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Old 06-01-2005   #2
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I run into the same issue here in Canada, where the proper name for Montreal is Montréal, for example.

However, look at this Wordtracker report:

Code:
Keyword      Count     Predict  
montreal     1293      1107 
montréal     35        30
Obviously, it would be better to go for the term that most people search for - but there is a catch.

One of my clients is the Canadian Heritage Dept - a government organization that CAN'T misspell Montréal! There are ways around this, but it takes time and planning.

We do know that G will automatically (unless quotes are used) look for a word with the accent if a search is done without it, but it's not considered a good match, so the rankings change - the results that most closely match the searchers query are given priority.

This means, in practice, that people who spell things correctly (both searchers and webmasters alike) are given worse results than people who misspell things, but in a common way.

Although most of the time I support a SE matching the users query in the most precise manner, I believe that the results and quality of searches would improve for these terms if the accented (and "proper") version of the spelling is given priority over common spelling, on the basis that most of the time people don't even know where to find the accented characters using the most common keyboards (ie US English, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, etc, etc, etc).

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Old 06-01-2005   #3
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I agree with you.
And regarding making the accent on or off choice it is very tricky.
In Spanish you can't really not use the accent in a commercial text. It would look very bad. So you could find yourself having either good G ranking and causing a poor impression on your readers, or bad ranking but no misspellings.

I personally do the following (and I would like to know if anyone thinks this is a good idea), I use the word without the accent in the TITLE tag, and description and keyword tags, but always correctly in the body of the text. When someone searches for a certain word they may notice every result has the same misspelling in the title and accept it better than in the text itself once they enter your site.

..and I have had good luck so far with this technique
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Old 06-02-2005   #4
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Jorge,

I completely agree with both your comments. Good post! We follow the same strategy, specially because most of our clients look for U.S. Hispanic users which most likely have U.S. keyboards.

The challange really is, when you get a scenario like trying to get users (ie. from Mexico) that do have regular use of accents and your goal is for them to access your client's U.S. based content in Spanish without accents (or less optimized for them).
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Old 06-02-2005   #5
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The accent and the letter "ñ" are definitely a challenge for us. The letter ñ could have a thread of it own but it sort of is the same problem so I'll include it in the lot. Google actually also deals similarly with that words written with Ñ and with N. So if you look for niño you get many results with niño but some with nino.
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Old 06-03-2005   #6
Andy AtkinsKruger
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Accents

I just did a Powerpoint on this at SES London - if you want a copy PM me and I'll send it to you.

Note that: -
  1. Yahoo treats accents very differently to Google
  2. Google has changed the way it deals with accents - it used to normalise them much more than it does now
  3. Accents are not the only linguisitic issue - there's also alternate - but correct spellings (eg German) - declensions - eg Russian.
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Old 06-04-2005   #7
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Good post Andy!
Quote:
Yahoo treats accents very differently to Google
Can you please expand on that.
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Old 06-04-2005   #8
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For Google, here is an example: Doña María vs. Dona Maria.
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Old 06-06-2005   #9
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Nacho, that's a perfect example of the nightmare that accents and eÑes can be. Does anyone deal with accents any differently? What about French?
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Old 06-06-2005   #10
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Accents in French

Nacho asked me to come back with more detail on accents which I'll endeavour to do - just a bit pushed right now - however, the key thing to look for in French (and other languages) are accents affecting meaning. These are more often normalised - accents without any impact on meaning (frequently the grave and circumflex) more often give different results.

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Old 06-06-2005   #11
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I think the main difference between Yahoo and Google on accents is that Yahoo will treat an accented word as an alternative to the non-accented word in it's concept network (reference: patent ap: US 2005/0080795 A1). The two searches will be covered in the same superunit because their characteristic signatures are close enough matches. Google sees the two as synonyms.

Essentially, Yahoo sees the accented word in the same way it would see a common misspelling and ranks accordingly.

Here's the alarming thing though; cut'n'paste Doña María into the Yahoo Toolbar (v 6.0) and search. The search runs for Doa Mara! The toolbar can't cope. Google certainly doesn't have this problem.
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Old 06-06-2005   #12
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I actually started a test on these issues a few days ago (h ttp://www.mcanerin.com/articles/keyword-misspelling-test.htm) feel free to check it out and suggest additional tests, but please DON'T link to it (at least, not while the test is running!) - I'm trying to control the anchor text for testing purposes.

This link has been deliberately broken - other mods - don't fix.

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Old 06-06-2005   #13
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Work arounds for Y & G

What seems to work pretty well for me is to put the "misspelled" versions of words (diseno / diseño) in the meta KW tags for Yahoo, and in the sitemap's as anchor text for Google.
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Old 06-07-2005   #14
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mcanerin, I hope you share your results, at least the part pertaining to accents and Ñes!
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Old 06-09-2005   #15
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Focous

Quote:
Originally Posted by mcanerin
.

However, look at this Wordtracker report:

Code:
Keyword      Count     Predict  
montreal     1293      1107 
montréal     35        30
I think its important to focuous in the words people does search more, but pay ads for the correct form because people who know the correct form is a posible informed customer.
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Old 06-09-2005   #16
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Well yes, but you cannot have misspellings in a serious text. That is why I suggest putting the word in the title (and as someone else suggested in the metatags) without the accent, and in the text with the accent.

