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
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.