SEO

Google Now Corrupting Lingual Identity

UPDATE: 1/16/2010: Over on Nichola Stott’s blog it’s been mentioned that Google seem to have pulled back from the edge of the abyss on this, and are no longer forcing lingual butchery. At least for the time being.

Monitoring will need to continue to see what’s up with that. And there’s no way of knowing if it was the uproar in the U.K. that got the attention of Google’s crack-heads, or if they realized themselves how foolish it was in the first place. Or, alternately, if senior management reads Search Engine Journal and my article caused massive firings within the organization.

Last night was yet another mixed bag for me – got to sleep earlier than usual, and woke up after just a few hours.  While I’m not usually pleased about that, I’m glad that happened this time.  First, because I had a brainstorm idea come upon me just as I was falling asleep, and again as soon as I woke.  It’s amazing how creative ideas come like that.  Just as important however, is the fact that I signed onto Twitter at a time when I’m usually tucked comfortably in for the night, and would normally have missed a rather jarring tweet provided by @JoannaButler

JoannaButler GoogleLingualTweet 300x124 Google Now Corrupting Lingual Identity

This led to a screen-cap Joanna posted pointing out how a search on Google’s UK site for “search engine optimisation” (note the “UK” spelling of “optimisation” as compared to the American spelling of “optimization”) brought back results with the default being the AMERICAN version, and a link to “search instead for optimisation“.

I was floored.  Stunned.  Confused.

Joanna then went on to provide a retweet of an article from Nichola Stott over at SEOChicks who was all over this issue and found this problem to be widespread among a plethora of other words where the “s” and the “z” are used based on where in the world you live and within your specific cultural experience.

What Nichola discovered is that

Lately; it seems like Google in particular do not bucket test anything for the UK market. Perhaps they test a behaviour in the US and apply the gross learning to the UK (and possibly Australia too, based on another piece of panic-addled conclusion- jumping research I’m halfway through.)

First, I need to applaud Nichola for her excellent use of the strike-through in this case.  As many of you know, I’m quite fond of such techniques to provide honest internal opinion to the masses.

And I happen to agree with her on this one – Google is now apparently abandoning proper testing, and as a result, trashing centuries of cultural identity and uniqueness.  Which makes no sense at all. Or if they did test this in the U.K., I can only conclude the people they tested this on were either Google employees, or crack addicts, which, if you’ve read any of my previous articles, just means that it was probably something first worked on in Google Labs, that haven of rock-cocaine.

How and why would anyone at Google think it perfectly acceptable to force our British sisters and brothers to view results based on Americanization of language?

The Bigger Problem – Butchered SEO Standards

Why this is such a serious issue is not just about the insult to entire cultures.  It goes to the very nature of SEO and how critical it is to ensure that you optimize (optimise) a web site for the target market you are needing to reach.  Linguistic difference is vital to success when reaching a specific country or culture.  Anyone who knows anything about providing SEO for international clients understands this.  It’s International SEO 101 for crying out loud!

Yet Another Google Screw-up

Of course, given the volume of radical, seemingly illogical decisions at Google, none of us should be surprised that this has occurred.   Yet, at the same time, we, as an industry must once again deal with this because of Google’s dominance.  Like the innocent family members who are forced to deal with their out of control addict parent. Essentially, if anyone in any country effected by this wishes to remain in business for the foreseeable future when it comes to getting their client sites high up in the rankings at Google, there really is no choice in the matter.

Then again, perhaps, just perhaps, we can decide on an intervention.  But the sad reality is that I already know, from my own personal life’s experience, most interventions fail miserably.  And you can only help an addict when they’ve reached an emotional, psychological and spiritual bottom.  Which, in Google’s case, seems a long long way down the road.

Alan Bleiweiss has been an Internet professional since 1995, managing client projects valued at upwards of $2,000,000.00.  Just a few of his most notable clients through the years have included PCH.com, WeightWatchers.com, and Starkist.com.  Follow him on Twitter @AlanBleiweiss , read his blog at Search Marketing Wisdom, and be sure to read his column here at SearchEngineJournal.com the 2nd and 4th Tuesday each month.

