Let’s face it, Google knows better what you want to search and find. Their search suggestions, related queries and query expansion are three major ways to help you understand what you really want.
Let’s focus on Google’s query expansion (both the term and the post topic was inspired by WebmasterWorld discussion). To put it simply, the term can be broadly explained as follows: in some cases, Google will show you not exactly what you’ve typed in the search box but something that it considered a smarter choice.
While Google itself tends to explain this phenomenon rather broadly, webmasters and searchers’ experience can be outlined as follows:
|Google’s Query Expansion||Explanation and observations||Examples|
|Word stemming||The term searched is reduced to a root or ‘stem’- words of the same stem can be ranked for the search containing only one of them.||[translator] search matches “translator“, “translation“|
|Acronyms||An abbreviation / acronym / initialism searched is automatically resolved to the full version. If there are several possible variants of one and the same acronym, Google will do its best to mention all variations on the first page in the following order: (1) most popular and hence most probable one (2) all the rest.||[nato] will be resolved as: (1) “North Atlantic Treaty Organization” and (2) “North American Telemark Organization” and “NORTHERN ARTS TACTICAL OFFENSIVE“|
|Misspellings||With misspelled words searched, Google will suggest the correct variant as well as list sites that use that correct variant. Note: based on common webmasters’ experience, Google uses some other (unclear) algorithm for typos: sites ranked for the misspelled word (using it nowhere on the page or in the text of backlinks) may have low authority and rank nowhere if the correct spelling is searched.||[city wigets] will both suggest searching for correct variant -’city widgets‘- and list sites for ‘city widgets‘search|
|Synonyms||Sometimes Google includes related words in the search results. Very often the query is extended this way when it is obvious the phrase was used improperly. The synonym substituting the part of the phrase is not bolded as a rule.||[internet connexion] search will pull (not bolded) ‘Internet connection‘ in most cases.|
|Translations||In some instances, Google seems to translate search keywords into other languages and return results from that language.||[internet verbindung] search will pull “Internet Connection” at #2 (German users won’t probably see that)|
|Ignored words||Occasionally some (“insignificant“) words appear to have been dropped completely from the query.||[slow cable internet problem] search will in a few cases drop the word “problem“|