You will have two possible types of sites listed in the SERPs. Some that have misspellings and therefore no credibility (would you buy an airplane ticket from someone who advertises "cheep flites to ansterdan"), and serious businesses that spell correctly.

We cannot forget that what you say and how you say it is as important as being well positioned. You need to establish credibility as a company if you want people to give you their credit card information.

Last edited by Jorge : 06-09-2005 at 05:54 AM.
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Old 06-09-2005   #17
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Agreed - getting someone to your site for a term is no good if they don't take you seriously enough to convert once they are there - and pointing out that they can't spell so you had to optimize for that probably won't win friends and influence people, either.

It's a very tight line, and probably the only time I've ever seen "cloaking" actually have some use.

Since I certainly DON'T recommend cloaking, I'm always looking for alternatives to deal with this issue of trying to give a visitor what they were looking for, rather than what they typed in as a search term.

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Old 06-09-2005   #18
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YAY - First Set of Data Back!

I started the Keyword Misspelling Research on June 4, 2005 and it's now June 9, 2005 - Google already has results (nice going, guys! ) The other 3 search engines have not even indexed a single page yet

Here is the initial data:

The word "altwrittén" was chosen because it allows me to test the two most common spelling issues on the internet: 1) spelling of non-English words using the English alphabet/keyboard (ie whether the "é" is stemmed into an "e"), and 2) actual misspellings. It will also allow me to test the ñ by changing the last letter for the next test.

The keyword misspelling test contains the following pages. All searches using Google:

Page 1: Main Page. Contains all three words in body text, title and keyword metatag, and I will link to it using the misspellings, as well. It should show up for all three versions.

altwrittén: Result
altwritten: Result
altwriten: Result

Page 2: The proper word is used in the content and title, but with no mention of misspellings anywhere, and is not linked with misspellings. This is the control page. It should not show up for any misspellings unless the search engine stems or makes a decision to include a misspelling for it's own reasons.

altwrittén: Result
altwritten: No Result
altwriten: No Result

Page 3: The keyword misspellings are used in image "alt" tags only (unlinked)

altwrittén: Result
altwritten: Result
altwriten: Result

Page 4: The keyword misspellings are used in image "alt" tags only (linked)

altwrittén: Result
altwritten: Result
altwriten: Result

Page 5: The keyword misspellings are used in the keywords metatag only

altwrittén: Result
altwritten: No Result
altwriten: No Result

Page 6: The keyword misspellings are used in <noscript> only

altwrittén: Result
altwritten: Result
altwriten: Result

Page 7: The keyword misspellings are used within <object> only

altwrittén: Result
altwritten: No Result
altwriten: No Result

Page 8 : The keyword misspellings are used in incoming anchor text only (no on-page use)

altwrittén: Result
altwritten: Result
altwriten: No Result *** I'll check this later

Page 9: The keyword misspellings are used in the title only

altwrittén: Result
altwritten: Result
altwriten: Result

Page 10: The page path (i.e. domain name/directory test) contains the misspellings, but the content does not.

altwrittén: Result
altwritten: Result
altwriten: Result

Page 11: The misspellings are hidden using CSS within the body.

altwrittén: Result
altwritten: Result
altwriten: Result

Page 12: The misspellings are within comments only.

altwrittén: Result
altwritten: No Result
altwriten: No Result

Page 13: The misspellings are only within a Dublin Core tag intended for the purpose.

altwrittén: Result
altwritten: No Result
altwriten: No Result

Page 14: The misspellings are within a bookmark (ie domain.com/page.htm#keyword") link on the same page, but not otherwise on the page.

altwrittén: Result
altwritten: No Result
altwriten: No Result

-------------------------------------------------------------------------

Conclusions For Google

One interesting thing is the order that Google listed these in, though I wasn't testing for it. Feel free to check the listings and draw your own conclusions.

All pages in the test are indexed and show up for the control word. At this time they are the ONLY pages that show up - which is good for this test.
  • Contrary to popular belief - Google apparently checks and indexes unlinked alt tags. There is another possible explaination - I deliberately used the misspellings as the image file names - I'll check this in the next round. Inconclusive.
  • Google does NOT index the keyword metatag or other metatags like Dublin Core.
  • Google will index misspellings in the filename and URL, but not bookmarks (which are technically part of the URL)
  • Google indexes hidden CSS
  • Google does NOT index comments
  • Google will index <noscript>, but did not index misspellings in the <object> tag. This was not the ordinary usage of alt text within an object, but a custom experiement, which has now provided me with useful (though negative) data.
  • There was absolutely no indication that Google will expand it's search to include an "e" when a search term includes an "é".

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Last edited by mcanerin : 06-09-2005 at 05:27 PM.
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Old 06-10-2005   #19
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Ian,

Thank you. The system won't let me give you any more rep points, but I wanted to let you know that was one of the best posts about an SEO test I've ever seen. It covers a lot of indexing questions beyond the indexing of accents.

Have you looked at results on MSN and Yahoo... and have you tried keyword misspellings in the meta description?
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Old 06-10-2005   #20
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ALT text is indexed? Interesting. It seems that the Google people follow the trend that has been known in the printed media for some time.

When people look at/scan a page, they first check headlines, then pictures and picture captions. Then the rest of the text gets a go if some of the scanned info has caught the viewer's interest. Some people even check pictures first.

If webmasters know and act accordingly, then picture captions - and ALT text - should be very indicative of the page contents.
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