12bcd73262dd3dcb8597e6d4f9884119 64 Google Now Corrupting Lingual Identity
Alan Bleiweiss is a Forensic SEO audit consultant with audit client sites consisting of upwards of 50 million pages and tens of millions of visitors a month. A noted industry speaker, author and blogger, his posts are quite often as much controversial as they are thought provoking.
12bcd73262dd3dcb8597e6d4f9884119 64 Google Now Corrupting Lingual Identity

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20 thoughts on “Google Now Corrupting Lingual Identity

  1. Wow! Thanks for such a positive mention Alan. You clearly got my point, in that – yes; this is a patronising pisser, but we need to take a breath and do a bit of research before we start to factor in any SEO actions. As you have clearly pointed out – there are much bigger things at stake than a client ranking on “sanitization solutions”. Its an issue of cultural domination, or lack of choice, paternalism, all those things that the English used to lead the world in centuries ago.

    I can imagine the convo. between rocks “shall we bucket test this?” “No, lets bong test it”.

    1. Nichola – sorry for the long delay in responding to your comment. As you know, today’s one of my kip / frantic-catch-up / kip-some-more/frantic-catch-up days…

      “bong test this” hahaha I need to find a way to get that into one of my articles. Except that paints the Google team as pot-heads, which really isn’t as dramatic as painting them to be crack addicts. But perhaps it’s the corporate deciders who are pot-heads and just the actual “scientists” who are the crack-heads. Guess I’ll have to consider that possibility.

  2. I think many of us have noticed a serious degradation in Goog results post caffeine.
    Whilst Yahoo was always quicker at crawling/ranking new sites, Goog is now sometimes slower than Bing.
    Hyponyms – Google’s lead over Bing in there understanding/application appears to be narrowing, if not evaporating.
    Caffeine is a mistake IMO… great for techies and the young but older searchers are not looking for Twitter results; they’re looking for websites! Caffeine must be delivering silver searchers to Bing in droves… as quickly as MS can say default.
    Have you watched an older person deal with the complexity of Goog search results these days. They go from simple minimalist Goog homepage to a mass of sponsored results all over the place, maps, local results, news, etc.
    Google know that Yahoo lost a percentage of market share for every bit of BS they added to their homepage; I really didn’t expect Goog to try to emulate that mistake; just as Bing improves…
    And yes, I find it unacceptable that Goog wants to export it’s US/archaic spelling to the English speaking world – c’mon Goog get a bloody grip of yourselves.

    1. Well GidSEO, we’re not necessarily in a post Caffeine world yet. There’s plenty of debate as to whether we are or not, with not a peep of yes/no/otherwise from Google yet.

      And it’s not Caffeine that’s the culprit here. Caffeine is supposedly mostly to do with addressing the speed issue in fact. No, this is about further methods by which Google can profit off of the SERPs. Pure and simple.

      I do agree that it’s now painful for more people to conduct a quality search without having to use a sixteen word search phrase. And that is a tragedy.

  3. Yes thank you!!!!

    We have the ongoing problem within Australia, and doing a search for optimisation gives you quality and relevant results, but that “did you mean” result spelt with a Z gives you crap results.

    Fair enough it is all related to metrics, maths and stuff but its a term that is commonly used online, and why such a massive variance in results?

    1. I’d think more spammers target the Americanized / Greek spellings in many cases. But that’s just a guess at this point.

  4. Great post Alan! Gotta love the inclusion of crack and strike throughs! ;)

    But seriously, I disagree with Google taking it upon themselves to choose how we spell our words – and that goes for any language. Suggestions are great, even educational, but outright choosing our results is controlling.

    That said, I will enjoy watching the effects this has on our everyday language to see what we do. It will be interesting to see how far reaching this is and if other queries and languages are eventually altered. However, word processors’ auto correct functions haven’t stamped out many (if any?) UK spellings yet so I doubt it will…

    Got to admit it’s interesting how they chose ‘SEO’ over another phrase with high search volume. If you check Google Trends / Insights, there isn’t actually that much difference in search volume between the two in UK so I don’t see where the motivation has come from. Although the ‘z’ spelling is currently winning – but only as of around Q2 2009.

    I think us SEOs probably just make great guinea pigs or something…

    1. Joanna,

      At $589 (U.S.) per share of stock, to Google’s engineers and ownership, we’re all just fodder for the profit-grindstone. I enjoy the use of crack-addict references, but the sad reality is that it’s pure corporate financial gain as filtered through the eyes of code-monkeys and fresh out of college management who has no serious desire to put the quality of the results from a human perspective above that financial drive.

  5. @Joanna i could be wrong but hasn’t Google trained users to just accept it and click the link “did you mean….” because they must have mispelt the word…

    1. Yes! And many (myself included) use Google as a spell checker. Although I’m probably in the minority using the define: function to check reputable sources for correct spellings… #EnglishStudent

      I’m sure there’s a plethora of other behaviours we’ve adopted thanks to the big G, too. They probably should be named Googlisms or something :)

  6. While I agree with you Alan, (I am a Brit after all), I can’t help but observe that it’s not just Google who has this obsession with the Americanized version of our common language. I long ago learned to ‘favor’ the US spelling rather than my home-grown one because it made my writing more popular. Just sayin’.

  7. UPDATE: 1/16/2010: Over on Nichola Stott’s blog it’s been mentioned that Google seem to have pulled back from the edge of the abyss on this, and are no longer forcing lingual butchery. At least for the time being.

    Monitoring will need to continue to see what’s up with that. And there’s no way of knowing if it was the uproar in the U.K. that got the attention of Google’s crack-heads, or if they realized themselves how foolish it was in the first place. Or, alternately, if senior management reads Search Engine Journal and my article caused massive firings within the organization.

  8. I’m sure senior management keep an eye on Search Engine Journal; squinting through the haze. I’d claim a victory Alan! ;-)

    Although they have retracted the enforced spellifization, an industry colleague of mine has furthered research on this whole issue. Malcolm Coles has found that there is still persistent “idiot tuning” of our results in the UK for ‘soundalike’ terms that have different meanings e.g. Stationery (as in office supplies) or stationary (as in, “oh crap, my car won’t start.”)
    http://www.malcolmcoles.co.uk/blog/googles-spelling-problems-are-worse-than-we-thought/

    So we’ve not seen the last of this.

    One final point. At the risk of seeming pedantic, I should point out I’m one of the newest SEO Chicks; which was founded by Lisa Myers and Julie Joyce. Whilst the post was AMOW, I can’t take any credit for the blog in its entirety.

  9. Deer and Dear? Jesus Christ! Thanks for the link to Malcom’s article Nichola. This just further proves it really is crack-heads at the Google keyboard. And that as the children of those crack-heads, our lives are now living hell.

    And while you may be one of the “newest” SEO Chicks, you’re still tops in my book :-)

  10. The optimise / optimize example was fundamentally wrong – forcing US spelling on the UK is just ridiculous and led to a massive reduction in the quality of the results.

    Although I bemoaned the inability to search for stationary in the UK any more – because G now shows you results for stationery without a by-your-leave – I can sort of see why they do it. No one in practice really wants to search for stationary, so I presume they observed lots of people searching for stationery after stationary (or a high % clicking “did you mean stationery”) and decided to just show the stationery results.

    So my guess is that they are using user behaviour to return results for a different but similar keyword when lots of people’s behaviour shows that that’s what they meant all along.

    We can’t search for stationary any more – but the much larger volume of people searching who meant to search for stationery get better results.
    None of which explains optimise / optimize.

    I’ve got some more examples of Google changing how they deal with spellings in a different context – but you’ll have to swing by my blog monday morning to see them!

  11. Malcom,

    While I comprehend the notion of adapting to generalized user behavior, I can not condone nor encourage it. Doing so has clearly caused a serious precedent in that Google is now behaving like a George Bush preemptive military strike scenario. I look forward to reading your article come Monday.

  12. Alan, you make a great point about differentiating typical SEO Standards versus International SEO Standards. I honestly am not too familiar with the latter (at least when it comes to non-English-speaking countries). Would you be willing to provide me with a list of bullets for http://www.seostandards.org/ on the SEO Audit Checklist? I'd love to get your insight and add you to the Contributors blogroll. Please let me know.

  13. Alan, you make a great point about differentiating typical SEO Standards versus International SEO Standards. I honestly am not too familiar with the latter (at least when it comes to non-English-speaking countries). Would you be willing to provide me with a list of bullets for http://www.seostandards.org/ on the SEO Audit Checklist? I'd love to get your insight and add you to the Contributors blogroll. Please let me know.